Nimo has since remarried, but breast cancer catapulted her too into early menopause.
“I consider myself a success story,” she said. “Even though I couldn’t have kids, having your life and your health back is what matters.”
Dr. Teresa Neira, a sex therapist and clinical social worker at the Courtelis Center within the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, says one of the keys to rekindling a sex life is understanding the physical as well as the emotional.
“It’s important to find out what the source is. Is it loss of interest in sex? Is it a physical feeling? Is it body image issues? Is it the reconstructed breasts — the nipples? They call it the Barbie breasts,” she said.
The nipples are one of the hardest parts of the breasts to reconstruct, said Mount Sinai’s Krill-Jackson. It can take several surgeries, and even then, sensation won’t be restored.
Neira stressed the importance of staying connected with your spouse or lover.
“Sometimes you can replace sex with intimacy,” she said. “Just because you can’t connect your sexual organs, doesn’t mean you can’t connect. And when you don’t connect, a lot of times, that’s when we see infidelity.’’
During treatments, many couples may not have sex for more than a year, she said, noting it’s important to keep the couples connected in other ways.
“You want this patient to live, yes of course, but at the end of this treatment, if they are facing divorce…” she said.
She suggests being open to different sexual encounters: oral sex, mutual masturbation, sex toys, turning the lights down low and caressing each other.
Lulu took what she considers a proactive approach to getting her sex life back on track.
“They are afraid to approach you. You have to make them feel like, ‘It’s OK,’ ” she said.
She credits her marriage’s survival to love and communication.
“Some conversations you need to have with your partner after you’re feeling well include, ‘Do you want to have sex?’ If he says, ‘Yes,’ then you need to ask him, ‘Do you want to have sex with me, your wife? You never know, he may not be attracted to you anymore.”
Her husband answered, “yes” to both of those questions. The next step she compared to making a doctor’s appointment.
“The conversation needs to go something like this,” she said:
“Husband, I have a problem.’’
“Yes, what it is it?’’
“I want to have sex with you.’’
“How about tomorrow at 4 p.m.?’’
She admits it doesn’t sound like the most romantic way to kick off things, but if you don’t schedule it, it might never happen.
“All men need is to see a naked body and he’s ready, so it’s up to you to be ready. Whatever you need to do, buy sexy lingerie, walk around the house with it, whatever you need to do, because he’s ready.”
Their first sexual rendezvous post-cancer was well, different from when they were in their 20s. “We didn’t completely fail at it, but it wasn’t a home run either,” she said, laughing.
“Now it’s like, ‘I’m not planning a funeral, I’m planning the rest of my life,’ ” she said.
And her future plans are to include sex toys in their sexual fun.
“We’re not there yet; we haven’t graduated.”