Let's Talk About Sex

Let’s talk about sex. It is a taboo topic, but many cancer patients and survivors experience issues with their sex life before, during, or after treatments. For those who are in committed relationships or marriages can experience intimacy issues. The intimacy between couples is an essential aspect of closeness that can become compromised because of cancer.

Impact on intimacy not uncommon

In a recent Blood-Cancer.com poll, when asked: “How has blood cancer affected your sex life?” forty-five percent answered very negatively, and twenty-five percent somewhat negatively. The reality is that even before treatment starts the symptoms of cancer can already be causing conflict without one, even realizing it. The fatigue, sleeplessness, weakness, and other symptoms can make sex the last thing on a person’s mind.

Guilt replaced by fear

For months, even years, cancer can be growing inside you, and you don’t even know it. Eventually, when there is a diagnosis, the symptoms that may have seemed unrelated finally make sense. Often there has been a guilt brewing for not wanting intimacy, but it is replaced with fear, fear for your life.

The singular focus during treatment is wellness; fighting cancer is all-consuming. Relationships emotionally and sexually suffer. While many partners are supportive and understanding, many feel left out and alone. They are fearful for their loved one often craving closeness. During chemotherapy, nausea, exhaustion, and physical changes physically break the patient. Sometimes the treatment can be even more taxing than cancer appeared to be. Changes, including weight loss, hair loss, and scaly skin, often make a patient feel less desirable.

A lonely journey for patients and loved ones

Loved ones want to be a part of the journey. They want to comfort you. Still a battle with cancer can feel like a singular battle one you have to face day by day alone. It is difficult for anyone who has not been through the journey to truly understand. They may say, “We have cancer.” They cannot know what it is like to be you. It is easy to shut them out when they try to reach out.

Physical and mental changes even after treatment ends

Even after treatment ends, lingering side effects can continue. Many women go into early menopause or experience hormonal changes that can make sexual desire dissipate. Beyond the physical changes are the emotional stress incurred. Even if one is lucky enough to be in remission or have a respite during treatments for an ongoing cancer battle, the burden of fighting for one’s life can be devastating mentally. Even when there is no evidence of disease, there are impending scans and fear of return.

It can be comforting to know when to give space and when to step up. It is easy to lose sight of what makes relationships work when feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and even lonely. Caregivers and cancer patients alike must find a compromise in closeness, one that allows the cancer patient to feel supported, but respects their desires or lack thereof. Together hopefully, they can successfully navigate their new normal.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Blood-Cancer.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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