lubricating jelly is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the UK. 1 in 8 women will now experience breast cancer at some point in their lifetime. As such, it is arguably one of the most well-supported, well-funded, well-publicized forms of cancer out there; I mean, it even gets the whole month of October to raise awareness! In a swathe of unsubtle pink ribbons, balloons, and boas, you wouldn’t think much would go under the radar with regards to breast cancer. However, its biggest secrets are not hiding in our bras, but in our underpants.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="629"] Lubricating Jelly[/caption]
In 2015, I was diagnosed with primary er+ breast cancer, aged 30. I caught it really early, so was as lucky as someone can possibly be, being diagnosed with cancer at 30. I had surgery to remove just the lump and some lymph nodes, kept my breast, avoided chemo, and finished hospital treatment after completing 4 weeks of radiotherapy. However, I was planning to continue on an endocrine drug called Tamoxifen for 10 years, to reduce the risk of my cancer returning.
Different cancers have different mechanisms that fuel their growth. Being “er+”, my cancer responded to estrogen. Tamoxifen doesn’t stop your body from producing estrogen, but it prevents your body from processing it by blocking the receptors. As such, you can experience a wide range of menopausal and hormone-related symptoms.
There’s no warm-up. lubricating jelly No gentle introduction. BOOM. At 30, you feel like a menopausal woman with all the trimmings!
The side effects of an early menopause
The common effects of menopause are pretty widely spoken about: the hot flushes, the joint pain, the fuzzy head, the hormonal rages. Indeed, all of these were switched on overnight for me, and these were difficult enough to accept as an active 30-something. On an absolute dream holiday to New Zealand, having the best time of my life, I distinctly remember one evening where I was overwhelmingly burning up from my very core to my flushed cheeks and I COULD NOT cool down. At that moment a lady of a “certain age” quipped something like, “Oh! That should be MY problem! Phnarf phnarf phnarf!!” And, in one flippant comment, she destroyed me. I felt like I wasn’t allowed my condition. That perfect evening is forever tainted.
However, that was just the tip of the iceberg. I needed to pee. ALL the time. Awkward, when you want to go hiking all day. Awkward, when you want to travel long-distance. Awkward, when you want to return to full-time employment after being on long-term sick-leave. Worse- it’s embarrassing, distressing, and hugely uncomfortable when you need to race home before you pee yourself in public, or you don’t even get as far as being able to leave the house because the only sanctuary was on a loo seat. I missed days at work. I lost days of holiday. It’s humiliating and strips you of all dignity, feeling like that kid that needs to take a spare pair to playgroup at the physical prime of 30. Having never been a skirt-wearer previously, I can now only wear trousers with the most elasticated waistbands, for fear of adding extra pressure to my fretting bladder. My entire wardrobe adapted to my new bathroom habits.
Lube is not shameful; lube is your friend.
After 16 months on Tamoxifen, I made my own decision to stop taking it. The severity of the joint pain it induced was reducing my quality of life to an extent that I could no longer tolerate or justify. This does increase the risk of my cancer returning, but I have taken ownership of my decision and its possible consequences in order to live my best years well. I will always be adjusting to my “new normal” after cancer, but now I am in control. The unbearable pain that resulted in me eventually walking with a stick has now lifted, to the point that I was able to hike through the Transylvanian Carpathians this summer in aid of the breast cancer education charity CoppaFeel!, for which I volunteer as a Bobette. I climbed the tallest mountain I have ever scaled, literally and figuratively! However, Tamoxifen has left a lasting legacy- the gift that keeps on giving. I still actively need to care for my intimate membranes as part of my regular routine: water-based for daily maintenance and oil-based for sexy times. I still get the pee sensation every now and again, especially just before periods and when I’m feeling high anxiety anyway. The difference now is that I am equipped with a tool. There is something I can do about it. I have an element of control to relieve my suffering. Psychologically, that is a colossal, empowering step in regaining a sense of normality in life, post-cancer. And with regards to my closest relationship, after everything life has thrown at us, my husband and I are now able to share, enjoy and have fun with our most personal moments together. I am comfortable and confident in my skin. All from a humble lubricant? YES!
It took me a lot of lonely, uncomfortable, embarrassing, and distressing experimentation to get to where I am now. Lube is not shameful; lube is your friend. So is sharing our real knowledge of breast cancer, lubricating jelly not just flashing the pink propaganda. By talking openly and honestly about our experiences, we won’t allow cancer to keep secrets from us anymore. lubricating jelly And if anyone starts squirming, at least it won’t be because they desperately need to pee.