Embracing Sex After Breast Cancer
By Laura Shinn
If you’ve ever been through it yourself, or stood by a friend through her fight, you know that breast cancer recovery takes a superhuman level of energy. Sure, surgery, radiation and chemotherapy saves lives—but in the process of kicking cancer’s ass, they kick yours, too. Your hormones are all over the place. You’re ensconced in a New Normal, and it takes every last ounce of strength to get to a place where you’re even semi-ok with it.
So yeah. It makes sense that sex isn’t at the top of the priority list right now. The good news? That’s 100% normal. Lumpectomy or mastectomy may have changed your shape, and that’s just one of the things that’ll affect your desire—and perceived desirability.
The key word there? Perceived. Getting your groove back is an inside and outside job, says Dr. Pepper Schwartz, sociology professor at the University of Washington and co-author of Snap Strategies for Couples. “So much of what we are is psychological, but it’s physical, too. Finding something there that you like is up to you. It could be a new lipstick or a new haircut, but getting stronger is the quickest way to start feeling better.”
So...how to get your groove back? A few ways to start:
Communication. What might have worked in the Before Cancer Bedroom ain’t gonna work now. Foreplay is going to have to be different. In fact, everything leading up to those moments of intimacy may need to be renegotiated—but that’s ok. When you’re ready, talk to your partner. It could even be—dare we say it?—fun.
Lubrication. When you’re finally ready to go, your body may not be. Stress, medication, fear...all of that can lead to desert-like conditions south of the border. Lube is your friend. Having it readily available increases spontaneity and can decrease anxiety. And when it’s served up warm, we’re talking next level thrills. (Brace yourself.)
Realize how far you’ve come. Remember one thing: You’re a hero. “You should feel heroic about what you’ve conquered, and let that shine through,” says Schwartz. “You deserve that.”
Laura Shinn is a Portland, Oregon-based writer and strategist covering health, wellness, food, fashion and culture.