Karla Mans Giroux

STAGE 4, CHICAGO

No one told me that once I had metastatic breast cancer my sex life was likely to change. And since I was focused on surviving it wasn’t top of mind. Only after treatment is underway did I realize the true “side effects”!

I was diagnosed with MBC in late 2014 at the age of 49. I actually felt lucky to already be in menopause, otherwise it would have meant one more monthly shot to put me into menopause.

When I did hear someone who would talk about sex after a diagnosis it was medical practitioners talking about moisturizers and lubricants that can be used. While this is good practical information it really wasn’t helpful.

I even went to an expert on women’s sexual health and unfortunately it didn’t help. She had nothing to offer me, but apparently, I taught her something new (Scream Cream is a big help). Great, maybe that will help other women that she sees, and I’m happy to help but still struggling to find my help!

I struggled for years to find a way to get my “juice” back, but nothing worked. Maybe it’s cancer treatment, maybe it’s menopause, either way, it sucks. I’m dealing with vaginal atrophy and lack of libido. The loss of my libido is the biggest problem. I can find ways around the lack of vaginal moisture, but I can’t find a way to feel like doing something I don’t feel like doing!

Sex was always really important to me and I had a high sex drive. I just couldn’t reckon with this new me. This woman who no longer felt like having sex was a stranger to me.

I fought this for years. I searched and searched and talked to every doctor or practitioner who would talk to me and many of them I talked to over and over again (and still do). I tried acupuncture. I tried the Mona Lisa Touch procedure. I tried all the moisturizers and lubricants. I tried supplements that were deemed safe to take by my integrative oncologist. Nothing worked.

I finally gave up and thought perhaps by accepting this situation that maybe something would change. Acceptance is great but it didn’t change anything except my mindset and the amount of time I spent pursuing this particular issue.

Recently I heard a sex and intimacy therapist say something I’ve never heard before. She said that we must first deal with the grief. The grief of the diagnosis and all that we have lost because of it. She also said it had to be dealt with as a couple and that both partners would have grief to process. That was a perspective that made a lot of sense.

I had long ago grieved the loss of my breast (after my bi-lateral mastectomy in 2004), and my body image, due to the scars on my belly and breast from the reconstruction. I knew my body would never look the same again and I accepted that (it made me wish I had worn bikinis in my youth instead of one-pieces that hid my surgery scars from a kidney removal). I went “back to normal” after that surgery and the chemo and radiation. I bounced from chemo induced menopause and out again never losing my libido. But eleven years later I didn’t bounce back. My sex life as I once knew it was over. It made me really sad.

I need to do the grief work this new therapist recommended (but she is in NJ and I’m not so she can’t help me. Ugh! Another stupid rule that only hurts people and doesn’t seem to help anyone!). Maybe then I can find more peace in this change and learn to schedule sex with my husband instead of wishing it would spontaneously happen!

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