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Wait! What Happened to Me and Sex?

29 Dec, 2016

Wait! What Happened to Me and Sex?

| Guest Post by Barbara Musser, Founder of Sexy After Cancer and a 27-year breast cancer survivor. See more about her at

As a longtime sex educator and breast cancer survivor, my path gives me the great gift of talking with many women about their sex lives before, during and after cancer diagnosis and treatment.  I hear some stories of inspiration and hope, and many more of frustration and pain.

A familiar story goes something like this:

“My sex life was okay before cancer. Now I’d rather stick a needle in my eye than have sex with my partner because it’s so painful. My libido has gone missing and I don’t know how to get it back or if I even want to…”

or “I force myself to have sex once a month with my hubby. It’s torture and takes me a month to recover from the pain and soreness, but I feel like I have to do it to keep my marriage together.”


It’s heart wrenching. And comes as a very unwelcome surprise. Many cancer treatments have disastrous side effects on sexual function. Most of us don’t know it’s coming, which makes it worse. Doctors say that these days, with managed care, they don’t have time to talk about this. They say they’re happy to answer questions. That’s code for the fact that they don’t know how to talk about it. And if you don’t know it’s coming or are embarrassed, how can you ask?


On top of that, many treatments suppress hormone production to the point that desire and libido disappear. It’s such a delicate balance when you’ve lost the urge, may have gained or lost a lot of weight, your skin has changed and you feel like you’ve aged 20 years during treatment.  Oh, yeah, and then there’s the whole foobs conversation. Did they tell you you’d lose all the sensation in your breasts? Do they even feel like you?

It’s a cluster F—K, and it hurts. A lot.

At the same time, our sexual energy is our life force energy. It’s the energy of life and living, of pleasure and orgasm and oxytocin. Whether it’s a distant memory or the subject of your fantasies, sex is part of life. The question is what can be done to recover it. Or to even want to do something about it.

Go figure why this has become my life’s passion, to help women find their way back to sexual health and pleasure. It’s time for this conversation to come into the light of day. I aim to turn on the lights and bring more pleasure to your life. I had to do it for myself because I just plain wasn’t willing to not have sex again. Let’s face it, 37 is too young for a life of celibacy. Necessity can be the mother of invention. That and grit and determination.

The chasm from where you may be now, to having sex, may seem as enormous as the Grand Canyon. Depending on your treatment and ongoing hormonal therapy, you may have a Sahara Desert inside your genitals. The treatments are designed to suppress any hormone production, and that also dries out and tenderizes genital tissues.  

Really. Dry. And. Painful.

Over the decades since my own cancer diagnosis at age 37, I’ve been researching and gathering all sorts of information and tools. And of course, I’ve had to test them all – lucky me! I discovered many duds and also some things that work.

Hormones are part of the story, but not the whole story. There are plenty of things to do that can help. It begins with some of the sex education that you probably never got. For example, you have nerve endings and plenty of erectile tissue that doesn’t depend on hormones and isn’t in your vagina. Did you know that? Do you know your body now? Did you ever have good sex education? For many of us, sex education was all about pregnancy and disease prevention. And about shame.  Period. Nothing about pleasure.

This is why I became a sex educator and am fierce about helping. It doesn’t have to be this way. Really.

Sex after cancer doesn’t have to be this way. Really.

 Want to hear more tips between the sheets with Barbara Musser? Sign up for our mailing list here, get monthly tips directly in your inbox! 

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February 22, 2017

I recently had my bilateral mastectomy and just started my Tamoxifen (had to wait to find out my Onco score and if chemo was in the picture—no chemo!!) and am literally scared to death about what awaits me in this arena. Even though I’m in my 50’s I haven’t gone through menopause…at least the symptoms many women experience. I have a complete hysterectomy with ovary removal scheduled for this summer. I’ve talked to my Gyno and my husband about all the horror stories people tell me about sex after breast cancer. I would love more info on this!

Maureen Anderson

March 04, 2017

I’m so happy to read this today, I literally cried through all of it, as it seemed you were speaking directly to me. I was diagnosed at 35, 1 month before my wedding. Double mastectomy, chemo, rad,& finally a hysterectomy. I feel that I am going to lose my husband if I can’t get it together, but just like you said, sex is extremely painful. I’m in the saddest place in my life b/c of this, not the cancer but what it’s done to me and my husband.


March 05, 2017

4 week breast cancer survivor. I have had a complete hysterectomy and oophorectomy 10/2016, then found out I had breast cancer in January of 2017. I had a double mastectomy Feb.1 2017 with expander placement. I am 47. I am glad to hear someone talk on this subject as I am having difficulty with it emotionally and physically. The chest numbness and pressure are awful, the expanders are not my friends, and no one tells you about the burning sensations in strange places. That coupled with no libido and decreased self image makes sex a tough topic.


March 12, 2017

8 weeks post op. Double mastectomy and reconstruction. Feeling lost and alone with my fears. I’m in NZ so if any one knows how we get beautiful underwear like this in my country I would appreciate it


March 22, 2017

It is so wonderful and reassuring to have found this blog! I can relate to all of it. 10 surgeries in 2 years. No one tells you that it isn’t “off with the old, on with the new”. I’m not a joiner of clubs and had no desire to sit with women in the same boat and share stories. Having said that, I do really think it would be helpful to be able to hook up with someone, or several someones, to hear about real experiences, not just info from your doctor who most likely has NOT gone through any of this. And the sex issues . . . don’t even get me started! I am so fortunate to have a husband (the boyfriend prior to surgery!) who is so supportive and patient. He has been so willing to try different things and we have actually found those that work for us.

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