Krista Campbell was 29 when she was diagnosed with stage IIA breast cancer. Her treatment included a double mastectomy with reconstruction and 16 rounds of chemotherapy. Since finishing chemotherapy 1 year ago, scans show no sign of cancer. Krista will celebrate her 32nd birthday later this year with her boyfriend of 5 years, Brandon. Krista and Brandon sat down to interview each other about their relationship and how it changed and grew in response to breast cancer.
Krista: What were your thoughts when I initially told you I had breast cancer?
Brandon: It was just a lump, so I didn't think it would be that big of a deal. Just swap your boobs out for fakes.
Brandon: When you got your diagnosis, what were you thinking?
Krista: Ha! I was thinking the same thing! I remember calling you from work after I got off the phone with my doctor and telling you I had breast cancer. I guess I was in shock because in my head I was making a to-do list of the doctors to see, but I was also thinking of what size boobs I wanted to swap out for.
Krista: During my treatment what was the hardest part about physical intimacy for you?
Brandon: Lubricants were the biggest obstacle because the lube was cold and we would have to stop in the middle to apply it. After you finished the MonaLisa Touch laser treatment, physical intimacy was better for both of us, especially since we didn’t have to use lube anymore. The hardest part was also kicking our three stubborn dogs out of our bedroom.
Brandon: How did your changing body image affect our intimate time together?
Krista: I wasn't as confident and sexy, especially when my hair fell out. I shied away from being intimate with you because I didn't want you to think I was ugly and broken. It helped that you always made me feel beautiful and attractive, but I still tried to hide under wigs. Lingerie definitely helped since I was very self-conscious about the scars on my chest.
Krista: What kind of frustrations did you have during my treatment, and how did you deal with them?
Brandon: Everything worked out well during your treatment except in vitro fertilization. It was frustrating to deal with the insurance companies and find out that fertility preservation and IVF were not covered. It was a relief when we were told about the LIVESTRONG Fertility program. It took a lot of stress off of us both, and helped us come up with the funds to finish IVF.
Brandon: What were some of the most helpful things I did during your treatment?
Krista: You helped me take my mind off cancer. There are so many things you did for me that I don't even know where to start. On days I didn't want to do anything, you would coax me into walking on the treadmill at the gym, which turned into a full blown workout once we were there. You let me put my wig on you so I could style it easier. On really bad days, you didn't care how often I talked about my cancer or cried. You just held me and let me get it all out. You would laugh with me and at me when I would make fun of my own baldness and crappy drawn-on eyebrows. I couldn't have asked for a better partner in life.
Krista: What is your view of me before and after cancer?
Brandon: Before cancer, you stressed out too much over everything and it made you angry a lot. During your treatment and now, you're nicer and more laid back. You're not as OCD about the house being clean. You’re still a little self-conscious but also more adventurous and more loving.
Brandon: Do you think your being diagnosed helped or hurt our relationship?
Krista: It's weird to admit it, but I think cancer helped our relationship. It put my life into perspective and made me realize what really matters. I realized I didn't want to be a workaholic and that I wanted more moments with you and our dogs. I know I was more high-strung and angry before cancer, and after I was diagnosed I realized how petty I was being. All the crap I put so much effort into caring about wasn't worth giving a damn about. Cancer made me realize who and what is important to me and that if someone truly loves me they will accept me as I am. I feel like our relationship is stronger than ever.