Michelle Whitlock beat cervical cancer twice, but with her victory came an unexpected challenge: learning to how redevelop physical intimacy with her new husband after her body had changed dramatically.
Whitlock, who wrote about her experience in the book How I Lost My Uterus And Found My Voice, told HuffPost Live's Nancy Redd that shortly after her boyfriend proposed, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer for a second time. In addition to chemotherapy, Whitlock had a "complete radical hysterectomy" that removed all but two inches of her vagina, she described to HuffPost Live.
"I was a newlywed, just recently married, and suddenly I was having chemo and radiation. I didn't want to be touched, but my husband was a normal 29-year-old with normal male hormones," Whitlock said. "Our marital bed became like a war zone, like there was an invisible line down the center of it: 'Do not touch.' And he didn't dare cross it, and I certainly wasn't inviting him across it."
Without sex, Whitlock said she and her husband lost a crucial part of the intimacy necessary to "fortify emotional connections" in a new marriage. The couple tackled the problem together, and that sense of partnership helped Whitlock explore ways create a fulfilling sexual and intimate relationship in spite of the physical challenges.
"We would sit down together, pop in a movie, make the popcorn, insert a dilator. And it was this thing we did together so that it wasn't a shameful thing that I was doing and that he didn't have part of," she said. "He knew all the measures I was going through emotionally and physically to try to regain our sex life."
Watch Whitlock share her powerful story of recovery in the video above, and click here for the full HuffPost Live conversation about sex after cancer.
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