Week 6 "Say hello to my little friend..."
12 March 2012
"Yes, seems like a particularly nasty little bug, doesn't it? Must be really awful for those that have it," screeched the woman within earshot, during the coffee break at a conference I was attending this week. Yep, I thought to myself, what an incredible understatement. Delegates were discussing blood borne viruses, and specifically HCV, commenting on the increasingly alarming, global infection rates. I was momentarily stunned at the misconception and ignorance of professionals within the health sector. I believed they would be better informed on the subject. I tried to keep up with the flow of conversation from across the room, aching to be involved in the discussion. Without wanting to march over indignantly and gatecrash their conversation, I resolved to temper my frustrations by digging my fingernails into my forearm, and instead, allowed my mind to wander elsewhere...
You'd be forgiven for thinking that I'm a pococurante person when it comes to all things sexual. Quite the opposite. Feeling emotionally and physically connected to Max is something I seem to be literally craving all the more since he has been on treatment. This is further exacerbated by the fact that I'm acutely aware, as Max is too, that his libido and desire to 'stoke the fire' has decreased in recent weeks. However, that was then, and this is now! During the early hours of the morning earlier this week, Max rolled over and with a cheeky grin illuminating his features, he whispered, "E-liz-a-beth," loaded with the profluent intonation that only couples can de-code together. It could mean only one thing. Arousal. I think it was at that point that I literally jumped on him. And I'm pleased to report that Max's increased virility has left me with a spring in my step, a rosy glow and the sunniest of dispositions. So much so, that the innuendo-laden office banter in work was illustrative of their quiet recognition that I was indeed experiencing the greatest fulfilment at home. Not just intimate fulfilment either; things this week have felt different in relational terms; almost serenely and unwaveringly robust. Max's increased sexual drive (every night we've spent together) has unlocked something within me and feels like it has awakened us both. Whilst I obviously cant speak for Max, it felt as though I released some of the frustrations, stresses and anxieties that had been obscuring things at times. I felt fully connected to him. Now as for drawing conclusions as to the reasons for his change in libido, I'm not entirely sure. After reading so much stuff prior to treatment starting which pointed towards the fact that people on treatment would experience a total lack of interest and 'ability', I was almost prepared for our sexual relationship to suffer in some way. I'm curious to know whether changes in sexual drive will continue or whether this is merely an anomaly. Perhaps it's a sign that treatment is working. Perhaps it's simply associated with shifting hormonal levels. That is to say that I have no idea as to the change but I have no doubt that it is associated in some way.
Reading some of the other treatment diary entries with interest, served to provoke my reflection of the sexual dichotomy that presents itself when in a relationship with someone with HCV. I recalled the raft of warnings that health care staff issued to myself and Max, both prior to treatment and during. "Wear a condom," the nurse would insist. My choice not to is an informed choice. From my perspective, I didn't want to consider an intimate relationship with Max whereby we had to use barrier methods of contraception to reduce the risk of him transmitting the virus to me. In a loving, monogamous and stable relationship such as ours, I wanted nothing more than the freedom to be spontaneous and achieve natural intimacy together. This was something that was fundamentally important to me, despite Max's reservations, no matter how small the risk of transmission was. And we are fully aware of those transmission rates which I believe are under one per cent amongst stable and monogamous relationships, but there is obviously a wealth of statistical information out there. That isn't to say that we are deluded or ignorant, but rather that I have an informed choice and that we are careful about risks of transmission in general, which extend beyond the bedroom. However, I was reminded of the importance of getting myself tested at regular intervals, which is no doubt something many couples in similar situations are mindful of undertaking routinely. Warnings however, continued to manifest themselves once treatment had started; warnings about being careful not to risk getting pregnant whilst Max was in treatment due to risk to any developing foetus. More questions followed, "What form of contraception do you use?" Having a coil fitted seemed to please the nurse. For any couple such warnings are fairly alarming and really puts into perspective the aggressiveness of treatment.
Battling the monotony, Max has actively busied himself endlessly and also seems more aware of his infuriating tendency to procrastinate. As an antidote to the apathy that has afflicted him lately, Max has immersed himself into a virtual world of 'geeky gaming' as I affectionately refer to it. If preventing a global invasion from an alien race provides him with the focus and escapism he needs right now, then it's all good. I like to think that Max is seeking an equilibrium at the moment. Being reasonably established in the treatment routine now, it feels like he is taking preparatory steps to re-start his freelance work (motivating himself whilst fighting through treatment is the utmost of challenges). So, work, rest and play covered....the missing ingredient of this harmonised-paradigm is exercise (and not the aforementioned-bedroom-variety!) When I say that Max has made in-roads on the exercise-front, I mean it literally. In addition to physically demanding tasks that he has completed in the garden this week, he has cycled 25k to see me, then a further 35k the following day to collect his pegylated interferon syringes from the hospital pharmacy. Cycling long distances was an activity that Max was physically comfortable doing on a regular basis prior to treatment (despite HCV-related fatigue at times), so it was wonderful to see him returning outdoors and this seemed to lift his spirits, alleviate his boredom and challenge himself in the process.
At the time of writing, we are awaiting an email from Max's doctor to confirm the results of his week 4 blood tests. Fingers and toes are all resolutely crossed.