Beauty Is A State Of Mind: Sex After Mastectomy

Self, Sex

It's a common perception that only older women get breast cancer—old enough that they don't really care if they ever have sex again. And boobs? Whatever, take 'em… They already nursed their kids and the ta-tas are just getting saggy anyway. Right?

Wrong! I'm 26, and I have cancer in my breast. And no matter what age, women still want to be treated like the gorgeous creatures we are, even when hairless, probably throwing up, and left ravaged by a mastectomy.

When I discovered my lump at 24, I was nearly scoffed out of a male breast cancer specialist's office, who said I was statistically too young to have it. After some surly resistance on my part, I had my unidentified lump removed, but technically he was right: I didn't have breast cancer. I had a vascular tumor called angiosarcoma: a very rare and nasty cancer that normally shows up in the heart or bone. And here I am now, two years later with different doctors, a new diagnosis and a 70 percent chance of dying within the next two years. How To Handle Your Partner's Health Problems

The months after my diagnosis were a painful blur. My boyfriend, Adam, doggedly called me beautiful and made sure that I was able to believe it. He was so caring and supportive when my oncologist said I would likely not have children because of the chemo. Instead of complaining or bolting for the door when my doctor said no sex because of the infection risk, Adam said, "I will wait for years. I don't care about sex; I just want you." I know that if our roles were reversed I would have done the same thing for him, but sometimes it's still surprising to know that a person can love enough to put up with everything that you have to go through. I know he puts on a brave face for me every day—and I have seen him break down when he didn't know I was looking. My bald head is covered in kisses, pats, rubs and fuzzy hats whenever he comes home or if I look sad or feel ugly. That is commitment. I wish everyone had a relationship like ours. When It Comes To Long-Term Love, Do Looks Matter?

Here is the skinny on the treatment of rare cancer in the boob (I call it the slash, burn and poison method): single-agent chemo, mastectomy, radiation and more chemo. If that sounds familiar, it is. Oncology hasn't changed much since the 1950's, although the drugs that treat the side effects have.

On chemotherapy, the first hair to go is on your naughty bits (less painful than a Brazilian bikini wax!). Later your boyfriend will use duct tape as a makeshift lint brush for your head. You'd better load up on laxatives before infusion or you WILL suffer the consequences. And eat delicious, fattening foods right before chemotherapy, for you will never again be tempted to eat them. I used food aversion to my advantage; it makes dieting so much easier. Now if I even think about cheesecake, ham and gnocchi, I dry heave.

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