Saturday, February 27, 2010

Breast Cancer Doesn't End Romance

Dating With Breast Cancer
Courtesy of AboutCancer.com

A breast cancer diagnosis doesn't have to mean sitting on the sidelines. In fact, it's healthy to stay socially active, as long as you get plenty of rest. Women should simply have a plan about sharing their diagnosis and handling the ups and downs of dating while undergoing treatment.

First, experts recommend becoming comfortable in other social situations before going on that first date. By taking a new class or joining a new club, women can practice telling strangers about their diagnosis.

Spend some time thinking about how and when to tell someone. For some women, talking about the diagnosis on the first date might be imperative. Others may choose to wait until a sense of companionship has developed. But don't wait too long. Waiting until the relationship has become sexually intimate can create feelings of distrust and tension.

As for the actual words to use, there is no right answer. It may help to practice before the actual disclosure. Just remember to be honest about everything from the treatment regimen to your emotions. Failing to tell the truth about an upcoming lumpectomy or mastectomy, for example, can lead to mistrust and hard feelings down the line.

Does the whole thing seem exhausting?

Try a different route. Joining a local cancer support group or using a dating service for people with cancer can be a great way to meet people with similar experiences. National dating services include CancerMatch.com and Prescription4Love.com.

Whatever the choice, your treatment and sense of self-worth should come first. Keep in mind that not every date turned into true love before cancer. If dating is dragging you down instead of lifting your spirits now, it's just not worth it.

In a Long-Term Relationship

Tackling the diagnosis with a significant other has its own challenges.

For women in a relationship, communication is key. According to a study of 147 patients and 127 partners published in Psycho-Oncology, "mutual constructive communication was associated with less distress and more relationship satisfaction for both patient and partner."

A good place to begin is by discussing treatment decisions and talking openly about fears. Don't make assumptions about the other person's feelings. It may even help for each person to independently journal thoughts and feelings and then share the entries with one other.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, supporting each other can also include accepting help from friends and relatives when it is offered, allowing each other to have alone time, and making sure both people eat well and get enough rest.

The good news is that facing a serious disease together strengthens many relationships. One Canadian study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that more than 40% of couples surveyed said that breast cancer brought them closer. And the divorce rate among couples who've received a breast cancer diagnosis seems to be no higher than in the general population.

Sex and Intimacy

Regardless of whether a woman undergoes chemotherapy, radiation or only surgical procedures to treat her breast cancer, sexual intimacy can be a source of newfound worry.

According to one study of about 550 women, ages 22 to 50, about half reported self-esteem and body image issues. The women participating in this study made the choice to undergo chemotherapy, mastectomy or both.

The same study reported that among the sexually active women, 28% say they have a "definite or serious" sexual problem. These problems range from the concrete, such as vaginal dryness, to the more abstract, such as difficulty getting a partner to understand their feelings. These side effects, previously taboo, can and should be discussed openly with your doctor. More treatment centers are even offering programs that focus on sexual side effects.

The Cancer Survivor's Network, an American Cancer Society support program, advises women with breast cancer to open up dialogue with their significant other as soon as possible after diagnosis. Couples and those in new relationships are encouraged to discuss the intimacy challenges cancer treatment can bring, how these challenges may impact the relationship, and what they can do to improve intimacy.

Keep in mind that treatment may affect a patient's desire for intercourse, but not their need for physical closeness. Sometimes, there's no substitute for a hug, a kiss or gentle hand-holding.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Girls' Night Out

I'm so excited. This weekend--on both Saturday night and Sunday night--I'm meeting up with friends to kick up my heels and have some fun. I really need to blow off some steam since I've worked hard lately. I saw doctor Ott on Thursday and she was so excited about how my final breast reconstruction turned out she took a bunch of pictures. I asked her if I could see the pictures she took with my old boobs to compare them with the new ones. She commented that not all her reconstructions turn out so well. I will be seeing her again in May to see if any additional tweaking has to be done.

Now it's back to life as it once was before I had breast cancer. I'm just wiser for the wear. Yes, there is an end to the nightmare. As I think about, if I had known how well Dr. Ott was going to put my body back together again two years ago, it would have saved me a lot of angst. But then hind sight is always twenty-twenty isn't it?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Clear The Clutter

I'm very proud of myself for what I accommplished this week. The car situation is finally under control. I made a mighty effort to get caught up with my bills. And I got my taxes done today. I did all this while maintaining my productivity at my job.

I also chose to work out at the gym instead of shop. After I struggled to pay bills, I realize Retail Therapy is a hobby I cannot afford. Now I just have to clean the house, which I plan to do tomorrow. I'm trying hard to make souund decisions that will me get out debt and protect my health. The empty diversions I indulged in previously (that would be shopping) have done nothing but add clutter to my life and get me in trouble. As I try create a zen environment for myself, I realize buying more stuff just undermines that effort. How can you keep your environment uncluttered and clean when there's so much crap all over the place?

I really want to get a grip on my life. I know it's not going to happen over night, but if I just keep cleaning out the cobwebs out of the corners and clutter out of the closets, I'll eventually get to where I want to be. A home that is pared down to essentials that matter most--a lifestyle that is simple and and under control.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dizzy Blonde No More

Throughout this whole car buying business, I got caught up in the beaureaucratic red tape at the Department of Motor Vehicles that forced me to face my lack of responsibility. I waited two hours yesterday to get my care registered. When I finally got called to process the paperwork, I was told I owed back taxes on my old car and would have to pay it before registration for the new car could move forward.

Thank God the back taxes were only $86.00, but the loss of time in the middle of the day cost me much more. I've alway excused my lack of discipline for paying bills and cleaning house by saying: "I have other things to offer the world, such as my creativity!

But having been on the receiving end of that excuse with Joe, who couldn't fix anything around the house, and vowed out of any grunge work with the excuse: "I'm no good at that. I just want to entertain by playing the guitar." I realized he didn't bring much to the table of our relationship by shirking off the mundanities. Over time, it made me angry that he refused to pitch in. Choosing to play the guitar instead of cleaning the kitchen, just makes chaos build.


Rolling up your sleeves to take care of dirty work becomes all the more important as you get older. After all, you can't rely on your youthful beauty and charm anymore to get by. Now that I'm well, I'm determined to face the unpleasant tasks in life with courage and maturity. I'm 53, even if my blonde hair back, I can't rely on the dizzy blonde act. There's no excuses anymore.

How does this relate to cancer? When you get a second chance, you've got to put your house in order. You're not going to die. So you might as well make the remainder of your life as good as possible. And when you take care of business, stress gets under control. That actually makes like more enjoyable.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Gotta New Car

Just got myself a new car over the weekend. I'll never forget the first time I saw the new updated Volkswagen Bug pull up next to me some 10 years ago. My heart got all warm and fuzzy because the first car I ever owned at 18 years old was a baby-blue Volkswagen back in 1975 that I drove down to Florida to start a new life.

Perhaps for that reason, I will forever connect VW bugs with youthful optimism and driving toward an uncertain new beginning. When I saw this silver bug on the lot of my local auto repair shop, I new I had to have it. I feel it's got a lot spunk--like me. The cancer-fighting chapter of my life is over. It look forward and leave the past behind. My new car is a great physical manifestation of: out with the old, in with the new.