Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Vagina Dialog--What No One Tells Women Who are Caregivers

There are so many things that go unspoken in the realm of couples and cancer care. If you are a female caregiver and you are caring for an intimate partner or spouse pay attention to this:  You need to keep dilating your vagina.

I was going to use gentler language but really, isn’t euphemism half the problem in Cancer Land? And I didn’t want to use baby words for vagina. I mean, how many times do you have to see “The Vagina Monologues” to know that women are powerful when we call things (our own body parts) by their correct name.

So, if your male partner/lover has cancer there are some things that you need to do that do not involve binders or calendars or tote bags. Your partner may have surgery and chemo and maybe radiation, and so, no, he’s not in the mood for sex and neither are you. Yes, you can have oral sex—for you and for him. And manual stimulation is also very nice. But for all kinds of reasons you might not have intercourse for weeks or months.

And all that time you might think, “Well hey, when he feels better we are going to get it on!” You might imagine the night when it’s possible and he’s ready and you have new lingerie and he has new meds, and the setting is just right—there is arousal and humor in equal measure, and so you turn down the lights and begin.

But all of a sudden no one is laughing and you might even be crying because trying to have intercourse hurts! And it’s you who is hurting not him because now you are too tight. So, you think, a little foreplay and some lube will fix that. But it doesn’t. Odds are good you will be sad, mad maybe scared, embarrassed and definitely confused.

Who saw that coming? If you are over 45 and you do not have intercourse or use a dildo inside your vagina for any stretch of time then you are not stretching it and any attempt at penetration is going to hurt like hell.

So, you think, “This is what I need to think about while I’m worried about his life and our healthcare bills?” And the answer is, “Yes.” Yes, if you want your sex life to return, and yes, if you want to feel that yummy good feeling again. And yes, because a healthy vagina is important. Vaginal atrophy is no joke. It happens to all women over 50—with or without partners. It happens to happily married couples who skip sex for too long, or who fall out of the intercourse habit. (It happens)  and it happens to couples in CancerLand and you then have heartbreak on top of heath scare—you want to do “it” but you can’t.

So how do you keep your vagina elastic and ready? Well, use your imagination or, even better; use a set of vaginal dilators. No porn shop needed. They are a medical product and your doctor will order them for you, or if you want a faster and cheaper solution: buy a set online. (You can even buy them on Amazon).

There is a link below to one company and an additional link to Sloan Kettering that gives advice on how to use the dilators. But you can also Google “Vaginal dilators” and you will see products from many companies that sell medically approved sets. You need a set that provides several dilators that vary in diameter because getting “fit” is a process. If you have been without intercourse for a long time you will want to use the teeny one (like your little finger) first and then gradually progress to one that is, let’s say, more like your partner.

Please don’t blush or brush this advice away. The older you are the longer it will take to return your vagina to its earlier elasticity. That means the sooner you begin the sooner you will feel like a confidant and relaxed lover again. And here’s a bonus: Doing vaginal dilation plus your Kegels means better orgasms for you.

1 comment:

Kathryn said...

Diane, you are absolutely fearless! You go, wonder woman!

For me, estrogen cream on a regular basis did the trick after years of celibacy. Who knew that unused equipment would atrophy???