. . . sex. Yep, you heard me, sex. More specifically, sex post-breast cancer. For those of you who’ve been tuning in the past few weeks and have read “Boobie Wednesday” and “Post-Boobie Wednesday” then you know that I went through my own experience with breast cancer. I can’t say ‘thank you’ enough to all of you who have tweeted, Facebooked and commented on those posts. I really appreciate your love and support.
So let’s talk about sex and the post-breast cancer body.
I know that there’s still a stigma about women talking openly about sex, and I know that there’s even less open discussion about sex and cancer, especially how women feel after breast cancer. The hardest thing for women and reproductive cancer is the fear of losing their femininity, sex appeal, sensuality. I know I certainly had those concerns. So much of a woman’s identity is bound up in her body, to her external displays of womanhood. Many women hear breast cancer and they immediately fear losing their breasts. I hope that this post will show women of all ages that a diagnosis of breast cancer, or any cancer for that matter, doesn’t have to mean a loss of their sex life or their confidence in their sexuality. My reconstruction was difficult, as I have previously discussed. There were numerous complications. I had more surgeries then initially expected. But in the end my breasts came out wonderfully. I had a womanly silhouette. I have bouncy, full breasts. I don’t feel my femininity is diminished. I don’t feel like any less of a woman. I hope that others will have similar experiences and see a happy, fulfilled sex life after cancer.
Prior to my mastectomy I was confident in my body, I know how men would respond to it, but more importantly I knew how I would respond to them – how my nipples would harden, or the tingling down my spine I would feel at their touch, etc.
After the mastectomy, that become difficult. My confidence was different, I was more secure in myself because I knew how strong my body was, I knew what it was capable of surviving. I was, oddly enough, more confident then I had ever been in myself. But when it came to men – how they would respond to my new breasts, to the scars, to my lack of sensation – I was nervous and scared that my new body would be a turn-off. The internal drive I had had before that gave me the sexy prowl of a confident woman in bed was more timid. I didn’t know that attraction would be immediate. I was afraid that I would have to “convince” someone that I was sexy, to overlook the changes to my body. And even though I have had successful sexual experiences since my surgeries, those fears linger. Though no man has gone screaming from my bedroom, I still have concerns that one day, one man will have a problem with my body.
The first time I had sex after the surgery I was nervous. I had already had “the talk” with the man. Explained what I had gone through, told him that if he wasn’t interested or if he was scared that it was cool to keep it as friends. But he responded to my body, to me as if I hadn’t had breast cancer, as if my body wasn’t different then the “norm.”
He lavished attention on my breasts, enjoying them himself even though I couldn’t feel anything he did. I couldn’t feel his hands on them or his mouth. My nipples didn’t respond to his attention. But I was lucky, he didn’t seem to mind. He liked the look of them and their weight in his hands. Our time together galvanized my emotions. I became very comfortable with him, and my success with him has made experiences since easier.
Having lost sensation in my breasts, foreplay and attention to the rest of my body has become more important to me. I have found other areas of my body have become sensitive and that enjoy attention paid to then. The insides of my wrists, the hollows of my elbows, the back of my knees, my neck and earlobes. These have become the hot spots since losing sensation in my breasts. Discussing this with my partners is key. Explaining that just sucking on my nipples isn’t going to cut it.
Communication is essential to a successful sexual experience, and that is even more the case after trauma to the body. Explaining to my partners that I won’t respond to every touch of his hand or mouth on my body, or that it takes longer for me to rev my engine then most. But I will get there and when I do… I’m a tiger.