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    No.64: Ask us Anything! Honest Talk About Sexual Health and Intimacy After Breast Surgery

    On Thursday, February 27, AnaOno and PennMedicine’s Basser Center for BRCA held a lively discussion about sex and intimacy. 30 guests plus a Facebook Live audience learned about these hot topics courtesy of a panel of experts, moderated by AnaOno Founder and CEO, Dana Donofree. The educational event was a fundraiser for young researchers at The Basser Center. 

    Here are some excerpts: 

    What doctor do I talk to about sex stuff? Dr. Dana Shanis, OB/GYN (@drshanis) recommends talking to all of your providers. Oncologists understand now more than ever the importance of sexuality and intimacy to quality of lifeThe better quality of life, she pointed out, the better you’ll do with your treatments. And of course talk to your trusted gynecologist before, during and after.

    How do I cope with “shoulds? Rather than say “I shouldn’t feel that way, give yourself space to feel the whole range of feelingsthey are all normal, says therapist Dr. Lindsay Hoskins. If you have a partner, invite them to be part of the process. Being clear, kind and honest with a partner is the best approach. Ia partner is hesitantit’s okay to ask, “can we talk about why we’re not talking about this big thing?”  

    Should I go for genetic testing? Genetic counselor Danielle McKenna stated that there is no one-size-fits-all approach when considering testing for the BRCA mutation. Seeing a genetic counselor before testing will help you figure out a plan that’s right for you. Iyou were tested before 2013 and the results were negative, there’s definitely a benefit to coming back for testing thanks to advancements in test technology 

    When is it most helpful to see a therapist? Previvor Erika Stallings (@erika_m_stallings) shared that she wished she had been to see a therapist before her mastectomy. Like so many of us dealing with genetic mutations or cancer diagnoses, Erika was so busy trying to be strong for everyone else that she didn’t prioritize her own emotional well being. 

    How do I get comfortable with my body after all I’ve been through? Multiple panelists advocated self-exploration in the form of masturbation as a very healthy way to reclaim the sexuality piece of our identities and a great way to get to know our bodies againOr, as Dana Donofree (@anaonointimates) put it, “your doctor just told you to go home and masturbate, ladies.” 

    Dana wrapped up the discussion by acknowledging how tough it is to take all of this on as a breast cancer previvor or patient, and that it’s a piece of our lives that our doctors don’t control. So even though it’s really, really hard, go ahead and take control. Empower yourself!  

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    Anaono team at the Penn Medicine's Basser Center for BRCA

    Panelist and moderator bios: 

    Dana Donofree founded AnaOno when she couldn’t find post-mastectomy bras after being diagnosed with breast cancer ten years ago at the age of 27. She took her years of experience in the fashion industry to create beautiful, sexy bras that don’t compromise on comfort. 

    Dr. Lindsey Hoskins has worked as a therapist in private practice with individuals, couples, and families faced with hereditary predisposition to cancer and other health conditions since 2013.  

    Danielle McKenna is a board-certified, licensed genetic counselor with the Basser Center. She has extensive clinical and research experience in cancer genetic counseling. 

    Dr. Dana Shanis is a Board Certified OB/GYN and National Institutes of 
    Health researcher who recently founded VHealth & Wellness, a private practice specializing in cancer survivor care, pelvic pain and sexual health..  

    Erika Stallings, Esquire is an intellectual property attorney and a founding co-chair of the Basser Center Young Leadership Council. After genetic testing showed she carried a  BRCA2 mutation, she had prophylactic surgery. Erika fearlessly walked the runway as one of AnaOno’s fabulous models at New York Fashion Week 2020. 

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    AnaOno has some special thanks to give: candles donated by Mount Airy Candle Company and plants provided by Vault+Vinehelped transform the AnaOno office for the event. Shayna Gross of Beautycounter did mini-makeovers while educating guests about clean beauty. We are grateful to our Basser Center partners for an incredible evening of education and sisterhood. To view the event video, click here. 

    Dana Donofree

    Dana Donofree

    Founder and CEO of AnaOno. After a diagnosis of breast cancer in her late 20’s, Dana took her own lived experience and fashion design background and (re)designed intimates for those that have undergone breast surgery. Dana’s story has been published around the world in outlets like New York Times, BBC, Huffington Post, The Today Show, and more.