My breasts have always been my favorite body part and I couldn’t have imagined life being ok without them. But when I got breast cancer and ended up with a double mastectomy, I was amazed at how the loss of these prized body parts was not the end of the world for me.
But then there’s sex…
I experienced breast cancer as a married woman and a single woman. Lucky me. Interestingly, I felt much more supported by my new boyfriend (maybe it shouldn’t be so surprising since the marriage didn’t work out), so I’ll focus on my experiences with the boyfriend. His name is Tom.
Let’s start with a simple question: What is sexy? Yes, your body, but your mind is even sexier. Feeling comfortable with your body, which is a state of mind, is what
brings you to yourself as a sensual woman. I found that when I defined myself as scarred and less desirable, the thought of sex or being close to someone was completely out of the question. But when I shifted into self-acceptance, I started to feel sexier and more interested in having sex.
No question about it, we live in a culture that objectifies breasts. They are everywhere, on every corner, on every newsstand and for women who’ve lost a breast (or both of them) to cancer it’s definitely a reminder of the sexy body part we lost, but here’s my advice when those feelings come up: Have your moment, because that’s real, but then remember who you are and take a moment to connect to your real beauty – that which is inside of you.
I also found that open communication is essential. Honesty is a form of intimacy and exposing your vulnerability and concerns can bring you closer to someone who loves you. This is not an area where you need to be a warrior. Trust me on this. Take it slow and go at your own pace. Sharing your inner thoughts about your body and about sex can bring a special kind of sensual tenderness into your private life.
I found out through cancer that lingerie is a good thing. Now I finally understand French women. I found myself wearing more pretty lingerie now; it just helps me feel good when I look in the mirror, when I walk down the street. I do it for myself (in fact my boyfriend doesn’t care so much for the lacy stuff, but I do). It adds that extra little feminine touch for me — and maybe it will for you too.
Discover a new favorite spot and have a little fun. Remember: Breasts and genitals are not the only erogenous zones. This can be a playful time to discover parts of your body you didn’t realize were sensitive to stimulation. I remember that after my oophorectomy (the removal of my ovaries), Tom and I decided to get into kissing in as many ways as we could when other body parts were off-limits. It was a two-week kissing marathon. Very fun.
(Actually, Tom was with me as I started writing this and he wanted to add his two cents in on the topic: “I met Lori after her reconstruction, that’s my starting point. I didn’t know her with her natural breasts. I admit, I love breasts like the next guy. They are wonderful, beautiful devices to attract attention, feed babies, and look nice in a top. But in my mind, they are vastly over-emphasized in the media. Natural boobs alone do not make for great sex. Breasts, for me, are not the focal point of sex — I have another favorite body part that I adore, and thank goodness cancer does not go there. Sure, boobs are the favorite for a lot men and I’m not saying they shouldn’t be. But if your partner has had reconstructed breasts from cancer, then enjoy them in all their perkiness and then go find other places on her body that are pleasurable to touch and for her to feel you touching! I don’t find myself any less attracted to Lori because she had breast cancer and breast surgery. It’s definitely a heavy thing but, I feel like our intimacy is even more intense because of all she’s been through. I am aware of her vulnerability and it makes me love her more.”)
Lori Benson is the director of the film, “DearTalula,” a documentary chronicling her experience of breast cancer. Lori travels the country sharing her story and using her movie to start a dialogue on critical issues, such as the emotional aspects of breast cancer and the role of family history.
Visit Breast Cancer: Healing the Whole Woman to read all of our breast cancer content.