A Breast Cancer Survivor Shares Her Story on Intimacy After Surgery

It’s no secret that breast cancer affects the world we live in. According to BreastCancer.org, about 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer over their lifetime. A lot of us have either had a family member, a friend, or maybe even yourself be affected by this prying disease. During this time of year, specifically this month, breast cancer awareness is prominent everywhere. So let's talk about it.

 

When you’re involved in a sexual relationship with anyone, one is bound to second guess exactly how they look and feel while having sex. I mean...come on...anyone that is completely naked and exposed in front of another person will probably think to themselves “well shit, I hope I look good right now!”

 

Now, imagine being involved in a romantic/sexual relationship on top of dealing with breast cancer. Some of you might know what it’s like, but for others not so much. Well, what better way to understand what it is like than through the eyes of someone who lived through it.

 

My incredible and favorite aunt (sorry to the other five lol), Eileen Carr, has battled breast cancer twice in her lifetime. In fact not only battled, but kicked its ass twice. When she was first diagnosed in 2001 she had a lumpectomy where the doctors removed the lump in her right breast and followed up with chemotherapy and radiation. “I had lost my sex drive completely, and I was extremely sore and just drained from the chemo and radiation,” Carr explained. As many of us know, the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation involves hair loss, which happened to my aunt. She told me that along with the hair loss came self-image issues. She wasn’t used to looking at herself without hair, but who would be?

 

During her second diagnosis in 2015, she opted for a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction since this new lump was in her left breast. Tissue and blood vessels were removed from her stomach and used to create new breasts. Chemo and radiation were not necessary because this cancer was caught early.

 

My Aunt Eileen told me, “I remember waking up from surgery and not being able to look down at my breasts or stomach for about ten days, because there was no nipple or areola and my body was obviously going to look very different. Just the fact that my breasts weren’t complete for about six months after the initial surgery was very difficult for me to deal with in regards to feeling good about myself, especially in the bedroom.” My aunt felt like she had been butchered...her natural breasts were gone, and she had a large scar across her belly. Self-image issues obviously affected her sexual and romantic relationship with her husband.

 

A few months after the surgery my aunt and her husband went to see a doctor who specializes in women’s health issues. The specialist gave them tips on how to ease back into things sexually because a lot of things changed due to the surgery. They’ve had to adjust their relationship in so many ways because of what my aunt went through.

 

The best advice she gave for women struggling in their relationships during cancer treatment is to talk about it. Whether it’s with a therapist, doctors, or other women going through the same situation.

My aunt shared with me a quote she had seen after her first diagnosis: “Cancer is so limited…it cannot cripple love…shatter hope…corrode faith…destroy  confidence…kill friendships…shut out memories…silence courage…invade the soul or conquer the spirit”. It is so true.