Let’s talk about sex…after breast cancer. I know it’s normally taboo, hush hush and swept under the carpet but sheesh this needs to be talked about.
Let’s be clear, this post isn’t for shock value…it’s because, well it’s been on my mind for absolutely ages because I had breast cancer and now my sex life is affected and it sux. Maybe by me writing about it I can articulate how I feel, how it affects me and my mister and just maybe it might help others.
Sex and intimacy are two very different things. My husband and I are intimate, we hold hands, snog and cuddle. Sometimes he catches my glance and gives me a knowing wink or a cheeky smile. He’s there to cheer me on and wipe my tears and the ‘magic’ is still there. But there’s been very little sex since I was diagnosed two and a half years ago.
I know…we used to go at it like randy rabbits and were pretty creative and adventurous and freakin loved a bit of afternoon delight. In fact we were up for it anytime.
Then breast cancer invaded my body, my warm soft boobs that were a HUGE part of our lovemaking were cut from my body and our sex life changed dramatically.
When I had my mastectomy and then a second surgery two weeks later to remove my nodes I was pretty fucked…not actually fucked in the hot n heavy way but messed up! I was full of tubes, drains, stitches…doctors and nurses were all over my chest and to be honest I was in pain and didn’t want anyone touching me let alone climbing on.
I was tender and sore and everything was an effort. I remember having a cry in the kitchen one night and my mister tried to hug me, it was awkward because…it’s hard to hug your wife when her boob has been cut from her chest and she has drains stitched into the wound.
I never hid my scar…even from the kids. I was back walking around the house naked or half naked after my first surgery. My husband saw the mastectomy wound on the very first night, he massaged my scars…kissed my empty chest…trailed his fingers across the scar many times. I was never ashamed of my scars and have never been made to feel ashamed. I swore black and blue that I would never have a reconstruction and he was cool with that, he was even fine when I decided I hated my prosthesis and stopped wearing it.
There was no rooting going on while I was having chemo because let’s face it who wants to get busy between the sheets with someone who is so bloody sick…so physically sick? My mister was so scared of hurting me, of invading my already ravaged body.
After chemo was done (6 months) we did have sex but it wasn’t like it used to be. I had one boob and felt like a freak show…my mister wasn’t sure what he should be doing with the boob and the empty space on my chest and to be honest neither was I.
Our foreplay disappeared because…I don’t know why really but it just did. It all felt weird and unsexy…I felt weird and unsexy.
From the very first surgery (I’ve had 7) my mister has been freakin amazing! He’s been patient, understanding, loving and supportive. He’s never pressured me for sex or made me feel bad for not putting out, we’ve laughed about it and kinda talked about it but lately it’s on my mind a lot.
See, some might say I’m ‘lucky’ but we were solid in our relationship before cancer. Sure,Cancer did bring our intimacy to new levels because all our feelings, fears and love had become heightened. It brought us even closer but sex, well that’s been tricky.
After chemo came hormone therapy which forces me into menopause. My vagina is a dry hole and we now have to use lube! Lube!! I have no oestrogen, no sex drive and a dry vagina…ain’t no recipe for a saucy session is it?! I even have a thatch of dark chin hair…just in case I needed reminding that I wasn’t sexy.
Then I decided to have a breast reconstruction. I thought it would make me feel more whole, it does and it helps me because these days I look down at cleavage and think oh, I HAD cancer instead of looking down at the empty space and thinking ‘I HAVE cancer’. That right there was worth the 2 surgeries, there’s still more surgeries to come of course.
The reconstruction surgeries were tough, for me the first surgery was excruciating. I cried in pain for weeks, sometimes I still cry with the pain. You see it’s not like a breast enhancement or a boob job. Nuh uh, I had my other breast removed, then my muscles, skin and tissue removed from my back to make new Foobs on my chest. The first surgery was 12 hours, 8 days in hospital, 6 weeks no driving and almost 30 times I had my back drained (with needles) afterwards. I ain’t gonna lie, at times I wish I’d never done it. I live with pain everyday, I have scars everywhere, my range of movement is limited. I have no freakin nipples!
My mister became my carer, massaging my scars twice daily, helping me shower, toilet and even helping me walk in the early days. Having your husband become a carer is a bit of a game changer and totally not sexy.
Yeah I have these scarred mounds that pull and hurt, nerves in my back spark and feel like an electrical storm…it hasn’t been easy. BUT…I’m here. I’m functioning, loved and I’m happy, and I’m pretty darned proud of my ‘Foobs’ because they do make me feel better. But in the bedroom they made no difference. They hurt and are hard so ummm, not much fun and a bit weird as part of a sex routine.
I miss my boobs because I liked them and more to the point so did my mister. They were soft and warm and made me and the mister horny. I like my new ‘Foobs’ and when I get nipples I’ll start calling them boobs again. They are mostly numb so feel pretty useless during sex and of course they hurt so I think subconsciously I have a barrier…I project fear and defence all at once which must really confuse the shit outa my mister! Sheesh, he’s had to deal with a lot!!
Sex is just another twist on the roller coaster ride of a cancer diagnosis, it’s something we need to learn again. I think we’ll eventually seek professional help, maybe a sex therapist. God, did I just write that?? Sooo weird, but that’s the thing, life just isn’t the same as it was before cancer. So many things have changed. We’ve changed and these days we invite and accept things into our lives that once seemed so foreign.
So while we are intimate there just ain’t much sex going on. We’re cool with that but I don’t want that to be our normal, I don’t want to throw my hands in the air and give up. I want us to find a way to adjust, and we will. And that’s the thing, it’s all about adjusting. We adjusted when I was pregnant and when we had kids, now we need to adjust again.
So what advice can I offer? The truth is none. My story has been our journey…but it’s not every ones. All breast cancer patients have their own individual experiences. We all cope differently and adjust differently. What I will say is that sex is a natural part of our lives and just because cancer invades doesn’t mean we aren’t sexual, we need to hear more about this. We need to speak up and ask questions and laugh about it. Let’s open the dialogue and help couples heal…that would be awesome, don’t you think?
Got any useful tips to getting sex back on track?
Maybe you’ve got specific questions about sex after breast cancer? Feel free to ask me anything.
Til next time,
ps, this post is written with the full support of my husband. He read it, approves of it, hopes it helps others and…he thinks I rock!
Oh, the pretty bra in the cover pic was sent to me by ELOMI (gifted). Beautiful lingerie up to a J cup.You can find stockist HERE