WARNING: I TALK ABOUT MY VAGINA IN THIS BLOG.
My mother in law has written a play about the love life of a woman in her 60s. My husband, Liam, is pretty sure it’s about her own love life and has not been able to bring himself to read it. However, this Thursday (21 Feb), “Emails from a reluctant lover” is having its world premiere at Oran Mor in Glasgow, and I will be sitting next to Liam and his siblings as they squirm their way through the performance.
“I just want to do something to help you” Doreen said to me a few weeks ago when she phoned me up to tell me that she had decided to put on a show to raise money for my medical fund.
Doreen used to put on shows for a living and I have been regaled with near mythical stories for years about how she toured her plays around Scotland and sold out venues up and down the country. It is so far away from the Gran-Dora that I know today who has been beset with health problems and was half blind this time last year, tearing up a hospital geriatric ward.
But it is totally in character for her to be able to pull off this Herculean feat. Even though it has been more than 20 years since her theatre company last toured, Doreen has snapped right back into it. Within about 5 minutes and seemingly with no effort she had a venue booked, the actresses confirmed, a director and a set designer on board. Not to mention commissioning her old pal the artist and author Alasdair Grey to do the original artwork for the show.
I feel humbled again by what everyone is doing around me. But I am also hugely enjoying seeing a glimpse of the legendary Doreen McArdle who raised 3 children on her own whilst running a successful theatre company and being the lynchpin of her community in Springburn. It’s like seeing an ancient Greek legend come to life. It’s wonderful to see her fizzing with spirit and life and I am so excited to see what she will produce. This is definitely the upside of me getting cancer.
Another upside in my own love life is that I am under doctor’s orders to have lots of sex. At least twice a week. This is because I have recently finished 5 weeks of radiotherapy to my pelvis. And one of the unpleasant side effects of pelvic radiotherapy for women is that your vagina can actually shrivel shut unless it is regularly exercised. Vaginal stenosis, the narrowing and thinning of the vaginal wall, it also comes with menopause, another delight that is now in the post as my ovaries have been obliterated with a lifetime’s dose of radiotherapy.
After 25 radiotherapy sessions, the hospital discharged me with some lubricant and 4 horrific plastic dildos in various sizes like porny Russian dolls.
Liam is claiming not to be intimidated by their presence in the bedroom.
I’m meant to start with the small one and work up to the big one. Or Liam can step up to the job. Ever the gentleman, Liam is delighted that he can help me.
Unfortunately, on the first night that he tried to perform his medical duties there was a near disaster.
Apologies in advance for my sterile depiction of the scene. I was a bit anxious that I was going to be split open from the inside. Liam was of course like a Glaswegian Adonis. The lube was applied. The deed was executed. I was very relieved to survive unscathed. Afterwards I idly read the ingredients of the lubricant, and Liam comments on how much he had enjoyed the act. Such is the scene of post coital bliss.
As Liam tells me he is in fact still experiencing tingling sensations I read that “Extract of Kiwi fruit” is the main ingredient after water in the lubricant we have just used.
Liam is terribly allergic to kiwi fruit.
10 seconds later he is furiously scrubbing his penis in the bath. The “tingling sensation” is in fact an allergic reaction.
He is ok now and still able to perform his conjugal duties and so the 4 Russian dildos remain in their wrappers.
I can write about this all with humour now but when I was first told about what radiotherapy would do to me it left me totally bereft. I don’t want more children and I’m not particularly fond of my periods, but I just wanted to get back to how I was. And there I was being told that I would be permanently altered and prematurely aged by this cancer experience. But its amazing how mortality can change perspectives. Now that I’m facing the very life changing prospect of death I don’t care so much about having functioning ovaries or vaginal atrophy. I’m delighted to have this chance of getting rid of the recurrence of cancer. I’m told there is a 10% possibility that it will totally remove the cancer in my pelvis. But compare this to the 0.003% possibility of getting bowel cancer at my age and I think I might just beat the odds again.
I get a scan next month to find out if the radiotherapy has worked. I’m feeling lucky.
“Emails from a reluctant lover” is having its world premiere this Thursday at 7.30pm in Oran Mor, Glasgow, alongside another of Doreen’s plays called “C’mon Get Aff”.
(please note this is about a tram conductor and not about anyone’s sex life)
You can buy tickets for Double Trouble here: https://doubletrouble2019.eventbrite.co.uk