by Fannie Lemay - I was always lucky that way. I was never preoccupied by how I looked. I considered myself average looking and figured early on it was the best place to be. Pretty enough to get the dudes, but not pretty enough to get too much attention. I was always puzzled when hearing my friends discuss make-up or hair products or why a certain brand of underwear was awesome because it didn’t make visible panty lines (who the hell has time to worry about panty lines!?). I never looked at myself in the mirror for more than 10 seconds and I was happy that way.
And then, brain cancer happened. I had my first brain surgery about four weeks after receiving my LFS diagnosis, in May 2016. I cut my hair really short before the surgery to facilitate wound care, and I liked the look. I looked so much like my mom with short hair, it was uncanny. During radiation treatment, that’s when I lost half my hair and began to shave. That was also fine. I bought beautiful scarves and learned to wrap my head. Not because I was embarrassed of how I looked, but because my ear to ear wound was more than some people could stomach.
And then, I had my double mastectomy with immediate implant reconstruction. I think that’s when it started to be more challenging for me. For the first time in my life, I didn’t like the way I looked. The reconstruction went really well and the breasts were a little bit bigger and perkier; they looked and felt natural. You wouldn’t be able to tell I had implants just by looking. But I missed my smaller saggier breasts. They were the ones that fed my baby and they were mine. I didn’t look like myself anymore and I hated it. I really did.
For the first time in my life, I was preoccupied by the way I looked. The craziest part was, I looked pretty much exactly the same. It’s hard to explain… I got sliced and diced and it felt like cancer stole my body from me. I was angry. I would look in the mirror and all I felt was shame and disgust. I looked the same, but totally different at the same time. Cancer had taken so many things from me and my body was no exception.
In a more practical way, my body wasn’t functioning like it used to either. Between the chemo and the painkillers, all the treatments had damaged pretty much all my systems. Digestive issues; chronic pain, exhaustion and insomnia; and bouts of crippling anxiety were now part of my daily life. I was always in some state of discomfort. I was going to sleep at 8 pm, waking up in the middle of the night in pain. My life was difficult. Very difficult.
I was never a high libido person. I always loved sex, but was content with a few times a month, maybe once or twice a week at most. And that was just fine for us, because when we made love, it was always fireworks and rainbows wrapped in honey. Always amazing, never boring. We have a really happy marriage and I still can’t believe I was lucky enough to have met my husband. He is always loving and supportive. And hot, he’s really hot.
I’m not sure exactly when it happened. Maybe a year ago? I completely lost interest in sexual relationships. I mean, since my first surgery and treatment in 2016, my sex drive had taken a dip. Sometimes, we would spend months without having sex. I’m not one to “take one for the team” and my husband told me “if you’re not into it, there’s obviously no point for me either”. So we would wait until I felt like it. My lovely husband never pushing, never even asking.
Since my first surgery, I feel immense guilt and fear daily. Guilt because I cannot be the wife he deserves and fear that he’s going to get tired of it and leave me. I know these thoughts are irrational, but they are there. Always there. He tells me every day that it’s okay, not to worry, and that he would never leave me. But I hate it so badly. I like having sex too you know. I’m 37 yo, I don’t want this part of my life to be over, but I have no idea how to fix it.
The worst part about all of this, is that I feel so alone. Society seems to believe that if you are not having sex on the reg, there must be something wrong with your relationship. “But, don’t you love him?” they say. I do, and that is why it’s killing me that this is happening to us. But I don’t know how to fix it.
Usually, when I write blogs like this one, I always end it with a message of hope or some pertinent advice. But this time, I have nothing. Not one single thing. I just feel really lucky to have the most patient and loving husband. Maybe that should be the advice. We have very challenging and special lives. It is crucial for us more than for anybody else to surround ourselves with loving and supportive people. Do not settle. You are worth it.