By Dani C., Pseudomyxoma Peritonei Survivor
As a woman who has undergone HIPEC surgery for appendix cancer (AKA pseudomyxoma peritonei), I’ve faced the difficulty of getting my groove on and once again enjoying physical intimacy with my husband. It’s probably the most embarrassing issue that you need to deal with during your recovery process. You find you’re finally ready for full intimacy, but your lady parts – what’s left of them – aren’t cooperating. It’s enough to make you scream…and not in the good way!
HIPEC surgery for pseudomyxoma peritonei often includes the removal of the uterus and ovaries. Which leaves us ladies without the hormones we need for natural vaginal lubrication. Vaginal dryness sounds like a minor thing until you attempt to engage in intimacy with your partner. Ouch is putting it mildly. Lack of hormones also thins the walls of the vagina, making any friction across these thin, dry walls torture. Over-the-counter lubricants can make intercourse bearable. But, ladies, we deserve more than just “bearable.”
It is possible to have a great sex life after appendix cancer surgery. I’m four years out, and back to a completely normal sex life. So let’s look at what you can do to get things fired back up.
- First, talk to your partner. It takes two to tango. Your partner needs to know what you’re feeling, emotionally and physically, in order to work through this. Don’t be afraid to go into detail. He needs to know exactly how painful vaginal dryness is, but that it’s not his fault. And that it’s not your fault either. He needs to know that you really do want to have good sex again. And that together you can work through it.
- Talk to your gynecologist. Hormone replacement therapy or a less invasive progesterone cream can help after cytoreductive surgery for pseudomyxoma peritonei. Over-the-counter progesterone creams work fine, but it’s important for your gynecologist and HIPEC specialist to keep tabs on how much of the hormone is going into your system…too much can put you at risk for other cancers.
- Consider joining a support group. Women in these groups often discuss their own intimate experiences, review creams and lubricants, and share helpful tips, like which sexual positions are most comfortable.
- Pick up some coconut oil. One of the most popular solutions is plain ol’ coconut oil from the supermarket. It’s solid at room temperature, but quickly melts in your hands. Apply externally to whatever parts need lubrication, and voila!…a natural solution that smells good, too.
- Take it slow! It will be uncomfortable at first. On your first “date,” start with partial penetration and, over time, slowly increase this. It’s actually great fun; nothing like a slow tease to rev things up.
- Be persistent. My gynecologist explained that my vagina sort of went to sleep during the recovery period after my appendix cancer surgery…and that the more it’s used, the more it will respond. And darned if he wasn’t right!
Ladies, don’t despair. Your love life will return after appendix cancer. With time, patience, understanding…and a little coconut oil.