Event Recap. An Honest Conversation. Taking Control of Your Sexual Wellness.
On one of the hottest days in July, a group of women gathered at Unbound in New York to talk about sexual wellness after breast cancer or mastectomy. In a conversation guided by Ashley Arkema, a nurse practitioner from Memorial Sloan Kettering, we addressed a number of concerns that often get overlooked or unaddressed.
While the journey to regain control over your sexual function is physically and emotionally complicated, there are a few essential steps:
Get to know your body. The outcome of life-saving intervention and the accompanying hormone changes leave us with a multitude of physical and emotional impacts. Making time to learn what sensations feel good when your sexual organs have been altered will be a time consuming process. It takes patience, dedication, and time. There are a number of services and platforms you can try to guide you through body explorations including Self-Cervix, Sensi Therapy, and Meet Rosy (to name a few). The exploration will also likely help you understand what no longer feels physically good, and emotional differences you’re experiencing.
Communicate. Once you’ve discovered what feels good or furthered your understanding about what type of sexual dysfunction - arousal, libido, dryness, pain- you’re working through, clearly communicating those needs will help you find the right team to provide the tools for making improvements. Finding the right team, and I do mean a group of key players, is essential. It might include a pelvic floor physical therapist, an OBGYN, your oncologist, and a therapist or couples therapist. But most importantly, the players on this team should make you feel heard and understood.
Create sensual moments. Don’t forget, the mind is our biggest sex organ. Whether you’re using a dilator or doing prescribed PT, set the scene to help you get in the mood. If your attempts at regaining sexual function feel clinical, they likely won’t help you feel sexy. Include your partner, watch porn, read erotic stories (or try out the new app Dipsea and listen to some).
Be patient. You’ve been through so much. Be kind to yourself. Trust that each small bit of progress counts and that setbacks are normal.
In addition to what I’ve listed above, we discussed a few other products and resources that are helpful. To combat vaginal dryness, try the lube from Unbound, CBD intimacy enhancer from here or this, or hyaluronic acid moisturizers (this is different than lube!). If you’re looking for helpful online content from a truly compassionate member of the medical community, try WomanLab.
As we’ve heard so many times, this is our “new normal.” Your new normal doesn’t mean you can’t continue making progress towards feeling resilient and whole. You can recapture essential parts of yourself including your sexuality. There are many people in our community working on identifying needs and creating solutions. If you’re having trouble finding the help you need, have comments, or want more information, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org