Having sexual intimacy after breast cancer is a very big challenge; as the treatments often result in several sexual side effects which are not universal. The type, dosage and duration, may determine whether she will experience any sexual side effects, and the kind she will experience. Common side effects include vaginal pain, dryness, irritation, soreness, numbness or hypersensitivity of the breast area due to surgery, radiation burns and changes in the colour and texture of the breast, severe body image tissues, burning and vaginal atrophy due to chemotherapy and endocrine therapy.
‘’Their sexual schema sense of themselves as sexual beings, is altered due to drastic physical changes that they experience during treatment,’’ Sabitha Pillai-Friedman a sex therapist said.
Getting back to intercourse for a breast cancer patient is usually a big hurdle in which the onus is on them to overcome. There might be the need to make some adjustments in order for you to feel physically well enough to cope emotionally with any kind of sexual activity. Although some people might desire intimacy and sex almost immediately, but this is not so for everyone, and it is very vital to do what feels right or works for you.
A number of women that are being treated for breast cancer, find their sexual desire diminish. This can go on for months after treatment but with time, the feeling starts to improve positively. Sexual desire is one of the many reasons ladies choose to be sexually intimate while other reasons could include showing their lovebirds that they love them, to feel close to or loved by their spouse, getting back a sense of normality in order to release tension, to give or return comfort.
There is no need to swear off sex. It is still important to feel good about your body, and be close to your loved one. Here is how you can revive your sex life.
It is natural to feel uncomfortable with your man sexually after the surgery, as the last thing on a patient’s mind after being diagnosed and undergoing treatmen Is sex. This is because she might feel less sexual contact due to the side effect of the treatment, changes to the body and can be very devastating for intimate relationshi. And if not properly handled, it may create an invisible barrier between yourselves. Although you may not desire intercourse but still crave for the closeness that comes with intimacy.
Most patients often miss sharing a bed or having a cuddle with their spouse but are too shy to ask for these things. This is normal for real, some people mistake sex and intimacy to be the same thing; hence, they worry about being intimate because they don’t want to copulate. In fact, what they long for Is closeness, comfort from their significant other. Few are cool with just sharing a bed and snuggling up with occasional sexual intimacy which is not bad. The fundamental thing as a couple, is the ability to be able to share, and talk about your desires with one another. Partners who regularly accommodate differences in their needs to be sexual, usually end up finding their own way of solving it as couple.
You actually don’t need to worry about how you look or be fearful of revealing your scar, if that is how you feel, it is cool and normal. Just take your time to get to know your new body at your own pace. This may involve taking extra time while bathing to gently explore your body, by focusing on all your positive attributes like your eyes, shapely legs, pointed nose, smooth skin, etc. the list is endless. Also, you can spend time with your guy, gradually reintroducing yourselves through gentle massage and body exploration. You may discover places you did not know were nice to be touched. With time, you can widen this exploration to gentle sexual exploration of each other.
Note, making love with your spouse is a two way process. You may find that you get aroused and turned on through touching in new places, while the old ones’ may not feel so good anymore [ chemotherapy can cause problems with the nerve endings in sexual areas].
Feel free to change sex positions if you experience pain or discomfort with your old sexual styles, and experiment with new ones which can be an enjoyable thing to do. Ladies often find the need to use extra lubrications. Some women find the water-based work best for them. Your personal doctor should be able to discuss this with you.
Do not feel isolated by your emotions. Just know that others are facing the same issues and feeling exactly the same way you do. So, don’t personalize your problem and the best thing you can do is to open up with your feelings.
Having your spouse’ support and communicating with your doctor, mental health professional or a sex therapist is the way to go in regaining sexual intimacy after breast cancer. Communication is key.
First published in Vanguard Allure