This week I attended the Annual Women’s Health Forum hosted by the WSDM (Women and Sex Differences in Medicine) Center at Stanford University. Dr. Susan Love was the keynote speaker. A longtime expert on breast cancer, surgeon and activist for women’s health, she shared some very powerful ideas. She recently underwent treatment for leukemia, including chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant and she is now 8 months post treatment and doing well ~ she said when she’s 2 years past the bone marrow transplant, she’ll have childhood immunizations because she has a baby immune system and a different blood type now. Fascinating to me.
She focused on how even as a physician, until she was a patient she had no idea of the “collateral damage” caused by the treatments and side effects. She had a long list including neuropathy, numbness, skin changes, chemo brain, hot flashes, menopause, sexual changes and problems, fatigue, and more. She also said that her doctors weren’t very interested in these issues because she is alive and here, and that is enough. It was an eye-opener for her to realize that she had been in that same category until she became a patient. She said that she would have rather had a root canal than talk with a patient about intimacy and sexual health! She hadn’t realized the price we pay to be survivors. Now she knows.
She also said that among medical professionals there’s little understanding of how the breast functions including what a normal breast does, the composition of ductal fluid, how breasts make hormones, differences in milk ducts and over time, and more. Research money and focus on these areas are needed.
Dr. Love is advocating that health care professionals talk with us about side effects ahead of time and how to deal with them. And it’s not just cancer cells that we need to worry about ~ it’s all about the “neighborhood” where the cells are. It’s time to focus on the ‘hood and how to change it so that a mutated cancer cell doesn’t have what it needs to continue to multiply. She talked about the importance of:
* Exercise ~ not only is it anti-inflammatory, but it strengthens the immune system and allows of to feel morally superior
* Good nutrition
* Stress reduction ~ including meditation and supportive intimacy
The music to my ears is that intimacy and sexuality both reduce stress but also help with blood flow, release of oxytocin (the feel-good hormone) and self love. So, doctor’s orders, please tend to your intimate and sexual health!
Finally, Dr. Love said it’s time to stop being good cooperative girls and to demand what we need in how cancer and its treatments affect the quality of our lives. She said it’s time for us to stand up and “complain and b–tch” if that’s what it takes to get what we need. Now I know that there’s a good outlet for me when I feel like a “B–tch on Wheels”! Join me in speaking up!
© 2012 by Barbara Musser, Sexy After Cancer.
For more resources, go to SexyAfterCancer.com
This blog does not reflect the opinions of The Pink Fund, its Founder, Board of Directors, Advisors or Volunteers. It is not meant to serve as medical advice of any kind. Any questions about your health and sexuality should be directed to a licensed physician or therapist. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the writer who voluntarily blogs for The Pink Fund without compensation.