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After last week’s blog about my first date since my husband died, women emailed me about their online dating experiences. One woman was waiting at the restaurant but instead of showing up, her date texted her a photo of his penis. Another guy needed to borrow money to pay off his soon-to-be ex-wife. Another loser tried to feel her up in the restaurant after they’d just met. It sounds as though a lot of men look at online dating like it’s an escort service.

Guys… Working little brains are great things, but may I suggest some of you buy a life-size sex doll and stay home?

A man I know was diagnosed with prostate cancer and chose not to receive treatment because it could result in sexual impotency and/or incontinence. Before he died, I wonder how his family felt, knowing he chose orgasms over a life with them?

When I was treated for breast cancer, no one told me my sex life—as I knew it—was over. I’m angrier about that than I am that the tissues of my vagina are paper thin and a penetrating penis feels like I’ve been stuck with a knife blade. Even if I’d been as well-informed as men facing prostate cancer treatment are, I would have made the same choice: a life that could be cancer free over vaginal intercourse.

As my “situation” became increasingly clear, I talked with my oncologist, who now says he told me AND my husband I could use topical estrogen cream. I PROMISE YOU HE DID NOT! We tried every lubricant, supposed safe estrogen alternative and vaginal dilator without success. Because of my Top Breast Cancer Blog/Site, I was aware that millions of couples, because of cancer or menopause, were facing the same thing. A few years ago, I delved deeper, hoping to solve the problem.

I did a thorough patent search, spoke with oncologists and gynecologists at MD Anderson and met with some of the best chemists, skincare formulators and manufactures in the country. My journey even led me to Beverly Hills and the woman who turned Neutrogena around in the ’80’s and ’90’s by expanding their product line to include shampoos and better skin care products. Like me she was a breast cancer survivor who’d tried to develop a safer, more effective alternative for dry vaginal tissues and painful sex.

I learned about preservatives, how ingredients can enhance one another, even the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) strict controls on nozzles used to fill empty containers with product. Just when I thought I’d found a way to moisturize women’s dry and withered vaginal tissues, the FDA stepped in and crushed my juicy idea.

For starters, few product formulators and manufacturers want to get involved with anything that might have FDA implications like “internal usage” or products related to health or make health claims. Eventually I got into an ongoing and detailed conversation with the FDA. (Not my first. I was one of the people who invented and developed the smokeless cigarette.)

The FDA defines a “personal moisturizer” as “intended to affect the structure or function of the body,” and such a product must go through years of study, clinical trials and FDA investigation. It can take hundreds of millions of dollars for researchers, chemists and attorneys to see it to the end which may, or may not, result in bringing the product to market. Understanding that long road all too well, I abandoned my quest, but I learned a lot about skin care products.

Did you know what may look like name brand American skin care products could be counterfeits made in China? Because China doesn’t have strict regulations about what goes into their consumer products, many contain mercury, lead, arsenic, cyanide, even human urine and rat droppings. These products can lead to severe allergic reactions, burns, disfigurement, high blood pressure and infertility.

Beware of “cheap makeup and skin care products” you buy online, on the street and at flea markets that sound too good to be true. They’re probably Chinese counterfeits. I wouldn’t use Chinese skincare products for all the tea and orgasms in China.

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    • So happy you found me as well, Melissa. I hear you when you say you’d like to know more about this subject, and I’ll work on giving you more solid information. At the same time, I’m fascinated that you feel “a dark shadow peering over your shoulder.” Fibroids caused me to have a total hysterectomy when I was 48, so I didn’t go through that process naturally. I didn’t have any libido or dry vaginal tissue problems until after breast cancer–at age 54–when I took a medication that sucked any remaining estrogen out of my body. I also know I would have eventually had a problem. We all do. No one tells us that though do they? Thank you so much, Brenda

  1. Why don’t oncologists talk about this issue more with their patients? I had no idea that sex could be painful for breast cancer survivors. There certainly SHOULD be a product that helps! So is there ANY progress on the estrogen cream front?

    • Women who’s breast cancer was estrogen positive–fueled by estrogen–are the ones primarily affected. Estrogen is what keeps us young and our skin and vaginal tissues plump and juicy. Even women who are going through menopause or are post menopausal may have varying degrees of vaginal dryness and loss of libido because we’re not producing estrogen like we did when we were younger. As far as I know, there’s nothing that works as well as estrogen, whether it’s a pill, patch or used topically where needed. That said, even though a woman hasn’t had ER+ breast cancer and may be perfectly healthy, there are risks to taking estrogen. We can’t take it indefinitely. I’ve done a couple of posts about this topic, but will do another one soon. Thanks for asking, Val.

  2. Brenda…I find coconut oil brilliant as a lubricant….after menapause. I wrote about it when I wrote about its many uses. Many of my friends now use it too. Great post x

  3. Thanks, for this great info. We do need to be aware of what we are putting on our skin or inside our bodies! I have interviewed many menopause specialists and oncologists on the topic of painful sex. Moisturizers and lubricants can be helpful if you have a mild case of vaginal atrophy. However, if you are experiencing vaginal itching and burning, pain during sex, urgent or painful urination, frequent urinary tract infections and/or bleeding during sex, it is not too late to go on local estrogen therapy…. LET. There are various kinds of local estrogen therapy (LET) options available to treat these issues. If you are a cancer survivor the North American Menopause Society new statement on hormone therapy says that, “The use of systemic hormone therapy is not generally recommended in breast cancer survivors, although low-dose vaginal estrogen can be considered with consultation with oncology.” Some women need a combination of moisturizers, lubricants and LET. It is best to consult your menopause specialist who is up on the latest information and science. They key is that – Your symptoms ARE treatable!

    • Thank you, Ellen! I know you’re very knowledgeable on this subject, so I appreciate your input. My vaginal atrophy is severe. My oncologist originally said I couldn’t do the LET and has since told my family doctor he never said that… !! Regardless, I’ll pass on any form of estrogen, but I know this will be helpful to lots of women. That said, do you have any suggestions that might help me if I get back in the dating scene? Thanks, Brenda

  4. Hey Brenda! Fellow breast cancer sur-thriver here, and I know I got VERY lucky, but so far, so good, re: my vagina being in happy working order. I might have nasty hot flashes and Leg Cramps from Hell, but my ladybusiness is still in business. I did hear about the vaginal estrogen creme early on, probably because I kept proactively asking my gynecologist about it.

    One thing I know some women are using is cannabis based lube and suppositories. I’ve tried the lube – it did nothing special for me, but lube is never a bad idea. Here’s hoping you and the other women who are having sexual challenges find a solution that works for you. <3

    • Things like that make me want to embrace my circle of girlfriends and/or stay home with my dogs. The world is slowly unraveling I think. Thanks Patricia. Brenda

  5. My breast cancer was triple positive, and have been told not to do any estrogen as well. I experienced similar symptoms and painful intercourse, and we tried a number of lubricants actually suggested at an after breast cancer retreat. I’m not in a hurry to put a lot of chemicals in to be sucked into my system. My gyno suggested coconut oil, and it is miraculous! Seriously. And natural! We did have to experiment to find a good position that wasn’t painful, but that and the coconut oil have brought life and joy back into our physical relationship. Hoping it helps yours, too, when the Lord brings Mr. Right!

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