Hi! I am Barbara Musser, founder of Sexy After Cancer. My passion is helping women with breast cancer to know that they are beautiful, feminine, desirable and sexy, and that they can absolutely have a fabulous intimate and sexual life after cancer treatments.
I am going to tell you the story of the shock that woke me up to who I really am. The biggest shock of my life happened on my 37th birthday – May 22, 1989. I was about to walk out the door to go to a birthday celebration. The phone rang and I picked it up and I heard my doctor’s voice say, “You have cancer”.
I literally dropped the phone and went numb and into shock. In that instant, my world collapsed and nothing in it would ever be the same again. I hung up, got into my car, drove to the gathering. I have no memory of the drive – none.
When I arrived and the group shouted ‘Happy Birthday’, I burst into tears, sobbing my heart out. My friends just held me while I cried and cried, and they had no idea why I was crying. That was the first of many buckets of tears I shed because suddenly I was on the rollercoaster of having to make some very big decisions very quickly, decisions that would have long-ranging consequences that I knew nothing about.
I was alone, single and terrified, and this rollercoaster ride was way scarier than any little swoopy amusement park ride. It felt surreal, like a bad dream. Well, little did I know how my life would be altered by this experience. It brought me to my knees. I didn’t know who I was, where to turn. I sat there in the boneyard of my soul and I had to keep going because I had to make these decisions and make them fast.
And during all this time I kept asking myself, ‘If I was told that I had one year to live, would I keep living my same life?’ Well the answer was a big ‘no way’. So I made some big decisions during that time and here’s some of the decisions I made:
First, I chose to live, to suck the nectar from life in every moment, to live full out in living color, no holds barred as if every day was my last day, because the truth is we never know. But living full out like that meant looking at all the places and all the ways that I was just going through the motions or waiting for life to turn out a certain way, or doing what I thought I was supposed to be doing – everything that wasn’t really living fully was right in my face and I had some deep work to do to sort through all those layers and all those personas to see who I really was, because the truth is I didn’t know who I really was.
Another decision I made was to leave the corporate world because I was absolutely determined to do work that fed my soul and left the world a better place. Even though I didn’t have any idea what that really meant, I just felt called to do that and to bring myself forward in that way, and I had no choice but to answer that call and see where it led me.
The first place it led me was to become a sex educator because I had a lot of work to do to heal this feeling like I was damaged goods and that no man would ever be interested in me as a lover or partner.
Mind you, before my cancer diagnosis I already felt like damaged goods, but with this breast cancer and my now what felt to me like very deformed breast, I knew for sure, I was broken.
It was a very long, deep and painful dive into how fully I had drunk the Kool-Aid that beauty has to look a certain way in our culture, and I definitely didn’t have a media-pretty body, and certainly not now with the deformed breasts. During that work I unearthed the real nature of beauty and radiance and sexiness, and underneath that, I started to love myself, not comparing myself to the media image of what beauty and sexiness was.
I also became a transformational workshop facilitator of clothing optional workshops. That’s right, clothing optional means naked! Imagine how I felt, this girl with this radically changed body from breast cancer and surgeries, standing naked in front of rooms full of a hundred people leading them deeper into their journey of personal transformation. That was a big one for me and it was hugely, hugely healing for me.
And you know what, in most of those workshops there were women there with breast cancer and there was something about my vulnerability and my willingness to show myself and call myself beautiful – just the way I was, that helped so many women to heal. Oh, so powerful!
Then I had a baby after cancer – against all the doctors’ advice. They all said, “Breast cancer and babies – no way”, and I felt like I had been robbed of my opportunity to choose whether I want to have kids or not, and I was young – 37 years old.
I went against all that advice. I was willing to take the risk and I had that baby and that girl just turned 19-years-old.
Along the way, through all these years, I supported lots of friends through cancer, because having support on this journey and someone to put their arm around your shoulder is a huge gift and it’s so helpful.
Then about two years ago, a very dear friend of mine received a second breast cancer diagnosis and I don’t know why but I was compelled to go with her to all of her medical appointments, and there were a lot because with a second cancer it’s more complicated. I held her hand. I listened. I asked questions and I helped her sort through the maze of information so that she could make the decisions that were right for her.
We also meditated together. We talked about being single with cancer. We talked about sex. We talked about intimacy. We talked about dating. We made a plaster casting of her breast before her mastectomy, and as I was driving her to the hospital for surgery, she put her hand on my shoulder, she turned to me and said, “This is your work Barbara, helping women on this journey”.
When she said those words, the hair on my arms stood up and I took this deep breath like ‘Ohhhh’… because God was speaking to me through her mouth. And I listened.
Then the light bulb came on, because what had been in front of me for all these years, suddenly came into focus. I knew that this was the truth, what I am here to do, and the experience of knowing what I am meant to do and doing it, is extraordinary. There is no doubt or fear about this path. I am absolutely certain.
Even though I am the pioneer way out on the skinny branches, on the leading edge of birthing something that doesn’t exist yet. Even though I am certain, that doesn’t mean I don’t get scared, because I do; because this is way bigger than I am.
Every time I teach or give a talk or an interview, my knees shake, my palms sweat and there’s a swarm of butterflies in my belly, and I do it anyway. I do it because my passion is bigger than what my mind tells me. I do it because my passion is bigger than my fear. I do it because I have seen the difference it makes. I do it because I am the one to do it, and I know that.
I do it because I see women and couples finding their way to intimacy and sex that’s healthy and satisfying and way better than it had been for them before.
If you are on this crazy cancer journey, I can help you. Let’s hold hands and walk this path together, the path into meeting your inner Aphrodite, that goddess of love and beauty and sexual rapture. The paths are waking up your sleepy libido – the path into intimacy, great sex and bigger love. Thank you!