Not only does breast cancer attempt (sometimes successfully, sometimes not) to steal your joy, your naivety, and the world as you know it; whether that happens to be through a simple or complex lens, it also stirs up the already multifaceted topic of relationships.
When you hear the word relationships, I can imagine that a plethora of things come to mind — marriage, dating, colleagues, besties, the attractive person who checks you out at 7-11 when you buy gas every Thursday?
What about the one relationship most of us don’t think about when we hear that word? Yes …. I mean the relationship we have with ourselves. The relationship we have with our bodies.
We all know how complex that can be without a health crisis. Now throw cancer into the mix and you have … well, you have a body that not only feels betrayed but can’t seem to function in the way that it once did.
Navigating Intimacy Following a Diagnosis
If you are like me or similar — diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer, underwent a nipple-sparing bilateral mastectomy, chemotherapy, anti-hormonal meds that induced me into menopause — you were likely forced to navigate your body in a way you never imagined.
I didn’t have my own breasts anymore and I no longer had any feeling in my nipples. The number one spot on my body (my nipples) that could easily make me forgive my husband for forgetting everything I told him no longer functioned.
My vagina now felt as dry as an unused sponge or that plant you forget to water because it's low maintenance. What was this, and how long would I have to endure it? My skin (though always acne prone) was now spurting out spots and pimples like my face depended on it.
In addition to the other hundred and one side effects, I was now left to somehow still love what I saw in the mirror enough to have intimate time with my husband whom I love dearly. Don’t get me wrong, even with all of this, I have never not desired my husband, like ever *wink*… but even with the mental desire undamaged, my vagina was in a space where it had clocked out.
Cooperation where? So I realized very quickly I would need additional support to catch up to where my mind was and wanted to be.
Finding the Right Personal Lubricant and Advice on Libido
After talking with a couple of community members online, I was encouraged to try Good Clean Love's Almost Naked Organic Personal Lubricant. It's water-based and made of all natural and organic ingredients. It was quite a game changer and has helped me tremendously.
My libido yes, was impacted, but I chose from the beginning to first accept why this was. By not blaming myself, by not equating my bodies shut down to meaning I somehow don’t want sex. I made sure to prioritize the understanding that with time it can eventually get better, maybe not where it once was, but better.
Also, focusing on my breathing during intercourse. This can reduce stress reactivity during sex, in addition, the more often we had sex, the less painful I found it to be. Lastly, remembering that sex is not the only form of intimacy.
Remember to Give Yourself Grace
As you read this, I want you to know that no two stories are exactly the same. That goes with a cancer diagnosis and all relationships, to include relationships with others and with ourselves.
Give yourself grace, give yourself time. If those around you are unwilling to support the grace and time you need, it’s okay to re-evaluate the role that they play. You are an autonomous being, touched by something devastating.
- Get creative
- Give time
- Share with your partner
I love you. And I hope today or tomorrow, you love you too!