TWENTY FIVE DAYS
At last, three weeks this past weekend and a delightful romp. Yes, I said it aloud.
“Do you want to fool around?” I asked my partner who stared at me for a moment in shock or maybe it was awe? After all it had only been twenty one days since my double mastectomy and I think he was a little taken off guard that I was ready. See, it is a huge accomplishment to gather both the physical and mental energy to get back on the horse (is that a bad choice of words?) and forge ahead in the bedroom department. The questions start popping into my busy head like fireworks once I get the affirmative. Do I want to take off my t shirt and allow my partner full view of this scarred weird new upper body? How am I going to navigate the actual physical movement required of me in this union? And by the way it is not just the front of my body but those crazy ass scars that cover a good portion of my upper back too. But that is weird because isn’t sexual intimacy about nakedness and lots of touching? How is this going to work? Needless to say, lots of thinking was accompanying me as we moved into this new world we now share. For those of you superchicks out there who still enjoy a happy roll in the sack, thinking is usually an immediate buzz kill in the bedroom, but come on how could my brain not go into high gear for this first time?
The thing is that sex, good sex is organic; it is spontaneous, it is connecting. But when there is all of this “stuff” going on, it makes it difficult to have the first time be easy and without washing machine head in full spin cycle. Lots of thought unfortunately is a necessary component. This is our new reality and it has to be thought about. It is not like I can even wear some form fitting lingerie to help this first time out because there is no form yet. So I have my Life is Good somewhat oversized very unsexy t shirt on and as you can imagine this alone is not the most appealing road to successful intimacy. To take it off feels so scary and vulnerable and I am fortunate because my partner just loves me, all of my scars, beauty, messiness, all and he puts no pressure on me. (If anything I am the one who puts the pressure on which as I write this sounds ridiculous because I think what normal woman wants to even have sex three weeks after a double mastectomy?) I know this so I know this is my shit, but it is an omnipresent force at this first time and it is definitely a force I must reckon with.
So we start slow, we hold each other patiently, we kiss. We allow the feeling with warmth and kindness knowing that this is just a segment of our relationship. Whether this first foray back in the saddle is “successful,” whatever that means now, this is no ‘deal breaker’ between us because our connection is much more. I am constantly learning this from my partner, he teaches this to me by his example and I am not always the best student. What is love anyway? It surely isn’t based on one segment of the pie we define as a healthy relationship.
The thing about sex and a double mastectomy is that it is not on the top of the topic list when meeting with all of these doctors. I get it, they only have x amount of time and the plastic surgeon has to focus on avoiding infections, scar healing, and the way my new breasts are going to look. After all it is his work and his reputation that is on the line and I am thankful for his focus. Now that I am in the family of reconstruction, I join the masses of women who at a drop of a hat want to show other women their new boobs. The urge to do this is so weird and I vowed that I wouldn’t, but as we all know by now, my self imposed rules and regulations are broken often.
My breast surgeon’s work is done. Her work was finished when she did the first half of the surgery and the follow up in her office is to make sure that I stay on with my regular checkups. We patients are not forced to seek help or guidance or even encouraged for that matter to talk about what our expectations of a healthy sex life post mastectomy. Sure there are resources available but one must really go looking and if the topic is not comfortable to start with, I fear many women don’t. We have to feel comfortable enough to bring it up, to seek information, and as we all know there is an incredible energy around the topic of sex and talking about it aloud.
We have it thrown at us from every angle, commercials, television, movies, music, the internet, but to discuss the topic in a way that is healthy and realistic is not easy for many women, for couples. You are really on your own in a healthy relationship let alone in a relationship that is struggling or dealing with the trauma of diagnosis. Even writing about it feels risqué. I am an open book so I can only imagine how hard it must be for women and men who are not as at ease talking about the challenges and rather go quiet or withdraw instead of using the opportunity to explore and find new ways to be intimate.
When I finally had the courage because I was encouraged by my partner to take off my shirt for the first time exposing this odd new upper body, we both enjoyed the experience. For me, I chose reconstruction so in fact my upper body looks pretty amazing considering that I just had my breasts removed. I continue to be amazed at how easy it becomes to adapt to my new surroundings. For women who don’t or can’t have reconstruction, it must be a completely different scenario and I can’t talk about that because it is not my reality, but I can at least get the conversation going that it is ok to talk about sex, intimacy, expectations, union, communication, fears, and vulnerabilities. Otherwise it builds into resentments and for those of us in partnerships, resentments are their own forms of cancer in a relationship.
I am lucky because I am in a deep committed healthy relationship with no baggage. We are open to talking, (sometimes too much), to evolving and working on our stuff because no matter what is going on in our lives, we will all always have stuff.
Sexual connection is beautiful when it is right, when it is on purpose, when it is a sacred experience treated with the respect it deserves. It can be a turning point in either direction making or breaking a relationship if you let it. In my experience with this new body, I am making a conscious choice to own it rather than it owning me and moving in the right direction is the option I choose. Thankfully I have a partner who chooses the same direction right along side of me and I am really happy that our first time back in the saddle had a positive outcome. Seriously, no pun intended.
The coolest man I know. Not only goes to the tulip farm but also carries the tulips… so lucky.