“When your doctor (in my case, Dr. Sherry Ross) calls to tell you about the results of your recent mammogram and the first thing she says is “Where are you right now?” you pretty much know
it’s not going to be good news. I got that call when I was on my way to buy a new refrigerator. So there, in the parking lot of Home Depot, while I sat in my car staring blankly at the outdoor display of Bar-BQue grills, I got the not so good news. And then, in the first of what would be many “screw you, cancer” moves, I went inside and bought myself a damned refrigerator. Not even cancer would force me to make two trips to Home Depot. The preliminary reports came in on a Friday morning, and I was not going to get any specific information about my cancer until Monday
afternoon. You learn a lot about yourself when you have three days to live in the dark unknown of a “C” word diagnosis.

I learned that I don’t like to feel sorry for myself. I learned I wouldn’t be able to bear thirty people calling me daily to ask how I am. I learned why doctors don’t recommend looking up your ailments on the Internet. I learned that a twenty-year-old episode of Oprah, featuring Erin Kramp—a woman dying of breast cancer who left a legacy of videos to her husband and daughter for all the major events she would miss— was indelibly etched into my brain. I thought of the videos I would leave for my son, Milo. I also learned that in spite of my fear I will never
miss a party—and I had two fabulous parties to go to that weekend.”

—Camryn Manheim Actress

 

For more than twenty years the pink ribbon has been used to raise awareness and funding for breast cancer, but for me, the ubiquity of the symbol is a reminder of cancer in any form—breast, colon, leukemia, lymphoma, melanoma, cervical, thyroid, uterine, etc.—as well as a reminder of how much it sucks.

One in three women will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime, of which sixty-four percent will experience the disease in a way that directly affects sexual organs. It’s no wonder that sexual dysfunction is so common among cancer survivors. A survey by the Lance Armstrong Foundation found that forty-three percent of women had problems with sexual function following cancer treatment. Twenty-nine percent reported “a lot” of functional impairment. Sadly, of the entire group, only thirteen percent discussed their sexual dysfunction with their healthcare provider.


Chapter Photos

Small vaginal opening with tears in the tissue
Small vaginal opening with tears in the tissue
Small vaginal opening with tears in the tissue
Small vaginal opening with tears in the tissue

This is a 42 year old breast cancer patient. The physical changes to sexual organs caused by chemotherapy, radiation, and the inability to be on estrogen therapy create the perfect trifecta of vaginal shut down. The small vaginal opening is caused by having infrequent intercourse, dryness due to lack of estrogen and inability to use estrogen.

Vaginal Atrophy
Vaginal Atrophy
Vaginal Atrophy
Vaginal Atrophy

Vulvo-vaginal Atrophy is long term side effect of breast cancer on cancer thrivers.
The physical changes to sexual organs caused by chemotherapy, radiation, and the inability to be on estrogen therapy create the perfect trifecta of vaginal shut down. Pale tissue is seen with a small vaginal opening.

Vaginal Atrophy
Vaginal Atrophy
Vaginal Atrophy
Vaginal Atrophy

And there are treatment options for dryness and a small vaginal opening. Among treatment options include vaginal
dilators, lubricants, topical lidocaine and estrogen therapy (ifallowable), non-hormonal alternatives such as Osphena, the Mona Lisa Touch Laser, extra virgin coconut oil, and cannabis cream.

Mona Lisa Touch Laser (MLTL) treatment for vaginal atrophy
Mona Lisa Touch Laser (MLTL) treatment for vaginal atrophy
Mona Lisa Touch Laser (MLTL) treatment for vaginal atrophy
Mona Lisa Touch Laser (MLTL) treatment for vaginal atrophy

Patient in Photo 3 was treated with the MLTL-first of three painless, in-office 4 minute treatments. The inside vagina was treated with the laser and then the outer vagina was treated to remove the dead layer of skin stimulating collagen production and blood flow.