FYI: Out of respect for the modesty of the dead, I have chosen not to define cryptorchidism. Feel free to look it up, but I personally don’t feel right talking about the specifics of this condition in relation to someone who only lived to thirteen, and also is no longer here to defend his own privacy. I’m sure you can infer what it has to do with from the context, however.
The first Wednesday of every month, The Insecure Writer’s Support Group convenes to share struggles, insecurities, triumphs, doubts, and other odds and sods. This month, I’m concerned with what naysayers might think of my protagonist defying the odds against two health conditions.
Regarding my alternative historical WIP, And Aleksey Lived, I’m kind of worried some people might jump on me because I’ve got my hero, in this alternate reality, living into old age with pretty decent health, as well as fathering four children in spite of cryptorchidism. It’s carefully constructed as to be realistic to medical and personal realities of the earlier 20th century, but some people might only see what’s on the surface and not care about the specifics. (Some people also might complain because I’ve got him marrying a morganatic princess seven years his senior instead of a younger, royal princess of the blood, but that’s another issue.)
A lot of people who aren’t familiar with the subject don’t understand hemophilia was NOT an automatic early death sentence for someone born in 1904. If someone survived childhood, it was more a matter of learning what to avoid, how to be careful, precautions to take, taking it easy, and having appropriate physical therapy to conserve and increase health and strength. Prince Waldemar of Prussia lived to 56 with the disease, and might’ve lived even longer had not his final attack coincided with the end of WWII, fleeing from the Red Army, and all medical supplies being diverted to treat concentration-camp survivors.
And since I’m familiar with the subject (based on 20 years of reading and research), I know Aleksey had gotten a lot stronger and healthier, not to mention more mature, in the last five or so years of his life, after the gigantic emergency at Spała in 1912. His health only deteriorated at the end because he didn’t exactly have the best doctors, medical attention, and living conditions in captivity. In my alternative imagining, he recovers and is able to walk again thanks to being rescued, getting better food and living conditions, and good old-fashioned time to allow the subcutaneous hemorrhage in his left leg to reabsorb. Many men with cryptorchidism also have children; it’s not an automatic guarantor of infertility.
And besides, and most importantly, he’s MY protagonist, and this what-if fantasy gives him the happy ending he was denied in real life. It’s my prerogative to make him one of the lucky few who survived into old age. And who wouldn’t love, feel sympathy for, and be inspired by a dark horse hero?