Published August 18, 2011
Cancer, sex and libido. There I have said it. The elephant in the room is now unleashed.
Of course, I would think most of us would be sensitive enough to understand that while someone is in treatment and experiencing side effects like nausea, vomiting, exhaustion, etc., sex would be the last thing on their mind. Survival mode is the only mode at that time.
But, what about after chemo or radiation. Are we back to feeling sexy and ready to jump in the sack? No. (This is where some people are thinking, "speak for yourself").
OK, I will. This is extremely difficult. I feel like I am a child and want to hide under the covers. Why is sex so difficult to talk about? Growing up Catholic? That gets blamed for so many things, (which in my book is fair). Can you see me avoiding the subject!
I have lost much of my desire for sex. It has been very difficult. Loss of estrogen they say is the greatest reason for loss of libido and if your breast cancer is ER positive, the doctors have medically removed all or most of the estrogen from your body. Loss of estrogen creates dryness...loss of lubrication. Sometimes the over-the-counter lubricants can work and if you are not ER positive you can get a prescription for estrogen cream to apply to the vaginal area. There are also testosterone creams that help as well. I try everything. You should have your estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone levels checked before you go wild with these creams. I felt aggressive and angry when I tried the testosterone, so I had to taper that way down.
A couple of weeks ago on the TV show "The Big C," (which airs on Showtime), Cathy and her husband handled this subject in an honest and beautiful way. These writers get it. Laura Linney is living my life right there on television. It is a must-see. It just keeps getting better and better.
Along the way, I have heard stories of chronic illnesses tearing couples apart. This is heart-breaking. I make no judgments, but it breaks my heart when I hear that a husband left a girlfriend or spouse because they had cancer.
Believe me, it isn't fun having cancer and it isn't fun living with someone who has it. It is what it is. I wonder how many others have dealt with this problem and have come out on the other side. I hope you will share your stories with me.
Life is a journey....just a bumpier journey living with cancer.
I want to thank all of you who have sent short inspirational videos to the website Men for Women Now. It's wonderful to hear from men about what they are going through or have gone through during the process of caring for a loved one with cancer. If you would like to send a video (under 60 seconds) that shares tips or advice, all you have to do is upload your video to YouTube and send us the link at email@example.com.
Noreen Fraser is living with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. She is co-founder of STAND UP TO CANCER and co-produced the TV show, which raised 100 million dollars for cancer research. Noreen went on to create the Noreen Fraser Foundation to raise money and awareness for women's cancer research. The 'Men for Women Now' program enlists men to ask the women they love to make appointments for their mammogram and pap smear. Noreen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org