Gloves off

When you've got loads of angry tumours out of control and nibbling quickly and dangerously at your beautiful bits, chemo is clearly the weapon of choice. Being nasty stuff, it's gloves on all round with some types.

Gloves off

Hundreds of drugs are used to fight cancer, and the most powerful are a group called cytotoxics. Good ol' chemotherapy.

Plenty of therapies work wonders with many types of breast cancer, like hormone therapies, but they tend to work that wonder relatively slowly. With metastatic disease, chemo cracks on and usually shrinks nasties fast, to regain control in an ever-shifting struggle to stay one step ahead of the often morphing ways of cancer.

So when you've got loads of angry tumours out of control and nibbling quickly and dangerously at your beautiful bits, chemo is clearly the weapon of choice given it works the fastest.

It's also a great tool for doctors to use with some early stage breast cancers, as these drugs can kill cancer anywhere in the body, usually by targeting fast-growing cells, like cancers generally are, in various ways. Hair is also generally considered a "fast-growing" body bit too, so that's why it is usually lost quickly as collateral damage.

Chemo strikes me a "scorched earth" indiscriminate fire bombing attack, usually having devastating positive impact. To extend the analogy, sometimes you need way more than mucking about with a few mortars and sniper rifles to advance a front quickly in a war.

With Judy, it worked a treat, for a while, but there are limits to the usability of these kinds of drugs when things have gone stage four metastatic.

Some of them are a bit too "devastating", causing irreparable damage to your body, so can only be used for so long, and others tend to diminish in effectiveness as cancer gets wise to their effect. So having plenty of types available for any given cancer is a really good thing.

In the final battle that Jude fought, with breast cancer doing a guerilla raid past defences into her beautiful brain and spinal cord, she was left with just one chemo option available. Predictably, her cancer eventually got wise to it, and got the upper hand.

The goal of chemotherapy drugs is to go kill the cancer without killing the rest of the beautiful patient first. It's poison, really, but so good yet unbelievably shitty at the same time.

The Day Oncology Angels were forever slipping on purple gloves to touch anything vaguely related to cytotoxic drugs while Judy and I were holed up at Cabrini hospital. Things like vials, syringes, IV bags and cannulation tubes were always handled most carefully, and the Angels were also very careful in the way that they touched stuff that might have touched those things. They treated it all like they were handling chemical weapons, but still with most of them smiling and chatting away, despite the dangerous goods that they were carrying.

After each lot had been carefully squeezed into Judy, those purple nursing gloves and all the rest were snapped off inside-out and tossed into a purple bucket that had nasty warnings written all over it, with a happy "There! You're all done!". Then she and I would wheel or wander off swinging hands relieved that filling her with the good/bad right stuff was over. (Swinging hands is hard pushing a wheelchair, but doable we found. There was the odd wall crash on the way to the car park, if I'm honest, but we laughed.)

We didn't give a lot of thought to how and where this chemo would eventually leave her body, though.

The drug doxorubicin, Jude's first and second go-round with the cytotoxics when metastatic cancer reared its ugly head, was one of the particularly nasty ones. It did a great job. People really hate that stuff for the way it makes them feel, even though it looks quite festive and playful in its bag, usually hidden under a black shroud to protect it from the effects of light. It is a beautiful shade of red, and looks quite pretty compared to most of the milky white or clear bags and bottles I witnessed at the time, slung up above other folk. Jude said it matched her lips.

It's so nasty that it carries a limit of how much of it you can ever have in your lifetime, with it damaging heart muscles. That's most sub-optimal given we've all only got one of those, with no redundancy like other body bits.

That particular drug is nasty not only for the recipient, but also those close others around because it is excreted in its active form, with amounts of the stuff found in saliva, vomit, lady bits juices, wee and poo. Plenty other drugs break down to something a lot safer before they escape the body, but from what I understand, not this Red Devil. Along with about twenty six other types among the hundreds used these days, this one was plenty of poison in, and a lot of the same unfiltered poison out.

Dr Rob, who did think about where it would go, advised that we should use condoms for sexy-time for the duration to prevent me from being exposed to her chemotherapy. That, and to flush the dunny with the lid closed.

She was having it squirted in once a week, which meant that it was usually dribbling out of her in trace amounts for almost the entire time she was having it, in varying concentrations and from various places. More so in the few days immediately after, and more so from some places.

This definitely interfered with sexy time, given how loved up we were.

After Dr Rob's warning, on the very next visit to the supermarket I acquired a basket full of the ribbed and sheer manhood covering things in readiness, in a few different brands and of a few different types. Not really being abreast of modern key buying criteria, I had to guess. It had been over 20 years since I had bought my last single box, which didn't even all get used up, so I wasn't at all sure whether modern advances had been applied to condom technology that I should have researched before attempting a purchase. The main criteria, I inwardly grinned was that we just needed to accommodate a self-prescribed 'large'. They all promised a good time on the pack, with lots of love from the marketing department, but marketing were somewhat over-stating their importance in the end process I thought. There weren't any purple ones, so I pot-lucked a bunch of French letters into my basket that might be bearable, wearable and hopefully on trend, and hot footed it to the checkout.

I approached the task with my mind screaming: I don't trust these little rubber things. Understandably so for my mind, mainly because Judy and I were using condoms when she fell pregnant with the twins.

After we were hitched, she'd gone off the pill as part of our preparing to think earnestly about making babies, with an April/May Taurus birthday for the little nine month product of love being our target. Condoms were our weapon of choice to slow things down, without slowing things down if you get my drift, until the timing was right. We expected to whip the gloves off in about six months from then, and plant a perfectly timed, well practised "ta da!" straight into the oven once the effects of birth control pills had fully worn off.

She and I were both that same astrological Taurus star sign, and true to stereotype, we bullheadedly wanted to try and fill the house with simpatico souls.

That was the plan anyway.

Yeah, nah. Slow things down, my arse. It was not just a surprise conception through all that bloody rubber, it was a spectacular immediate conception with a double dose for Princess Mighty Fruitful, with her doubly up the duff just two months after tying the knot and just a few weeks into transition to condoms off the pill.

Tauruses were obviously not delivered, but they were still happily an Earth sign, and Virgos are known for their nurturing and rule-abiding behaviour, so they slipped easily into our loving lives, reminding us that astrology does its own thing in its own brilliant way. Judy and I couldn't imagine life any other way, because Seb and Al were, and still are perfect.

I was sent off to the vet to have my nuts sequestered shortly thereafter, given how perfectly productive we had been all in a hurry, with even rubbers no barrier to success. We would have ended up with a probably perfect, yet unaffordable village otherwise, given the bags of bumping that went on.

Honestly, I must say that it's fairly hard to fuck up putting one of those little rubber things on, despite it being a generally rushed affair in the heat of the moment. Judy and I decided conspiratorially that I hadn't fucked up, but that my old man, who was working at the same company as the brand of condom that I wielded at the time must have been sneaking into the factory with a pin at night to cause up some grand kids.

More mistrust in the whole condom thing also sprang from witnessing in my time a couple of those rubber coveralls failing spectacularly. That might explain the twins. It was probably from over-use. My bedroom philosophy is that blokes get one shot at it, yet our curvy female opposites seem to have infinite capacity on any given night, so work it until properly selflessly done I say. (Definitely over-sharing, there... "More tea, Vicar?")

So winding the clock forward to over twenty years later, during chemotherapy the rushed bedside drawer scramble lasted just a couple of times, then the gloves were off, so to speak, for good. Call me reckless, but it was not me. It was not we. And the bloody things didn't come with any kind of a warranty in my mind, plus they got well in the way of being a loved up pair.

I've still got little idea what makes a good condom. They're all shit, despite technological advances, dulling things so much that a quickie went from half an hour to an hour and a half.

Was that extension good or bad? Those couple of times an exhausted Jude, who had lost count pleaded with me, through breathless gasps and more than a giggle for me to stop.

There was no "ta da!" for me, in those "dulled" couple of times, but a great pash descending into giggles, with even more doxorubicin shared than otherwise would have been. Yeah, great and bad, both at the same time. Great for her, and satisfying for me to witness, even if still raging horny and on a promise for the morrow, and filled with more traces of poison from pashing than I would have otherwise have been.

With doxorubicin I had been exposed to many of her wees in the toilet whilst brushing my teeth beside her. I had sucked face with Princess Pash Rash, receiving her traces of that Red Devil. I had started out carefully, listening to Dr Rob, then I think the strength and spontaneity of our physical love, whether constant gentle touches while sweating in Summer exchanging touched juices, or up in tropical northern Cairns sweating a whole touch more all over each other, swinging hands whilst walking everywhere, incessantly kissing, and more meant that my one-eyed rattlesnake and I were willing to take any risk to ensure that the way she and I lived and loved wasn't impacted by cancer in any way.

"Crotch check, cross check, pants are up."
- Steve, pulling Princess Pissy Pants pants up after a wheelchaired wee (whilst copping a feel...)

And what was the first thing that Jude and I almost always did after chemo? A big long whole-bodied hug in the car park, combined with a big wet kiss involving tongues.

I'd just witnessed beautiful Ria, or gorgeous British Heather, or vibrant Tony, or the effervescent Violet, or countless other Day Oncology Angels direct injecting a bag full of it into Judy, so what harm could a few shared traces possibly do to me? Jude was full of that nasty shit, I thought. A whole bloody bag of it. Quite honestly, I quickly came to the conclusion that I didn't give a toss about the potential health hazard to myself from a quick(ish) bonk, because it was almost certainly a minimal additional risk, and probably less risk than a good pash while giggling exhausted over a most successful condom-induced personal failure.

Early menopause brought on by her early breast cancer treatments many years ago meant a lot less doxorubicin-laced lady bits juices going on anyway. So with less juices to dribble out the Red Devil as a result, I felt my hidden trouser parts would be just fine without a barrier anyway.

Dr Rob would probably have been mortified had he known, and would have blushed.

Sorry, Dr Rob.

It's fair enough that the Day Oncology Angels treated it all as chemical weaponry. If they weren't all gloved up, then the risk of exposure to all sorts of nasties during each working day would be horrendously unacceptable. But I was just one bloke, with one beautiful partner going through it, and I thought a bit of rumpy pumpy hardly an OH&S issue for me, constantly wearing a hard hat being somewhat overkill.

I've still got a drawer full of those love-gloves, which amuses me greatly every time I reach for a hanky. Given the limited shelf life, they'll probably reach their expiration date quietly like the last lot I bought decades ago, well before they are bothered again by me.