When my first breast cancer appeared in my 20s, we were newly married and determined that our sex life would endure, simply because we wanted it to. We had sex when I was bald from chemo, with a drain from my armpit, with new surgical scars. The chill of mortality made sex a defiant, triumphant act.
When a second, shocking tumour appeared 18 years later, I knew how fundamental that experience of being taken over by pleasure was to forgiving my body, or at least making peace with it. After I was booked for a double mastectomy with an immediate reconstruction, we still had sex. But we instinctively withdrew from my breasts, protecting ourselves, the counsellor said, from the upcoming loss.