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Wearing only stretchy blue briefs, David Fuehrer posed for the camera with one beefy arm flexed over his head, the other clenched in front of his chest.
T hick muscles and veins rippled under his tan, hairless skin, and there was a tense smirk on his face.
“It stripped away all of my male identity,” says Fuehrer, now 40, whose treatment left him impotent for nearly a year. ” Keep up with this story and more “The cure isn’t enough,” says Fuehrer, a former research consultant at Pfizer and GE who now sits on the board of directors for Stupid Cancer, a nonprofit focusing on young adult cancer.
Pills and injections didn’t work for Harry, but MUSE did. “You look in the mirror, and you don’t feel pretty—and you really don’t look pretty,” says Hester Hill Schnipper, program manager of oncology social work at the Beth Israel Deaconess Cancer Center in Boston and a two-time breast cancer survivor.
“I facilitate a lot of support groups, and lack of libido is the big thing that will get talked about.
A lot of that is due to plain old embarrassment—sex is one of the most universally uncomfortable topics of discussion.
“A lot of folks think it will get better over time, and it doesn’t, or years go by, and they’ve lost intimacy in their life,” says Catherine Alfano, vice president of survivorship at the American Cancer Society and a rehabilitation psychologist.
It was 2001, and Fuehrer, then 25, was just a few days away from winning the light heavyweight title at the Natural New York State Bodybuilding Championship.
Four months later, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer.“So if you’re not enjoying your time, and your quality of life is shot, what’s the point?”Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the United States, claiming over half a million American lives each year.But a cancer diagnosis is not necessarily a death sentence, and improved treatments and earlier detection mean that more people today are surviving than ever before.The five-year survival rate of leukemia, for example, has increased from 34 percent in the mid-1970s to 63 percent from 2006 to 2012, according to the American Cancer Society.Only half of all cancer patients recall anyone from oncology addressing the effects that treatment will have on sex and intimacy, and just 20 percent report being satisfied with the help they received from health care professionals for their sexual problems.