Johanna, 41, of Chesterfield, Mo., says, "I know there were times when [my husband] was frustrated with the lack of sex, but I tried to explain it to him, probably midway through treatment. We sat down and talked about it and I said, 'I feel really bad for you, but that's at the bottom of my to-do list and it's not that I don't love you.'"
"When I was diagnosed and treated I was 45 and fertility wasn't an issue, but I was sexually active with my husband," says Angeleno Victoria Tashman, 49, founder of the breast cancer organization Pink-Link, who had chemo followed by tamoxifen. "I had menopausal symptoms from very little estrogen, though my hot flashes have gotten a lot better. The vaginal dryness, low libido, and skin dryness that are attached to estrogen [levels dropping]I never had a clue about those. Now I take a small amount of estrogen replacement to help with the vaginal dryness."
"I still have a scar on my breast; [the breast] is shaped differently now because they took a big chunk out of it," says Marguerite Leishman, 53, of Reston, Va., who got engaged shortly after her diagnosis 16 years ago. "I was embarrassed by that; I didn't want to wear a bikini anymore and I felt uncomfortable taking my clothes off in front of my fiancé; I felt misshapen and that I looked weird. I started dressing in baggy clothes.
Toni Saperstein, 47, a registered nurse in Holiday, Fla., didn't realize at first that she was waiting to shower until her husband left in the morning, lest he see her naked. "Initially we had sex in the dark, and that wasn't like us," recalls Saperstein, who also suffered from menopausal symptoms caused by chemountil she worked with a local compounding pharmacy to create a very low-dose-estrogen vaginal cream.
Dating may bring extra worries. When Pam Tazioli, 54, of Seattle, first heard again from a man she had been seeing briefly before she had cancer, her first thought was, "Who's gonna find me attractive? Who's gonna like me?" she says. "But he was so damn persistent and he knew I had cancer and he still wanted to go out. So I called him."