A roller coaster is tame compared to the ups and downs of a breast cancer diagnosis. When you feel that your life is on the line, intimacy with your partner may be the last thing on your mind… for now. What about later?
Women and men are sexual beings and body image is a huge part of it. It is normal to want things the way they were before cancer. Will it be the same? Possibly not, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be satisfying. The first thing to realize is that you are not alone with your feelings and there is no reason to be embarrassed about them.
Here are five things to help you regain the intimacy that you feared might be gone forever.
1. Diet and Exercise
A healthy relationship starts with a healthy body. After treatment for breast cancer, it is more vital than ever that you take care of your body and perhaps lose chemo-induced weight. The physical toll that breast cancer, chemotherapy, and radiation takes on a body is daunting. The emotional toll is just as formidable. Eating healthy and getting enough exercise will help you gain the confidence you may have lost and let you feel like the survivor you are. When you feel stronger, intimacy may follow naturally.
2. Pamper Yourself
In addition to watching your diet and getting exercise, be good to your self. Treat yourself to activities that help awaken your sensuality. Take bubble baths or treat yourself to a massage. Wear romantic lingerie that may help you and your partner get in the mood. If scars are an emotional impediment, lingerie may help cover them.
Open and honest communication is essential in any relationship, with or without a breast cancer diagnosis. You and your partner may experience issues of fear, confusion, and lowered self-esteem. If you can candidly discuss your feelings, you will be on the path toward renewed intimacy. If all you can handle for now is to cuddle and kiss, be honest with your partner. Also, be open about what feels good and what doesn’t. If you are having trouble conveying your wants and needs, or if your partner cannot express his or her fears, perhaps counseling is the answer.
After treatment for breast cancer, the last thing you may want to think about is more medication. But if symptoms of vaginal dryness, impotency, pain, or depression are a roadblock to intimacy, there are medications that can help. Hormonal and non-hormonal oral and vaginal meds are available. For men, there are well-promoted prescriptions to help. Lidocaine may be appropriate for pain associated with sex. And many prescription medications are available to alleviate depression or anxiety. Don’t be afraid to ask your health care team.
5. Ask for Help
Do you feel less attractive? Is your partner hesitant to show you affection? Are you hesitant to talk about your feelings?
Intimacy can be a confusing and complex subject. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your emotional health is just as important as your physical health. In fact, they are closely intertwined.
Put any embarrassment aside. Talk to your health care team. While your oncologist or your primary care physician may not specialize in sexual and emotional intimacy, there are professionals who do! You may also benefit from counseling or a support group of people going through the same thing. Ask for a referral. Albie Aware can help.
For information on all aspects of breast cancer, please reach out to Albie Aware at 916-927-1592 or firstname.lastname@example.org.