‘How ya doin’ hug me baby
You know I don’t ask for much
But for a girl spendin’ time alone
Can be pretty rough’
My previous post, ‘Let’s talk about sex’, opened up the conversation in and around sex and living with cancer. Sex is a subject which is rarely, if not mentioned at all whilst you’re on this journey, certainly not on mine. So if laughter is deemed to be a good medicine, why isn’t sex? The truth is it is! Much like laughter, sex is an holistic remedy for many people. Unless you make the decision to purchase sexual services, sex is free and is there to be enjoyed. So why do I ask myself are people living with cancer and many long term chronic conditions, often excluded from this conversation? Why are we not being asked about the impact of which cancer can have on our sex lives? When we blossom into the wonderful world of adulthood as teenagers, we are taught about sex and reproduction. When we move into the sphere of post pregnancy, as women we are advised about sex through maternity services but when we move further along our journey and become chronically sick, sex seems to be off the table – literally! So why do we stop being spoken to at this stage? Why is sex suddenly a taboo? Why does sexual conversation become the elephant in the room? Don’t get me wrong, cancer can come along from the moment we are born, so it is possible for the same conversation to be absent as soon as cancer enters the arena at any stage of the journey. Health professionals may discuss the fertility of a child living with cancer with their parents or carer but do they enter into conversations around the world of sex? We can appreciate that saving the life of a loved one is of utmost priority but how will cancer treatment or radical surgery impact a child later in life? The answer is I do not know, perhaps someone could share their experience by commenting on this post.
Personally, I am 2 years post cancer op and sex has not been mentioned. Whilst I appreciate that not every patient wants to talk about it, some do, I do. We need to start talking, to learn how to navigate the mind, body image and existing and new relationships during and after cancer. We already have much to contend with so adding another layer of personal turmoil is really unwelcome and at times, unnecessary. If we have been through major surgery and/or cancer treatment which can be pretty tough, we need support to ‘fix’ the other side of us too -sex. Can you imagine how emotionally debilitating it must be for someone who previously enjoyed the pleasures of a healthy sex life pre-cancer? It can wreck a relationship, destroy the emotional wellbeing of the partnership and create social barriers to meeting new partners no matter what sexuality you happen to be. How do we explain our pain, our scars, our lack of confidence in our sexual performance, how do we do this? How do we support the partners to help themselves and the person living with cancer? Do we ask that sex is never to be explored again within their relationship? Are we saying that it is more important to think only of saving lives, that nothing else matters? If this is the case, why are we encouraged to return to ‘normality’ (whatever this looks like) to go and live your life when you are told you are in remission? This smacks of contradictory advice. If we think about the statistics on cancer survival, the rates are improving as more research provides us with innovative treatments. This means more people will live longer with cancer. Therefore, we must find a joined up approach within the healthcare sector to start having healthy discussions around sex- we must! If we continue to dismiss this important area of people’s lives, over time we will pay the ultimate price in increased mental health concerns, social isolation and rising costs due to GP and A&E visits.
Somebody needs to sit down and begin these conversations.
‘We can work it out’…
A huge thank you to a really supportive friend who recommended this track for the post, 🥰