(RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA, Calif.) -- Laura Brashier beat stage 4 cervical cancer, but the grueling treatments killed her sex life. The countless surgeries and radiation destroyed her vaginal tissue and made intercourse impossibly painful.
The Rancho Santa Margarita, California hair stylist was only 37 then, and she found it hard to broach the topic with boyfriends. So, she just didn't get involved romantically.
"It was the only thing on my mind," said Brashier, who is twice divorced and has no children. "I dated on and off, but I didn't tell anyone for years. I figured if I am doing that, a lot of others are, too."
Now, more than a decade later at 50, she has created a website for others who cannot have sex because of disease, disability or even disinterest, but want love. The site, 2date4love, launched on Aug. 1 and in the first three days it had 2,000 visitors.
"I didn't want to be alone. This was the reason I went online," she said. "My reason is to help a lot of people like me if I can."
Users can write details about themselves and look for others with similar interests without having to worry about the sexual part. One testimonial from a cervical cancer survivor said the site had given her the "hope and courage I've needed to delve back into the dating scene."
Those who face physical hurdles in having sexual intercourse are part of a large, silent group, according to Brashier.
"Nobody talks about it," she said.
An estimated one-in-three Americans will have cancer in their lifetimes and aggressive treatments can have an impact on sexual function, according to Dr. Ilana Cass, a gynecological oncologist at Cedars-Sinai medical center in Los Angeles.
"Add in depression and that number is huge," said Cass. "It's a meaningful number of patients and studies are starting to look at the quality of life of cancer survivors, their cognitive function and sexual intimacy issues."
She applauds Brashier's mission and said the medical community is "very much turning a spotlight on these questions."
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