Sexual intimacy after cancer treatment is a difficult issue for many. Today we’re joined by Breast Cancer Survivor and Theya Healthcare Ambassador Trina Cleary who shares her thoughts on moving forward with her life after cancer and some of the concerns she has about getting between the sheets again.
What I am about to write is extremely personal to me and probably every woman who has gone through a cancer journey.
What I am about to write, is so personal, that I haven’t really shared it with anyone. It’s a relatively new feeling/thought/hurdle in my ‘life beyond cancer’ journey, and boy, has it been a journey.
Firstly, I have risen like a phoenix from the ashes and transformed into this strong, confident, beautiful woman that I never gave myself credit for before – because I didn’t believe in myself before. So yes, cancer is ugly but I have had the last laugh and put the most positive spin on it and turned it into something beautiful.
A cancer diagnosis has the ability to consume everything in dirt and darkness, to fester away and grow until you are stuck in the abyss.
I refused to succumb and I used the ‘experience’, for want of a better word, for self growth, self development, self love, self confidence.
I adore my new mindset of always trying to find a positive, no matter how hard it is.
I adore my body that has kept me alive through the most harrowing of times, a time that should have destroyed me.
I used to look at my body and critique myself constantly, when, looking back, I was just chasing that socially acceptable ‘perfect’ body and never really happy.
Now I adore my scar that starts in the middle of my chest and extends across my chest and all the way back to under my left armpit, because it saved my life and allowed me to be here, to share my journey, to make a difference and raise awareness.
With all of these physical positives, there are things you can’t see.
There are a lot of taboo subjects around women’s health in general, for years no one spoke of cancer, you simply went away until you got better and hid it from the world, having no support in this desperate time and feeling ashamed.
Now with social media, it’s so much more normal to speak out about cancer and document the journey for others who may not have the voice to speak out, to see they are not alone.
Menopause is another taboo subject, something that I’m going through myself. I speak about it a little. People are embarrassed to speak about it but it’s just another part of a woman’s natural life cycle. Some of us just get forced into it a little earlier than others!
The usual symptoms are night sweats, hot flushes, weight gain, mood swings (for me it’s more crying at the drop of a hat rather than being moody). But there are also a few symptoms that you aren’t really told about, like lack of sex drive and vaginal dryness.
So this brings me to my topic today – intimacy after cancer.
Now I don’t think I’m alone in these thoughts I’m having, I’ve learned over the last year or so, that if I’m feeling some kind of way about something, once I voice it, many others reach out to say they feel the same and thought they were weird or alone.
So something that FREAKS me out is the thoughts of being intimate with someone. Not because I’m ashamed of my body now post mastectomy, I mean everyone and there Da has seen my scar right…? Everyone who follows me on social media knows the self love, body confidence journey I have been on. But.
Do I explain from Day One that I’m menopausal and frequently have a sweat of death on me from hot flushes? I feel like I have to explain so people won’t think I’m a sweaty betty! Do I explain why I sleep with spare pyjamas close by? Do I explain that this is because I wake up regularly to change my pyjamas because the night sweats can be dreadful at times? Do I explain that actually, I don’t like sharing a bed because I spend most of the night twisting and turning, throwing myself around the bed, too hot, too cold?
Do I explain the fact that menopause causes vaginal dryness and that I might need to use a water-based lubricant, not any old lubricant, because my cancer was hormone driven? That’s IF I am even bothered going as far as that because loss of libido is also definitely something that I have been hit with (sorry Mom, if this is too much information!).
I’ve dealt pretty well with every other hurdle I’ve faced but this one, I don’t know how I’m going to get over it or even where to start. But I guess when that special someone comes along, all of that other stuff won’t matter, right?
And if that special someone doesn’t come along? Well that’s ok too, because I love me and I’m happy in my own little world.
This is not a pity post or attention seeking.
I just wanted to voice my own thoughts and worries on this particular topic because it’s not one I’ve seen anyone else speak about openly. It’s a sensitive subject, it’s very personal and not something that people want aired if it’s their business.
This has taken me the longest time to write.
But as always though, I’m a no-holds-barred kinda girl so here it is!
You are not alone.
You are not weird.
This is normal.
As always, please feel free to leave your comments on the above post below for Trina and also Holly. For more from Trina, you can follow her on Instagram at www.instagram.com/tri_cleary
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