Sex after Cancer
Michelle’s Top Ten Tips on Intimacy and sexuality after a Cervical Cancer diagnosis
- Find someone--a partner, friend, therapist, another survivor or family member, that you can be open and honest with about your feelings and your fears. You have to talk about them to move past them.
- Get outside your own head--listen to your favorite music, read a book, take a long hot bath. A woman's mind can be her own worst enemy when trying to rekindled sexuality and intimacy.
- It takes work...hard work and the work comes before the desire returns; don't wait on it, go find it. Yes, there will be pain but this too shall pass with time.
- Your experience with cancer has changed you---mind, body and soul, explore it all! The greatest levels of intimacy come from emotionally letting go of the walls and making ourselves vulnerable to another human being.
- Naked cuddle time--kissing, holding, and caressing without the pressure of performing a sexual act stimulates trust, understanding, intimacy and eventually desire.
- Ask your doctor for a set of dilators and use them daily!!!! Remember the vagina is a muscle. It can shrink from radiation treatment and surgery. Remember, the vagina stretches during child birth; it can stretch back out for enjoyable sex again. But it takes time. Think of it as your new exercise program and stay faithful, after the pain comes the pleasure! As with any good exercise program, consistency is the key...use it or lose it.
- Invest in a good lubricant and don't be afraid to use it...I love Astroglide, myself!
- Remember, you probably created boundaries with your partner during your treatment. Be sure to invite him back and give him permission to touch your body...don't be afraid to provide a little direction; he doesn't know what feels good unless you share.
- Practice makes perfect...Take it slowly, don't impose any pressure on yourself; initially you may only be able to handle penetration for a few minutes. It's OK and NORMAL! Do only what you can. Don't loose hope and don't get discouraged...practice, practice, practice.
- Be patient with yourself...It takes times, but you can achieve great sex again and even closer intimacy than you every experienced before!
Michelle is a cervical cancer survivor, who battled this disease at 26 and a reoccurrence at 29. She underwent several treatments including a radical trachelectomy, hysterectomy, partial vaginalectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. She is an advocate, author and motivational speaker committed to raising awareness about this easily preventable disease.
Tips from one Partner to another…
- Show your support! Attend as many doctor’s/treatment appointments as possible; even when she tells you that you don’t have to…go anyways. This allows you to live the experience/journey with her; something you are doing together.
- Your level of knowledge and interest in her condition helps you better cope and understand what she is experiencing, and it gives her confidence in knowing she can talk with you because the two of you are in this together.
- Patience is the Key! Know your loved one needs space and permission to cope in her own way. I didn’t want my wife to work while doing chemo and radiation but she insisted. Every night she came home exhausted and I’d lecture her. What I didn’t realize was although it was draining on her physically; mentally it was uplifting and gave her a reason to keep fighting. Working made her feel needed. Let your loved one find her own way to cope and respect her choices.
- When our loved ones are in pain we often try to ‘fix’ the problem…resist this urge. Ask questions and truly listen to what she has to say. Validate her feelings; even if they seem irrational. Just be her life preserver and flow through the storm with her knowing the sun will shine again. This act will increase emotional intimacy between the two of you.
- Remember to take cues from her. Let her know its ok to give you direction and that you welcome the feedback. It can be as simply as how to rub her head/feet or more intimate like where to touch her in that special place. Let her walk you through exploring her body…things are different now…be open to learning.
- Remember, her emotional and psychological scars linger long after the physical wounds heal…have patience and take it slow. Find new ways to create intimacy and closeness…cuddle, read together, take a bubble bath, back rubs, phone sex, etc.
Mark Whitlock is proud to be a cervical cancer advocate! His wife Michelle is a two time cervical cancer survivor. They are expecting their first child this fall via a surrogate.