Just in time for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a new book explores intimacy, sexuality and better living for women with cancer.
“Without my breasts, what am I? I see myself in the mirror every day. I’m only part of who I was. Nobody will want me.” -Naomi
Re-engaging with life after cancer treatment is often done with anxiety, fear of rejection and even depression. Women may bear this psychological load while pursuing their daily activities and trying to overcome the distancing from their partner that may have occurred during treatment.
At first, many couples feel that cancer slammed the door shut on their sex life. The woman may no longer get the same sensations, feel as much desire, or feel as good about her body as the did before treatment. Some women are not able to have intercourse. Partners are sometimes out of touch with each other and become uncomfortable, not knowing what to say and how to interact with each other emotionally, socially, sexually.
But when they can break through the communications barrier, they can rebuild their emotional and sexual intimacy together. Sex may not be the same as before, but a loving couple can reinvent their sex life – and that may bring them closer together.
Reinventing loving builds on creating the right atmosphere in the relationship, one that stores and increases the love kindling emotions between people. So, how can we turn on the sex part of our and our partner’s brains?
In our book — The Lovin’ Ain’t Over for Women with Cancer — we share some ideas that have worked for couples dealing with the effects of cancer treatment:
- Set the right tone daily by creating a loving environment with hugging, touching and kissing.
- Anticipation is the least expensive aphrodisiac available. Imagine what will happen and how the two of you will interact. Arousal builds with anticipation, and the mystery of what will happen adds to the excitement.
- Give yourself permission to accept how you feel. Work with how you are today, discover what turns you on today, and what makes you feel sexy now.
- Slow down your lovemaking and use sensual touching. Enjoy all the sensations you get while touching each other.
- Give your partner feedback, especially about what feels good.
- Use humor. There will be always be difficult moments when things don’t go right in both life and sex. If something doesn’t work, laugh – and then try something else.
Sex after cancer may be different, but it can still be great for both partners.
About the authors
Ralph and Barbara Alterowitz of The Center for Intimacy After Cancer Therapy are AASECT-certified sexuality counselors specializing in sex after cancer.