Sexy After Cancer ~ Damaged Goods or Deeper Beauty?

By Barbara Musser
sexy after cancer barbara musser mazeNavigating the maze of making big treatment decisions is a painful blur for many women with breast cancer. Something that is rarely discussed is how the treatments impact intimacy and sexuality. Poor sexual function is one of the top survivor issues, which often comes as an unanticipated and unwelcome surprise. Lots of women suddenly become menopausal as a result of treatments. Others lose sensation in their breasts after surgeries. Many feel like they age 20 years in six months because of changes to their breasts and genital tissue. Nothing works in quite the same way. Is this your experience?

There aren’t many good resources available for these issues and it can be the elephant in the room that everyone is ignoring. Doctors say they don’t have time to talk about it. Women don’t know it’s coming so they don’t know to ask about it. Therapists may not be prepared to talk about cancer. It’s a perfect storm that doesn’t go away.

Many women tell me that their sex life wasn’t so wonderful before their cancer diagnosis. Rather than see this as an opportunity to learn some new things and have a better intimate and sexual life, they get resigned and give up on sex. That’s heart wrenching.

Lots of women feel like “damaged goods”. We are “programmed” with a specific and narrow definition of beauty and sexiness and we all “drink the Kool Aid” of this programming, rarely feeling that we are media-pretty, desirable or attractive enough. Our culture places high value on physical beauty. Women’s breasts have been a focus of beauty for millennia. Many women have breast augmentation or reduction for cosmetic reasons, and good cleavage is a symbol of great sex appeal. Pinup calendars, Barbie dolls, bikini bathing suits, décolletage, push-up bras, and the list goes on. We can’t escape our fascination with breasts. Breast cancer amplifies this and our sense of self-esteem, self-confidence and beauty can plummet, especially if we know we don’t fit the standard of beauty.

Breast cancer treatments change the shape of our breasts. Surgery, even a biopsy or lumpectomy, leaves scars, or with a mastectomy, we may have portions or all of a breast removed.

How does all this leave us feeling as desirable and attractive women? Do you wonder about this? I did. I made a very long, deep, and painful dive into how fully I believed that beauty has to look a certain way. I definitely didn’t have a media-pretty body, certainly not now with deformed breasts. I was angry, scared and grief stricken.

I explored ways to accept, forgive and make peace with my body, which was radically altered by cancer. The process brought me to my knees because it required that I look into my own essence to see what I’m really made of. It’s not a faint-hearted path and it was felt impossible at times. I had to face all my beliefs about me, most of which were in place long before I realized I was so “programmed” about the nature of beauty, desirability and sexiness.

For me this became the portal into loving myself.

During my personal work I unearthed the real nature of beauty, radiance and sexiness. Underneath that, I started to love myself, by not comparing myself to this media image of beauty and sexiness.

This Sexy Saturdays blog will explore the aspects of what it takes to have a happy and healthy intimate and sexual life after breast cancer. Come back next week and every Saturday for this adventure!

©2012 by Barbara Musser, Sexy After Cancer.

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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 advise 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.

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