#Chadwick

Chadwick Boseman died on August 28th from colon cancer. He was an actor, a philanthropist and beloved around the world. I first saw Chadwick in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War.” My friend, Ashley, dragged me to the theater to watch the movie. At the time, I wasn’t a fan of the Marvel Cinema Universe but when Chadwick appeared on the screen, I was charmed by his performance. I quickly became a fan. When “Black Panther” came out two years later, I watched the movie three times in theaters. When I heard the news of his passing, it felt like a friend died.

I usually don’t get caught up with celebrity deaths but for the past week, Chadwick has been on my mind. I’ve been thinking about his legacy and his incredible work ethic. As a cancer survivor myself, I am impressed that he continued to work despite his illness. It makes me realize two things: 

  1. You have no idea what someone is going through. Chadwick worked during his cancer treatments, making the Marvel films and several others in a four year span. I think about the pandemic and how so many of us are struggling while keeping a brave face on, trying our best to get through the day. Knowing what he went through reminds me to be kind. These days, everyone is fighting some kind of battle. 
  2. I have to admit that when things get hard in my life, I tend to shut down. I push people away. I’ll spend hours crying in my bathroom. I’ll neglect my self-care and spend all of my free time sleeping. I throw myself pity parties and tell myself that I’m worthless and a screw-up. My cancer was caused by HPV. When I was first diagnosed, I repeatedly told myself that I was an idiot for not insisting that my previous partners wear protection: if they wore condoms, if I treated my body and sexual health better, if I loved and respected myself like I should have, I wouldn’t have had cancer. While I don’t know how he dealt with his diagnosis, I admire that Chadwick continued to work. He may have been in pain but he continued to show up and keep fighting. He may have had some break downs but he still put in his best every day. That is inspiring. Seeing that energy fuels me to keep going. Chadwick lived unapologetically, to the best of his capability, to the very end- may we all do so.

In my culture, death is not the end.” – Black Panther/ T’Challa

Rest in power, King

#LetsTalkAbout…

More specifically, let’s talk about sexually transmitted infections and diseases.

PREACH!

Last week, I had surgery to remove cancer cells from my cervix. The cancer was caused by HPV (human papillomavirus) which is usually spread by skin-to-skin contact, in the act of sex. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. It’s usually harmless and goes away by itself but some strands can lead to cancer… like the cancer cells that were found and removed from my body.

I was ashamed of telling people what caused my cancer. I’ve never shied away from talking about sex before. I’ve never shied away from the word “slut.” I always believed in its positive power. The word allows women to own their sexuality. I embraced it with open arms. Hell, three years ago, I organized a Slut Walk in Reno to help reduce that stigma of sexually-celebrated women. But now, that word rings poorly in my ear. I caught HPV from a past partner. Part of me feels like if I made better choices with whom I slept with, I wouldn’t have cancer. I feel dirty (and not in a good way). I feel like a slut.

But I know that is the stigma talking.

It’s time that we destigmatized STIs especially common ones like HPV. They’re a part of being sexually active (even if you always use condoms and only have one partner throughout your entire sexual history). Yeah, they suck but they aren’t scary. Having one is not the end of the world. It doesn’t mean that you’re a slut or dirty. Shit happens sometimes. But there is treatment and support. Most STIs are treatable. There are health care providers out there to help (and who will not judge!). We need to be able to talk about them with our sexual partners. We should talk about them with our friends. Maybe our parents (I talk about HPV with my mom). We’re able to talk about illnesses like colds and fevers. So, why not STIs?

I share my story because I don’t want to hide behind the truth. I got infected and that’s what happened. But I’m not going to let fear keep from being physically involved with another person nor will it keep me away from getting more regularly tested (I’m getting the HPV vaccine that the FDA just approved for women over the age of 30 with hopes I will not catch another strand). Everyone deserves good sex: sex that is healthy, consensual, pleasurable, safe and respectful- and having a healthy sexuality also includes being informed about STIs.

Regardless of your gender or lack of gender, dear reader, I beg of you to get tested. Know your status and take your sexual health seriously before hopping into bed with that babe of a babe.