When you are diagnosed with breast cancer your first thought is: "I'm going to die." What no one tells you is that five years on, you may be alive but your priorities are now totally upside down. The little things are huge – smelling lilacs and roses, giving a word of encouragement or advice to a fellow survivor, watching Samantha's speech at the cancer benefit on Sex in the City for the fortieth time, or having an orgasm (it doesn't matter how you get there _ – you're just grateful to be alive to enjoy them).
And the big things seem so much smaller. The perfect house, the perfect job, the perfect weekend of incredible sex no longer matter nearly as much. Okay, so this comes from someone who's been on tamoxifen for nearly 5 years. The goal of this treatment is to remove all the estrogen from my body. This has also turned me from a normal hot blooded catholic girl, to someone who thinks about sex less often than a fish thinks about riding a bicycle. Estrogen is as foreign to my body as red meat is to a vegetarian or alcohol is to a Mormon. The problem is that estrogen is terribly taken for granted. With it, despite what you think, us gals think about sex pretty often. All those trashy novels that talk about getting "wet" – that's the estrogen doing its thing. And, sadly, it's also a major contributor to breast cancer recurrence. So without it, all of us survivors have a much better chance of surviving. But without it, concepts like sex and "getting wet" are about as likely as a Ralph Nader presidency.
The problem is, that no one talks about this stuff. We worry about the loss of our sex appeal if we have to have a mastectomy, but we don't think about what happens when you still look sexy, but just aren't up to the task. We're all supposed, I suppose, to be so grateful to survive that we shouldn't have any expectation that survival might include a sex life. WTF???? How is it that the pharmaceutical companies can come up with half a dozen ways to make men stiff, and they can't come up with a decent way to allow cancer surviving women to have comfortable sex. How is that spontaneous sex is an oxymoron, and if you're really going to indulge you need 2-3 over the counter assistants to make it possible?
I was told, when I was going thru chemo, that the reason that they didn't come up with a chemo drug that didn't make your hair fall out was that in the big picture, hair didn't matter. So I suppose that to the medical industry, the reality is that sex doesn't matter, or at least isn't supposed to. But I would argue that it does mater, a lot, and just because sex isn't as much fun as it used to be , doesn't mean that you don't still want to enjoy it. And sadly, we learn that "use it or lose it" isn't just an old-wives' cliché.
Which is why I'm so excited about my friend Helen's new line of products: Women's Intimate Solutions. First the lubricants are certified organic, made from herbs not chemicals. Secondly the whole package is designed for women, by women, and specifically with breast cancer survivors in mind, so you feel like you're pampering yourself, not doing something that your mother would disapprove of. Try it and let me know what you think.