This one is a tougher one to write. It’s about the loss of intimacy and relationships. Two sayings come to mind:
1. “You don’t miss your water til your well runs dry.” and
2. “It takes time and patience.”
In this instance, the first phrase means you don’t know that ‘loving feeling’ is gone, because you’ve been trying to deal with this breast cancer ‘thang’. Now, saying it was gone is an exaggeration. (I tend to do that sometimes.) 😱
The second phrase is about what it takes to get things back on track. 👍🏼
You see, when you come back home from a lumpectomy or any type of surgery you may feel weak and sick. Well, not so much ‘sick’ because what ailed you is now gone, but you are tired and exhausted from being human and afraid.😴
The people around you have had to process what you’ve been going through. The only term anyone can think of for what has happened to you (surgery, chemo, radiation, rehabilitation, lymphedema, etc.) is you have been ‘sick’.💊
Are you Well Yet?
So, the big question is, “When do you get well or back to your old self?” Well, we know that old self is gone, altered by the pummeling of the radiation along with any modesty I had, the chemo drug effect and I am left with lymphedema, scars from surgery, no radiation burns (but that was a possibility), a will to thrive and an unshakable faith.
But amid all that, I really am not the same. I think I am better, but I’m still taking baby steps waiting for the other shoe to fall and it does when 3 years later after the lumpectomy they find another lump in the same breast. It’s not estrogen positive like the 1st diagnosis. This one was triple negative. Then mastectomy, reconstruction, major diet changes (this part is still hard) and trying to reduce my stress.
It took a while for me to see myself as well. But imagine how your significant other or spouse feels. He or she has to get over the fact that you were sick and they have to see you as well in order to touch you again. Even then things might have shifted and changed. You might have a scar here and a healing wound there, keloids here and there, scars everywhere.
The body may be willing, but the flesh is not yet willing. For many women breast cancer throws them into menopause. For some of us, it takes us back there again! We thought we had gotten the “hang of things” to do to get ready, set, go. Now, we have to begin again with new tricks.🎉
It’s important that you talk about how you feel and what turns you on and off. Some things that worked in the past, may not work now. It is up to you to talk about loss of intimacy that sharing and caring about the future even when it’s uncertain. This is critical to the relationship’s survival.💖
It is important to touch and hold each other. I’m not gonna go much further into that intimacy part right now because I’m not ready put my relationship on blast.
But I can share with you that the touches, the looks and those caresses are crucial to maintaining a relationship. It’s about looking into someone’s eyes and knowing they want you and you long for them.
Two out of Five ain’t Bad
Chemo has a smell that lingers in your skin and puts a metallic taste in your mouth. These are things you must figure out how to make sure they don’t throw you or your partner off their game.
Knowing that touch is critical to our survival early in life, makes you wonder about that contact comfort continuing to be an integral part of one’s life later. Breast cancer survivors/thrivers have issues with skin dryness and sense of smell. One moment a particular touch is great, but carried on for too long can be irritating.
Likewise, a whiff of a scent 🌹🌷 that is not appealing can stop everything in it’s tracks. Women are like that anyway, but during this journey after the various chemo drugs and interventions, we may be a bit more sensitive.
It takes a while to get to that point where you are back to being who you are in terms of smelling, touching or being touched (lymphedema, neuropathy), communicating (chemo brain is real), taste (though I do not drink soft drinks (they aren’t soft) I had to have a swallow or two of a coke to kill that metallic taste. It’s interesting that hearing and speech were not affected.
You’ve got to talk to each other about what’s there and what might be missing. You’ve got to talk about what you each can do to get back to being the loving, caring, lusty persons you were before all of this happened. That is, if you both want this relationship to continue to grow.
What do you Need?
Each person must do their best and talk about what they need, as well as, listen to each other so each one will know what to do. Of course, it’s like that with any relationship. “What makes you feel good?” “What makes you feel happy?” You would search for that anyway so why not do it now as you are re-establishing the relationship.
You are moving into the ‘new normal’. And with this ‘new normal’ there are some adjustments. What are those adjustments? This is your relationship. If you don’t know, you’ve got to ask the other half of the relationship. Above all else, you’ve got to try!
You don’t miss your Water -William Bell
Everybody is a Star – Sly & The Family Stone
P.S. My daughter told me not to edit this one, but let it stand as a journal entry. (I just made a few edits, Renette)
Please let me know your thoughts on this topic of intimacy. Twitter – @hwrichard or email – firstname.lastname@example.org
This is the second in a series on body image & intimacy. The first one was last week. Click here for last week’s post