Intimacy after breast cancer treatment
Dear Ate Anna,
My wife has recently had breast cancer treatments. Thankfully, she is OK, and is at home and feeling better. Is there anything we should know or be careful about when showing care for each other?
Dear Worried Husband,
Thank you for your email. I am very glad your wife is feeling better.
A cancer diagnosis can bring a very difficult time for the family. Each person is experiencing different types of emotions and needs different things. I would recommend communicating with each other as much as you can about every partner’s needs, and how you can care for each other while she is recovering.
It is important to talk together about physical touch during this time. Unfortunately, there is no manual about how to love each other after breast cancer treatment. Every person is different and responds to treatment differently. For some people, their desire for sex does not change, and for others their desire may change significantly.
It can be normal for her to experience one or more of these side effects:
- decreased interest in sexual touching
- being too tired to engage in sexual touching
- feelings of fear, anxiety, guilt, frustration or sadness regarding sexuality
- changes in sexual response (this may be linked to medication use)
It can also be normal for you, as her spouse, to experience feelings of confusion, stress, anxiety, sadness and other things as you work through this together.
This may feel heavy, but there are many things you can do. Here are some ideas:
- talk as much as you can about your feelings and your desires, including any fears you both may have
- make a plan beforehand, talking about what types of activities you will be trying and any boundaries either of you need
- go slowly and gently as you two get to better understand any emotions and physical changes
- remember there are many ways to express care for each other through touch; if one type of touch isn’t working, try others
- be as patient as possible with yourselves and with each other. This can be a challenging time
A lot of this information came from the Canadian Cancer Society. They have a great online resource that you can access at www.cancer.ca. They have specific pages on sexuality and cancer that may be helpful.
And before you start any serious touching, I encourage her to talk with her health care team about sexual intimacy. They may have information about her specific case, which is important for her to know.
Experiencing cancer treatment can be very challenging as a family. I strongly encourage you to talk together as much as possible about each of your needs and feelings, and to work together as much as possible.
All the best,
Ate Anna welcomes your questions and comments. Please write to: Ate Anna, Suite 200- 226 Osborne St. N., Winnipeg, MB R3C 1V4 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please visit us at www.serc.mb.ca. You will find reliable information and links for many resources on the subject of sexuality.