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008: Mastectomies, Intimacy, Sex and a View from His Perspective

Updated: Jun 22, 2021



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Episode Summary:

It’s not taboo if it is a part of everyday life. On today’s show Griff again, joins the podcast to discuss the far-reaching impact of mastectomy surgery in terms of sex, arousal, intimacy, and romantic stability. Please join Griff and Tammey for a candid and insightful conversation about the struggles and triumphs of a post-cancer marriage.


Topics in this Episode:

  • Intro

  • An outside perspective

  • Opening shock

  • Mission Oriented

  • An Attentive Partner

  • Try not to take it personally

  • Is arousal abandoned?

  • We may not have much time

  • Adapting to the unforeseen

  • Mastectomies are NOT a “Boob Job”

  • A Difficult question

  • Is it Vanity?

  • Those who dare; Win

  • Sign off

Contact Information and Social Links:

Resources:

A special thank you to our sponsor, Riverdance Soapworks. Handcrafted products we personally use. Visit www.riverdancesoapworks.com and let them know you heard about them from Tammey.


Transcript:

Intro

Tammey Grable-Woodford: Hello, and welcome to this week's episode of Your Killer Life. And I am joined by my better half as we dive into the next installment of mastectomies. And we are going to be talking about mastectomies from the guy's perspective.


Now, those of you that have been listening know that I was separated from my husband, not this one.

When I first was diagnosed with cancer, my exhusband had asked for a divorce a few weeks beforehand. And so I was sort of starting this journey, gosh, I guess newly, single after 20 years. And you and I have been friends,


Right, but we hadn't necessarily escalated things. I admitted last week that the mastectomies really felt like an annihilation of my sexuality.


But I will also say there was this added element to that where newly dating, which was sort of unexpected...


Griff Woodford: Right, agreed.


Tammey Grable-Woodford: And also not being willing to, or wanting to, have commitment with anyone because I was diagnosed with cancer and, and, and that just didn't feel fair to me to have a relationship with someone being in this weird mental space of denial.


And kind of wanting to combat the reality of everything that was happening with still trying to find some element of normalcy, some element of, of still, I dunno, hanging onto my sexuality of still being able to find intimacy, still, still being human and having a biological need for all of those feel good hormones that, that come along with that.


Griff Woodford: Yeah.


Tammey Grable-Woodford: And so it was a, it was an odd time for me. And so I wanted to kind of give it a little bit of that backstory to our listeners, because one of the questions I see come up a lot and relationship issues come up a lot in various breast cancer groups, because it is such a hard thing. I mean, it's hard to want to get your sexy on when you don't feel sexy...


Griff Woodford: Yeah, sure...


Tammey Grable-Woodford: ...and your confidence being absolutely annihilated.


An outside perspective

But then there's also the question of. What does it look like? And what does it like from the guy's side? And I guess you can also tell I'm a little nervous, cause I just totally just dove right into this one without much of an intro, but this is a very vulnerable space. And quite frankly, you know, we are not scripted.


And I think that that's important for people to know. So this is a very frank conversation and opening ourselves up to being very vulnerable and, and willing to hear things that, that may actually be uncomfortable or, or even unintentionally hurtful and... I say that too, because it was years before you admitted to me sort of some of the fears and thoughts that you had as we went through this.

So... I guess... are you ready to be...


Griff Woodford: Yup. Yup. Yup. That's why I'm here. Go, go for it.


Tammey Grable-Woodford: Just dive in? Okay. So I know for me, and I know you, you listened to last week's episode, which was very hard for me and I, I almost cried a few times last week in last week's episode, just talking about what that felt like and where I was mentally. So for me, I struggled a lot with how that looked post-mastectomy and I struggled with the apparent violence of the appearance of it.


Griff Woodford: And so guys being very aesthetically stimulated,


Opening shock

Tammey Grable-Woodford: What was that like for you when you saw that?


Griff Woodford: Well speaking just for myself. Cause I know I'm not the only person that's been in that circumstance and that scenario, I don't want to put words in anyones mouth or put out a false sense of ideals that this is what everyone feels like, because I'm pretty sure it's not.

Gosh, where would I start with that. Um, so in, in the very beginning, I remember taking the bandages off for the first time, the, um...


It was painful. It was physically painful to see that. I mean, it just seemed like carnage. I mean, very well executed carnage, and I remember specifically commenting on that, you know, how excellent the lines were and how just exemplary really exemplary of a job they did in the process. But the... I mean the physical discomfort I felt from looking at that and then knowing with certainty, how much pain you were in...


That was the part that for me, was initially the most shocking and that carried through for quite a while, you know, and it kind of breaks down to a few different parts for me personally, when you've talked about intimacy and you talked about sexuality, and then you just talk about where the, um, where the difficulties were.


Mission oriented

Uh, I don't really think in terms of the mastectomy for me, there were necessarily difficulties. There was tasking. The initial tasking is make sure that you are as comfortable as you possibly can be, so you can heal properly. And to me, when I first saw that I didn't see an end state. I saw the beginning of a long process.


So there was, I don't think that hope is the right word, because I didn't have a clear picture in my mind what that supposed to look like, but encouragement that we had a very good place to start in so far as what reconstruction can look like and what, you know, X time down the road, you know, what are additional surgeons and plastic surgeons, what are they going to have to work with? And, you know, so in that sense, it was, it was encouraging,


You know, going a little bit further in the timeline. The question of intimacy came up. I know that you have, I mean, not just on air, but we... we talk about that all the time. You know, what, what, and, and understand that a distinct, a distinct for both of us.


And I would, I would venture to say, just for people in general, there is a distinct difference between intimacy and sexuality. Often the two are, are very closely linked together but they're not mutually exclusive. So for me, the intimacy capacity was never difficult cause you were wounded. And I personally, I'm a protector.


You know, that, that is, that is what my role is. Especially with you. It's for me, it's been present through most serious relationships I had, but you know, that's the funny thing too, because we were at a point just chronologically that, you know, there was very little real backstory to us as a couple or as a unit.


So really immersing in that role immediately and wholeheartedly, and honestly, I wouldn't even really be able to tell you why I was doing it. Like what the end state was. It just, I knew that that was my purpose now. And however long it lasted.


So the intimacy in that of having you to... to require intimacy. And figuring out ways that I can show that to you, show you this and give you what exactly that you need without potentially hurting you.


Because, you know, that was quite a little while where we were concerned about that in terms of sexuality, you know, we know we're not going to bust the stitches type thing.


So I would say developing different ways of being intimate, but leading with intimacy in mind. And then, you know, if we're able to move that into sexuality, then that's great, but you know, I mean, I know for me personally, often taking the lead, you know, where you were at, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally, as you mentioned in your last podcast, you just talked about. It seemed like... I'm not finding the correct word for this... I want to say coaxing, but that's not it, but I think just reassuring that you can do this and it's okay to do this, that I'm not focused on the injury.

I'm focused on you.


An Attentive partner

Tammey Grable-Woodford: Which was very hard because there was more than once. And all of a sudden I'm very self conscious by the way. Cause I know our mother's listen to the podcast, but we're humans, they're adults. So, but there was more than once where I just... I would just stop... because it was traumatizing for me to see.


Griff Woodford: Yep


Tammey Grable-Woodford: And it, it felt unattractive. I felt so uncomfortable in my own skin. I did not feel sexy at all. And it had nothing to do with you and everything to do with me. But I think this is an important part of conversation because I think it can be seen as failure from a guy side that I'm not feeling sexy. I'm not feeling attractive. And it cannot be fun from your side.


And again, I don't wanna put words in people's mouth, either everyone's experience is different and, and, you know, not, we all do not have the same experiences and especially in this area, but I, I will be Frank and vulnerable in saying that, you know, I just, I couldn't go on. It was too painful for me. And I don't mean physical pain.


I mean, mental pain... that I looked so damaged.


Griff Woodford: Yeah, I remember it at least three distinct like meltdown meltdowns, where like, this was, this took hours to just get you back into a good, a good head space, you know, let alone back in the mood (both laughing) or what have you, but...


Tammey Grable-Woodford: If we even did. Because you were really good about that too. Like sometimes you just abandon that, like that. That's not, we're not going to finish that... thing...


Griff Woodford: Yeah, I don't know, again for me, and I'm not gonna put words in anyone's mouth, either for me personally, when something like that did happen and I have three very distinct memories of that, that there's kind of that instinctual reaction to think that well, "Shit, what did I do?" type thing, but also understanding and knowing you enough, not just where you were.


In general, as far as like emotional placement and psychological placement, but understanding your, your cues, your physical cues, your vocal cues, that something is either in the process of not going well or is about to go unwell, you know, being able to see or feel you tense up like your body or your shoulders or what have you.


So it wasn't always necessarily a surprise, but for me anyway, being observant enough to understand that this is probably not for me, but if you remember I always did ask, is it something that I did, but you know, not in that tone, but, but um understanding that it was, it was far beyond just my own role. It wasn't about me in the sense that this is, this is not my time to be offended or to be, to be hurt by your actions by, or my assumptions of your actions. It was clearly that you were in crisis and that's now my job.


Try not to take it personally

Tammey Grable-Woodford: So that was one of the things I wanted to ask you, is whether or not it was hard not to take it personally when, when that started to happen, because in some ways, and this is my we've not talked about this element of it. This is an assumption of mine that you're kind of doing normal you, and there's a normal activity and the intimacy and all of that is, is happening.


And then to have the brakes put on and to have somebody who's, you know, in some cases I was an emotional mess and some cases, I was just like this, I just, I just, I can't, I can't, I can't look at this. I can't deal with this. I can't. And it was hard not to take that as personally.


Griff Woodford: As far as the intimacy goes or the sexuality of the sex... the actual sex goes, no, actually it wasn't because I know normal you. Y'know, what was difficult for me to take personally, and that actually caused a couple of fights is when we are not doing something like that, we are doing it typically mundane thing and a meltdown occurs.


Tammey Grable-Woodford: Yeah.


Griff Woodford: That's hard for me to not take personally. And, and then as far as, you know, the, just the personal fronts, everyone suffers in any relationship, you know, I mean that. I noticed that during that process and for three years, you know, for us, it was, it was particularly important to me to move as light footed as I could around the typical tasks.


Because I understood and was able to see daily how horrible of a time you were having of it sometimes. So what I, what I did take personally is when I felt like I was giving you everything that I knew how to do and more on, you know, learning on the fly, like both were and feeling like it wasn't appreciated, which I know it's not ever been the case, but again, in those moments, when we're both freaking smoked, you know,


Tammey Grable-Woodford: Right... right...


Griff Woodford: After 12 hours in Seattle or I've been up for 19 hours, making sure that your drains are, are properly well drained and all the things go along with that rebandaging and you'd snap at me about like a coaster or something like that.


I think that actually happened, but something along those lines...