by Linda Franklin – The Real Cougar Woman
Having survived stage 4 cervical cancer, Laura Brashier knows she is lucky to be alive. But when the twice-divorced hair stylist, from Rancho Santa Margarita, California, tried to start dating again, it proved more difficult than she ever imagined.
Ms Brashier, then 37, found the aggressive radiation and surgery that beat the disease had left her body so damaged that intercourse was impossible.
Now over a decade later she has launched a dating website for people like herself, who long for a relationship but cannot, or choose not to have sex.Explaining how she came up with the concept for her site, now 50-year-old Laura told how it had been difficult to broach the subject of sex with boyfriends, and when she looked for others in her situation online, no support websites existed.
She told ABC News: 'The radiation kind of melts you. But the issue of physical intimacy continued to occupy her thoughts. "'It was the only thing on my mind,' she said. '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.'
2date4love.com only launched at the start of this month, but in the first three days alone, it received 2,000 visitors.
Ms Brashier hopes the site will be a beacon of hope for what she calls 'a silent group', who may have suffered traumatic injuries, paralysis birth defects or extreme radiation like herself.
'Nobody talks about it,' she continued. 'I didn't want to be alone. This was the reason I went online. My reason is to help a lot of people like me if I can.'
Dr Ilana Cass, gynecological oncologist at Cedars-Sinai Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute in Los Angeles, applauded Ms Brashier's idea. She said: 'Intimacy after cancer treatment is an enormous problem.'
'[Radiation] is pretty tough on tissues. The vagina is a pretty tough organ, but there can be a certain degree of fibrosis or thickening – like old leather – that can be problematic for women.'
Already Ms Brashier's site has received glowing testimonials. One user wrote that ithad given her the 'hope and courage I've needed to delve back into the dating scene.'