(Today's post is a frank discussion about sex. If you are related to me, especially if you are a male related to me, or a friend of my sons, for the love of God - click away now. NOW!!!! These are not things you want to have in your head when I see you on holidays. Or any other time. This especially includes my Daddy. Daddy PLEASE - don't read. And if you do - please don't ever tell me you did. EVER. Love you.)
Despite having grown up smack dab in the middle of The Bible Belt, USA, I've always had a pretty good outlook about sex. Most of that is because of the women who raised me - my mom, who is awesome and didn't blink when she discovered I had been reading her bodice-rippers in junior high (she just said "if you have any questions, let me know. And keep in mind, it's just a story. Real life is different"), my grandmother on my mom's side (she and my grandpa shared a bed until the day she died, no twin beds or separate rooms for those two), and my beloved Aunt Linda, who was like a second mom to me. Both my mother and aunt talked frankly with me as I was growing up, and neither of them hesitated on confirming that yeah - sex is fun, even after marriage. Especially after marriage. It's what God intended (if you believe in Him), and it should be a big part of any healthy marriage.
Because of those two awesome ladies, I've always been pretty comfortable with my sexuality, and with my body and everything that goes with that. When some of my girlfriends would sit around and bitch and moan about how they were too tired or just not in the mood and oh my lord their husbands were always wanting to do the deed and why can't he just let me sleep....I would sit quietly thinking "um - somebody ain't doing it right, because if they were, these chicks wouldn't be bitching so much." That probably sounds pretentious, but it's the truth. I just didn't get why so many women weren't interested in hitting the sheets with their man - wasn't that part of the deal? Most of them hadn't waited until they were married, so it's not like they didn't know what their husband's skills were in bed, or that he liked sex. Um - hello - man. They all like sex.
One of the side effects of most cancer treatment is a loss of fertility. For many women, the chemo and/or radiation cooks their ovaries so they don't work so well anymore. With ovarian cancer specifically, you lose half of the parts that make you a woman. It can be devastating to a younger woman - one that hasn't had all the children she had planned on, or one that hasn't decided if she wants children or not. The surgical menopause - as I've mentioned before - is horrendous. And all that is talked about pretty openly.
But what about sex? Yeah - no one talks about that.
It should be talked about - no one should have to wonder if their sex life will ever be normal again. For ovarian cancer patients like myself, there is the worry that we might not feel desire ever again, or even worse - what if we do regain our desire, but lose our ability to orgasm? Just how big a part does the uterus play in achieving orgasm? Will sex be painful now? Is that a given? Will those personal moisturizers [wink wink] really help so that it won't be painful? Will my husband/partner even want to have sex with me again? I literally have a question mark on my belly - as if the surgeon knew that my whole sexuality would be in question.
The hubs and I had to discuss these things beforehand. We talked about it as I recovered from surgery, we talked about it as I went through chemo. We have talked about whether he would still find me sexy after my surgery, and after all the things I went through recovering from that. How could any man be attracted to a woman that he had to watch hurl for hours? Who spent three days with a tube down her throat that made her sound like Slingblade when she talked? Not to mention other intimacies that you go through recovering from major abdominal surgery that were beyond embarrassing. Let's not forget I have these freaking tubes on my sides, and my hair is currently shorter than his.
Let me tell ya - I am one sexy beast. Not.
So you take all of that and you get one insecure wife. Add in the hot flashes from hell that flare up whenever he touches me, and a considerate husband that is afraid of pushing too soon, or that I'll hurt, or break or whatever - it was a mess. As a couple, we were lost. Since I see a regular oncologist, not a gynecologic oncologist for my treatment, I don't think he was comfortable talking about when it was ok to resume marital relations. It's not something that's addressed in the cancer binder you get. There's talk about eating, how to manage nausea, regaining your strength, dealing with hair loss, but nothing on dealing with intimacy loss. Or how to re-start your sex life after recovery.
So we muddle through. I'm not going to discuss where we're at in that process. I still have a son in high school, and the last thing he needs to hear is punky school mates giving him a hard time about his parent's sex life. As it is, I have to get the hubs to read through this to make sure he's ok with me putting this all out there. I'm hoping he will be. I hope he realizes how important it is that there be some type of discussion of how sex changes after treatment, especially for those of us whose cancer affects our sexual organs (including breast cancer patients - talk about a whole slew of body image issues and feelings!). It needs to be talked about. There needs to be better resources. Women should not feel that their sexual life is over just because they had cancer. The idea that I might never enjoy sex again was a scary one for me. I know I can't be the only one out there that's worried about it.
So let's talk about sex, baby.
(For the record - I had my husband read this before I posted it. While he admits it made him a bit uncomfortable because he's a very private person, he agreed that it's important to talk about this stuff, so here it is. )