Survivorship: Intimacy

romance

Being diagnosed with breast cancer can take a physical toll on your body, not to mention your intimate and sexual health. Breast cancer and treatment for breast cancer can sometimes make it difficult to be sexual and intimate with another person, and that is okay and natural.

Self-Image

A woman’s breasts symbolize so many things, including motherhood, sexuality and being a woman. For some women, breasts now represent cancer. Most women, and their partners, will need to take time to grieve the loss of (or changes in) their breast(s).

Joining a support group may help you cope with the changes in your body and self-image. Remind yourself that healing takes time and at some point, you will become more comfortable with your new normal.

Accepting yourself as you are is all part of the process.

How to Talk with Your Partner

While there is no such thing as a perfect time to talk, certain times are better than others. Choose a moment when you are alone and relaxed. When you feel comfortable, give yourself and your partner permission to talk about your feelings, both good and bad. Above all else, be honest.

Your biggest fears. You may not feel pretty or worry that your partner finds you less attractive. You may be afraid your partner will reject or leave you due to your breast cancer.

Your partner’s fears. Your partner may be afraid of physically hurting you during sex. He/she may be confused or unsure of the best way to show support and affection and is waiting on you for cues on when to resume an intimate and/or sexual relationship.

Birth control. Treatments such as radiation or chemotherapy and tamoxifen can cause birth defects, so it is import to talk to your partner about birth control. After treatment, do not assume that you can no longer become pregnant.

Your “new” sex life. Breast cancer may change what you like to do and how you like to be touched during sex. You may not even want to have sex for a while, so it is important to talk to your partner about how you are feeling.

Other Things You Can Do

Get romantic. Bring romance back by planning a candlelight dinner, taking a bubble bath or other romantic gestures. Take the time to nurture your sexuality.

Go slow. Kissing and touching can provide pleasure and help with intimacy. Do not rush into something until you feel comfortable with it.

Get comfortable. Sex may be painful because of changes in your body, due to breast cancer treatment.

Try using water-based lubricants just before sex. To help with vaginal dryness, try an estrogen-free vaginal moisturizer. These products are available over the counter without a prescription. Since they do not contain estrogen, they’re safe for breast cancer survivors. If vaginal dryness is still a problem, contact your doctor.

Try something different. Change your sexual routine- try new things and have fun!

Get some advice. Consider seeking advice from a marriage counselor, sex therapist or joining a support group. You can go with your partner or by yourself.

Make sure to share this information with your partner. Getting the intimacy you need should not be your responsibility alone.

 

Learn more: http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/SexandSexuality.html

 

Survivorship: Co-Survivors & Kids

co survivor

What Can I Do? What Can I Say?

It doesn’t take time-consuming and heroic gestures to be a good co-survivor. Sometimes being there and listening is all that matters. Here are just a few ideas of what co-survivors can do to help a breast cancer survivor:

  • Run errands
  • Send a “Thinking of You” card
  • Take him/her to an appointment
  • Create an online calendar to organize meal deliveries, rides and other tasks
  • Bring together family, friends and coworkers to help support and care for your loved one through a caring social network and planner. CaringBridge provides sites where friends and family can stay connected and updated on someone’s health event and leave messages of hope and encouragement. The planner also gives you the power to set a community of support in motion by organizing meals, tasks and other helpful activities.

Advice for the Caregiver

Communicate: Keep communication between you and your loved one open and honest. Understand that he/she will often worry just as much about you as you do about him/her.

Understand: Learn more about the experiences of others diagnosed with breast cancer.

Talk Medicalese: Learn to better communicate with your loved one’s health care team. This can be a big help when you accompany your loved one to appointments.

Talking to Your Children About Your Diagnosis

Each child and each family is unique, and helping children cope with a loved one’s diagnosis can present many challenges.

However you decide to tell your children, be as open and honest as possible no matter how hard it may seem. You decide how much you want to say. Remember that children, just like adults, will fill in wherever you leave gaps. And because children may not know as much as adults, it is more likely that what they fill the gaps with will be wrong.

Encourage your children to talk to you and to ask questions. Giving honest, realistic answers to their questions will help lessen their fears. If you are going to be gone for a few days, if you are getting sick from the treatment or if you are losing your hair or a breast, let your children know why this is happening. Explain anything that changes their daily routine.

It is a good idea to let your children’s teachers know what you are going through — especially for younger children. The teachers may be able to help the children cope if they spend most of the day at school.

Finally, just as your children depend on you, you can depend on them too. They can be, and probably want to be, a source of support for you. They will want to listen to you, hug you, kiss you and spend time with you. Let them.

Learn more: http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/FriendsampFamily.html