Hi. I haven't been on much lately. I came on here when I very badly needed emotional support and then disappeared when I didn't need it so much anymore. Now I feel like I really need to give back. Some good things have happened in the bedroom after I'd given up hope - and I want to encourage others who are in the same boat.
I'm going to be frank with my words. I'm an RN so talking about these things comes to me more easily than for most people I think. I think frankness is important in these very very very important matters! Our sexuality is a much bigger part of our lives than many of us acknowledge and breast cancer really hits this vital area of our lives.
I'm 3 years and 2 months out from my breast cancer diagnosis, almost 3 years out from bilateral mastectomy and starting on Femara. I'm not sure - but I think I may have taken the whole breast cancer thing even harder than most. I definitely had a whole heck of a lot of negativity going on. My husband had a hard time with it as well and I thought our sex life had completely ended. Of course the most obvious difference in our sex life was the lost of my breasts - my most erogenous zone and my husband's very favorite body part. I got reconstruction and with clothes on it looks great but....no nipples, you know. Plus my husband says he felt guilty taking any pleasure at all in my reconstructed breasts after the pain I'd been through. The guilt interfered with intimacy. The side effects of Femara just added insult to injury. My vaginal tissue became so very thin and fragile, sex was painful. I no longer was able to feel arousal. My vagina actually began to atrophy and became so small that sex was almost impossible. Also, I gained about 30 lbs and got very out of shape due to depression. Sex, which was such a huge part of our relationship prior to breast cancer, became a once every 1-2 month thing.
I decided I'd better take this bull by the horns. I am not in any way, shape, or form ready to give up intimacy!!!
Six months ago I went on nutrisystem and got a gym membership. I began lifting weights and doing 20 minutes of cardio 4-5 days per week. I've lost 40 lbs and got in better shape than I was on our honeymooon. One awesome unexpected benefit of breast cancer and breast reconstruction - when we lose weight our boobs look BIGGER! Plus they don't flop around and they look awesome under sports bras. No squished down uniboob!
The increase in fitness didn't immediately help with the bedroom issues as much as I hoped it would. Yes I looked and felt more attractive but I was still suffering from the side effects of Femara and there's no getting around the loss of nipples.
About a month ago I finally had a serious discussion with my doctor. It's hard when we have male doctors....but I HAD to see if anything could be done. I gathered up my courage and blurted out "listen....I'm only 50. I'm not in the grave yet. I'm not ready to give up sex. You need to help me out with the "down there" issues if you know what I mean. The skin is thin and fragile and things are actually closing up. This is NOT OK!!!"
My doctor told me the difference between Femara and Tamoxifen (Femara completely blocks the body's production of estrogen and the whole entire body suffers from the lack of estrogen. Tamoxifen keeps the breast tissue from absorbing estrogen but allows it to continue to be produced, so other areas of the body can still enjoy its effects) and reminded me that I'd agreed that the side effects of Femara would be worth it for the 1-2% increase in disease-free survival rate. Then, he said that I've already been on the Femara for 3 years and he thinks it would be perfectly fine if I decided to switch from Femara to Tamoxifen. He said I should notice a difference within a month - but definitely within 3 months. He also said that if I was still having problems after 3 months it would be safe to put me on a vaginal estrogen cream. He wouldn't feel comfortable putting me on estrogen cream if I was on Femara because my breast tissue would not be protected but it would be fine with Tamoxifen
Ladies - the side effects from the Femara were NOT permanent. As soon as I started getting a little estrogen where it matters most (and I do mean a little - I've had a hysterectomy and don't have ovaries so the only estrogen I'm getting is the estrogen produced elsewhere in my body), things started getting better. Much, much better!!
I've got my mojo back. Everything is working out fine. The scars on my breasts have faded to near invisibility. I'd become so depressed that I never bothered to get my nipple tattoos but I will for sure get them now that things are going well again. I feel sexier than I felt before the cancer. I look and feel GREAT. Sex is no longer painful. The vajayjay is doing everything it's supposed to do, and life is good again.
Breast cancer sucks, and the changes it causes us to experience in our sex lives suck. It might not be possible to prevent changes from happening, but we CAN have joy in the bedroom after breast cancer.
Age 46 at diagnosis - the babies in my avatar are my two adorable granddaughters, Azalea and Violet :) The lights of my life.
1/28/2016, IDC, Right, 3cm, Stage IIA, Grade 1, 0/3 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
2/25/2016 Mastectomy: Right; Prophylactic mastectomy: Left; Reconstruction (left): Tissue expander placement; Reconstruction (right): Tissue expander placement
3/22/2016 Femara (letrozole)
11/2/2016 Reconstruction (left): Silicone implant; Reconstruction (right): Silicone implant
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