Did you know, that in 7% of cases, women who have had chemotherapy for breast cancer, have their private parts grow over? No, I am not joking, I went to the young womens support group at my hospital this week and this is one of the wonderful gems they had to share.
If you’re like me, you are probably thinking…….seriously, what else is this god forsaken illness going to mean for me?! Enough already!
On the bright side (ok that’s not quite accurate, what’s bright about it growing over) it’s reversible. After a lovely process which seems to involve gradual expansion with some hopefully non painful type apparatus, ‘it’ can reopen. Phew.
Anyway, this is a quick post because I am off to South Africa tomorrow (huzzah!) and it’s late. But the support group was really worthwhile, there were a couple of speakers and both were interesting (even if at times I didn’t want to hear what they had to say). The two topics covered were chemopause (yes I know possibly menopause) and vaginal dryness.
The Doctors on hand gave us some tips for both which I’ll share here. Do they work? Who knows, but I’m willing to be a guinea pig because I identified with what they had to say.
- Chemopause/menopause – the best (and only?) natural remedy recommended for hot flushes was a product called Remifemin. You can buy it online, and they recommended 2 tablets morning and night. Not sure if it’s a global brand but apparently it’s made from an extract of black cohosh (whatever that is). For those lucky enough to also suffer from hypertension, switching to the medication Catapress can also help hot flushes (lucky me, I have high blood pressure, so I can try this). Also, from the SSRI family of anti-depressants, a low dose of either supremill or effexor can help. But not a high dose strangely. And yes talk to your GP about this, I am just the messenger!
- Vaginal dryness (and growing over). This I found more scary. It seems that 50% of women who’ve had chemo and breast cancer will find sex painful afterwards. The primary culprit is dryness. And whilst I assumed that this issue was due to lack of hormonal sex drive urges, it seems I was both right and wrong. Yes the urges are lower if going through chemopause. But the bigger issue is after chemo and subsequent rapid at least temporary menopause, is that the body simply becomes dryer down ‘there’. What can you do? KY Jelly wont cut it. As far as lubricant goes, Astroglide is the winner. For a more rigorous solution, there is a product called Replens. Now I was all for this (and yes if I had a partner it sounds worth investing in) until I found out it was a thrice weekly morning injection into you know where, at $3 a pop. OK, I guess I’m still all for it. It’s just 3 less coffees a week after all (or if you’re me spend now, figure out where money comes from later). For those not able to invest the $27 – $36 a month for Replens, fear not. We were told olive oil works pretty well also!
Now I must say I’ve ‘ahem’ checked and mine definitely hasn’t grown over. But I am unfortunately pretty confident that the dryness and lack of hormonal urges are going to be a problem. As for hot flushes, I have ordered Remifemin. Time will tell. And hopefully I will at some point get to sample the astroglide as well – because I have 5 tubes coming my way (what was I thinking?!).