The Impact Of Trauma On Your Sex Life: Breast Cancer

ELLE delves into the lives of four women whose sex lives drastically changed or altered after a traumatic event. Meet Lucy* who, after going through years of cancer treatment from the young age of thirty, struggled to see herself sexually.

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Before all of this, I had a great life with my husband. Our sex life was amazing. So amazing, in fact, that 12 weeks after our first child was born, I got pregnant again.

Everything changed when I found the lump. My youngest was only six months old and each time I tried to breastfeed, my breasts just bled and bled. Each time I went to the midwives or health visitors I felt like they were saying 'try harder'. But when I found the lump, I thought, 'I'm not the problem', in so many ways it was a relief.

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Once the relief was gone, then came the fear. I was 31, had two children under two and I had a very severe form of cancer. The long process of getting better took three years and my treatment included a double mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, herceptin - the works. I was also put into a medically-induced menopause.

In the space of a few years, I went from a young, party-going 31 year-old to, essentially, a 70 year-old.

Everything was dried, cut off, I was bald, spotty, I was as wide as I was tall - you wouldn't recognise me in pictures.

I felt like I couldn't speak to anyone about it. They sent me to a cancer group and everyone who attended was over 60. I thought: 'you've had a good innings, I haven't'.

My sex life with my husband went from hero to zero. We had no sex life whatsoever. Due to the medically-induced menopause, I was fat, grumpy and moody. It didn't put me in the mood for sex. My husband also didn't get it, he was completely oblivious. I remember he took me to Brighton, to celebrate the end of my chemotherapy. I was completely bald and sweating and all he wanted to do was have sex. I thought, 'what the hell is going through your head? Are you a pervert with a thing for bald, fat, pasty women?'

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He wanted to have sex because he loved me, and I wanted to throw myself off the pier because I felt so repulsive.

For so long I thought he was strange, or maybe even just felt sorry for me, but you know what? He wanted to have sex with me because he loves me. Even when I had no tits, and they had filled my skin with water to stretch it, he wanted to be with me.

Losing my love of sex was honestly like a bereavement. And the healing process was really hard. I don't know how I got stronger and learned to love myself again, I think for me it was just time. But it also helped when my hair grew back and I had proper implants put in. I slowly realised that my husband wasn't going to leave me for someone else.

About four years ago my periods came back, I thought I was dying, that I had another form of cancer that made you bleed out of there. Somehow my body just bounced back and that really helped.

I had just felt suspended and very alone because I didn't feel like a woman, and I didn't feel like I was in my early thirties.

I felt so isolated. It's horrible, all of your friends are getting on with their lives and wearing bikinis and going on holiday, whilst I felt suspended - not like a woman and certainly not like I was in my early thirties.

Nothing I read helped me, when I did pick up a magazine that spoke about being young with cancer, it was so serious. I needed a laugh.

I remember coming down one day and laughing so hard I said, 'I just look like a fat Barbie, look at my blonde hair and my big fake tits without nipples. That's me, Fat Barbie'.

Now, seven years after that first diagnosis I feel back. I mean, I have wobbles , but no more than any other girl has wobbles.

I think it all taught me how strong I was. I couldn't be helped in traditional ways, so I had to figure it all out as me.

I would say to myself back then, 'don't walk into that cancer therapy group, it will make you feel like sh**.'

In fact, I walked out on two therapists.

What I did end up doing was getting hypnotised for my panic attacks. I had a glass of wine after every chemo session and I went to Ibiza and partied each summer.

I did it all as me, that's who my husband fancies and that's who my children love.

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