real life

They met, they fell in love, and then they realised they couldn't have sex.

When Leonie Blackwell met her husband, she thought nothing would ever come between them. What happened next changed her life in more ways than she could ever imagine.

Leonie Blackwell met her husband at a friend’s wedding. Little did she know that her life would soon resemble a Greek tragedy, progressing quickly from a fairytale to absolute torture.

Following a whirlwind courtship, she became engaged and it was at the age of 23 and two weeks before their wedding that they had sex for the first time.

Leonine writes on XO Jane:

Every time we had sex, there was immediate pain and a burning sensation. The area would become red and swell up, then over the next week the skin cells would shed and fall off. I would be left in agony and the pain lingered for days.

2 weeks before her wedding Leonie still didn't know what was wrong

Leonie tried everything to reduce the pain during sex. She tried:

* Visiting a GP who diagnosed thrush after 5 minutes and sent her away with a prescription;
* Several more visits to the GP who never performed a physical examination;
* An iodine pessary which burned and stung;
* She returned to the GP and demanded a physical examination after which she received a referral to a gynecologist;
* Cauterization to stop the cells from shedding, recommended by the gynecologist;

That was all before the wedding day.

Leonie was forced to walk down the aisle still knowing there was a serious problem but not knowing what it was. Her final visit with her gynecologist before her wedding ended with the doctor telling her, "It's all in your head".

In desperation she asked her husband to go to the doctor for a check up. She writes:

He went off to his family doctor who declared “There can’t be anything wrong with you, I’ve been your doctor since you were born. Just go home and tell your wife she needs to have more sex. She’s just making up excuses, women are like that.”

Leonie decided to take control of the situation. She knew there was something physically wrong and was desperate for an answer, as was her husband. She went to the local university and started reading.

It took fourteen months of marriage, filled with pain, confusion and embarrassment for Leonie to be diagnosed with Human Seminal Plasma Hypersensitivity, an allergy to semen. Contact with his semen resulted in painful burns to her skin. Their situation was further complicated by an allergy to latex, meaning they couldn't use condoms either.

There it was. Not much, just two sentences but it was enough for me. It was like a light bulb had gone off in my head and I realised that I was reacting to Simon’s semen.

Finally I got a referral to another gynecologist and when I described my symptoms, he suggested I was allergic to my husband’s semen.

It might sound odd, but I was ecstatic. Not because of what it was, but because it was the first time someone could actually tell me what was wrong. I felt for sure they would be able to fix it.

Then, Leonie was told that there is nothing that can be done. There is no cure for a semen allergy and she would either have to live with it, or just not have sex with her husband.

The couple was devastated. Leonie was allergic to her own husband. She burst into tears and felt truly shattered.

It was then that they decided to separate:

Over the next four months, many deep and meaningful talks occurred with my husband. He desperately wanted to become a father and I didn’t want to deny him his dreams. This wasn’t something we could live with.

We eventually made the heartbreaking decision to separate.

“We’ll stay friends though won’t we?” I asked through the tears.

“Of course,” he replied, drawing me in for a hug.

What followed was a total breakdown for Leonie. Her friends did their best to support her and it was a friend's suggestion that she seek help from a naturopath that led to a breakthrough.

Over the next year, they helped me detox my body and get ready to build myself back up. It was a slow recovery because the remedy that would eventually cure me wasn’t yet available in Australia. That product was called Reiishi mushroom extract. Eight years had passed since my diagnosis and for the first time, I was offered hope of a cure. The liquid extract changed my life. The pain that had haunted me for years disappeared and when I started a new relationship, I could take the liquid and there would be no swelling after intercourse. After two years, I didn’t even need to take the remedy. It had healed my body. I was 34.

Leonie was so thrilled with the result that she ended up becoming a naturopath herself, helping others in similar situations to her. She even wrote a book about her experience called Making Sense of the Insensible.

Have you ever suffered from a medical condition that has affected your relationship? What treatment ended up working for you?

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