Sex and Cancer

Why is the thing we think about most talked about the least?!?

“It’s not that important, at least I’m alive.”

“I’ll do whatever it takes to be here.”

Really?! I’m sorry but I had enjoyed sex before cancer so why should I not now? If all goes well, I still have a lot of years left on this earth. I’m married and sex is a pretty important part of our relationship and should be a part of any healthy relationship.

It was shocking to me that not one of my doctors addressed this topic, especially because my husband accompanied me to every appointment! They have discovered all kinds of cancer treatments and hormone medications that will prolong my life. Unfortunately, they also cause numerous side effects and while some were brought up others were ignored, the biggest one being, how it would affect my sex life.

Many cancer treatments cause low sex drive and diminish your desire to be with your partner. Well, this is a pretty big deal to me!  Vaginal dryness during chemo was extremely painful but I guess it was assumed we weren’t having sex. Were we not supposed to? Was it dangerous for my partner? Not one doctor said anything about this. I also had a year of targeted immunotherapy. Were we supposed to not have sex during that year too!? How could this topic be completely ignored?

Many women I have personally spoken with have little to no sex drive after treatment. On top of this, we are dealing with weight gain, depression caused by the medications and by the reality of our situation. We have scars on our body, numbness under our arms from lymph node removals and our breast tissue has been cut off and have no feeling. It’s difficult for our partners. Our breasts might look like real breasts but they do not respond in the way that they used to. Our partners want to touch them, kiss them, but it does nothing for us. It’s difficult for the relationship. Others who have chosen to remain flat are dealing with a new body image and those who have also lost their nipples can feel differently about their attractiveness and body image.

When researching this topic, I read, “Not all doctors and nurses are comfortable discussing sexual issues and practices. Most doctors don't routinely ask about your sex life. And patients don't usually begin to discuss their love life with a doctor who hasn't mentioned it…(So) Nobody's talking!”