The wonderful Lisa has written this guest blog about the impact of breast cancer upon her libido and how she took steps to improve this.
I had no idea breast cancer would affect my sex life
When I was sitting with the Breast care nurse talking though all the side effects from breast cancer treatment I had no idea it would affect my sex life. Maybe it was covered in one of the numerous leaflets that was handed to me, and possibly I only skimmed over it in deference to running a family home, running my own business, oh, and trying to get my head around the fact I had breast cancer and was facing a very invasive operation!
I knew all about the hot flushes and mood swings associated with being forced through the menopause early, but this too, really? And how do you bring this up with a healthcare nurse or doctor? How embarrassing. Will things go back to normal after the hormone injections and years of tamoxifen? Each appointment I told myself I would broach the subject and each time I found I couldn’t bring it up. I know what you’re thinking: “These are professionals, they’ve heard and discussed it all before”, and you’d be right, but I haven’t.
I resolved to ask the breast care nurse about it
So, I resolved that the next time the breast care nurse called to check up on how I’m doing I would bring it up. That way I wouldn’t have to look her in the face when I asked the awkward questions!
When the call finally came, I was at work as a mobile dog groomer and my poor 85-year-old customer heard the whole embarrassing conversation about my lost libido. My customers are more like friends than just clients and know all I’ve been through this past year, she couldn’t have cared less and just made another cup of tea !
Of course, it was an awkward conversation, but it was also reassuring to hear that it’s important to balance the treatment with quality of life. She said I could stop the Zolodex and even the Tamoxifen if it became too much. However, as I’m on a new treatment trial, stopping these would mean I might be removed from the trial. I also had to think about my husband and children and the risks associated with stopping the medication.
The impact on my marriage
I’m lucky that me and my husband are good at talking things though. It’s not been easy for either of us, it’s put an enormous strain on our relationship what with the mood swings and crying, (he really needs to stop doing that!). We’ve had a few rows, but we always manage to get things back on track. He always seems to find the right thing to say or pay a compliment. I have a large scar which crosses from under my boob and around my back, but he always says it doesn’t matter to him, it’s just having me healthy that’s important. I couldn’t believe my sex drive had really taken a nose dive so thought a weekend away would do us the world of good.
Unbeknown to me my husband had an idea to help with this and on the weekend break to Lisbon he bought a vibrator and carried it in his hand luggage and surprised me with it when we got there. I did wonder how he would have fronted it out had we been stopped at customs, but I don’t think I would have cared, I seem to have found a new confidence of late.
Talking about it
All my friends have been amazing they’ve all listened to all my worries take me out and make me laugh . We had a fantastic day in London recently . We had lots to celebrate that day – my first year scan was clear and my friend Linnie’s birthday do was at The Waldorf Hotel in London. We had afternoon tea and bottomless glasses of champagne – oh dear the poor staff ! They must have heard us coming a mile away! So off we went to see the Magic Mike show. We were ready for a fantastic night. I had Magic Mike land on my lap and when we got the last train home I found I was covered in glitter !
With all this said there is some very good support out there. Social media can be great – there’s always someone on Twitter who’s going through the same thing as you. I’ve been lucky to make several connections with people I’ve never met but feel I know so well.
I also had a lovely conversation with Sam, a sexual health writer and former nurse (see Sam’s guest blog for tickingoffbreastcancer.com on this topic). She is so easy to talk to and an expert in her field, who is used to dealing with people undergoing cancer treatment. She is passionate about helping people get the most appropriate support and she had some really helpful advice for me. She recommended “Yes” moisturiser – apparently, we can get it on prescription too!
All of the clinical care staff I have had dealing with have been so kind and caring, but maybe there’s just a little bit of extra training needed with these issues. The breast care nurse had no idea you can get “Yes” on prescription.
I really don’t want to sound like I’m whinging or complaining, compared to many I have been very lucky and I have a great support network. I also believe that the side effects I have experienced have been reduced as a result of the training I’m doing for a Triathlon. I can only imagine how tough it must be to have to go through this alone.