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The key to great sex... even with cancer

Vol 3 - Communication is KEY

With Sex Ed 101 over, it's time to focus on what might be the most important tip in creating a great sex life... communication.

Right now you are thinking I am crazy. How do words create great sex? The truth is that sex is about communication. Discussing your needs, your fears, your desires, your wants, your don't wants, or your pleasures. Communication is the key to a successful sex life.

Cancer creates so many issues. And how are we to know how we will react until we actually do? Cancer creates unplanned issues, not only on you, but on those around you. Sometimes the idea of sharing more problems or fears with your partner seems like another unfair burden to add on them. Some people can talk and share everything, while others withdraw.

He sees you at your worst... post-surgical, scar-ridden, bald, while hurling over the toilet... and let's be honest, that isn't even the worst he is going to see. And his mindset has gone from husband to care provider.

Parts of your body that were once sensual are now medical. He might worry about hurting you? You might feel unattractive since he's not initiating sex. He might be worried you feel bad... you do have cancer and he sees you feel like crap, so he may thing asking for sex is a bit selfish? And you might respond by misinterpreting his fears as a lack of sexual desire.

This could be prevent... by talking. Words are important. The affects of cancer change the way we approach sex. Discussing things as they come up helps develop closeness through understanding each other's feelings. It also opens up the line of communication to actually discuss things you may or may not want to do, or new problems that you are facing sexually.

Sex is a great way to feel good. Sex is a great way to relieve stress. Sex can reinforce intimacy.

These are all good things to do while having cancer. Heck, they're good in general. Just because you have cancer does not mean you cannot have a fulfilling sex life.

Sexual Attitude

What is your attitude about sex? What is your attitude about yourself? A more satisfied sex life is influenced by feeling good about yourself and feeling good about sex.

Before talking about sex with your partner, you should know how you feel about it. Even before cancer you had a perception of sex. Your secret desires. Your likes and dislikes. Things that make you uncomfortable. Things you find erotic. Everyone has an opinion of sex, good or bad!

You may have had shame or negative views of sex before cancer. You may have enjoyed sex greatly or moderately before cancer. These views may still exist or cancer may have altered them. Plus, if you (or he) now has a lack of pleasure then it likely to negatively affect your sexual attitude.

Sex, especially in the media, happens between hot, healthy, young people. They have perfect bodies... and boobs. She will wear nice matching bras and panties every day. Where is her comfy underwear? Where are the sick girls? Where are the old girls? Apparently, you have to be young, fit, and attractive to have hot passionate sex.

Now not only do I have to compete with what the normal attractive female stereotype is, I have to do it while sick. 

Cancer has a way of attacking the things that are associate with female attractiveness. Bye hair. Bye body. Bye boobs. Bye fertility. Bye feeling good. Hello new me....

I am not going to lie. Even with all my studies in this field, even with going through a SAR (Sexual Attitude Reassessment, in grad school), even with all this knowledge... I am constantly working on my sexual attitude... my self attitude.

My self-esteem is constantly having to be restructured, especially since cancer. I have to communicate and reinforce a positive self-image when all I want to do is self-hate. It is hard. My next blog post will address self-image and sex.

Our attitudes about our self and how we view sex affect our pleasure. Plus, you may not know how something feels until you try it. Things that felt good may now feel bad. Things that felt bad may now feel good. Your sexual pleasures may have changed. Your partner is going to need direction and input from you. And don't forget, his pleasures may have changed too. Communication goes both ways!

Let's Talk!

You may need to adjust your sex life throughout cancer. Communicating that you're tired or hurt or sore or feel unattractive will help your partner adjust to your needs. But, it is up to you to communicate those needs to him. He can't read your mind... and you really probably don't want him to!

Starting the "sex talk" can be challenging for some people. They have no idea where to begin. So for those in need, here are a few questions to open up the line of communication:

  • What are things I do that make you sexually attracted to me?
  • During foreplay, what do you really like?
  • During sex, what things do you enjoy?
  • What are things you worry about with me sexually? 
  • Are there things you're afraid to do?
  • What can I do to show you I am sexually attracted to you?
  • What are ways we can improve our sex life?
  • How can we improve our intimacy?
  • Is there anything you would like to try, sexually?

Communication. Talk. Be honest. Listen. Be prepared to say and hear things that are uncomfortable. Try your best to understand each other. Share what you feel and any problems you are facing. Keep the lines of communication open. Work together for solutions. Have fun trying! And don't give up. It is a work in progress.

Sex is more than just sex. It might be time to be creative. You may not feel like intercourse, but other things are possible. From touching to cuddling, finding a way to connect is important. And the best way to figure out what you and your partner need to create a healthy sexual life is to talk.

A lack of communication can also affect sex. Ignoring issues will not help. It is not just a lack of discussing what you both need to work on in the bedroom, but the communication that goes on outside of it too. The stress of cancer. The bills. The kids. The housework. Life. And the possibility that he does have a negative response to some of the medical things that go along with cancer, and is afraid to tell you. All these things can create to an attitude of sexual avoidance.

If you're not do it, you're losing it.

When you are not making an effort to be sexually active, then you eventually get in a rut of not being sexually active. It becomes where justifying not having sex eventually makes it less important. I know, I know, but you have cancer. While it may be a good excuse, it isn't good enough. Don't let cancer take away your sexual pleasure.

It may be harder to achieve, but you can find what works for you. You can have cancer and a great sex life. It will take communication with your partner... and an adventurous approach to sexual pleasure.

PS. Doctor... what's up?

You know that question you want to ask the doctor? The one you don't ask, or if you do it is right when he is about to walk out the door. The one that is probably the most important to you, and the one you spent the whole time working up the nerve to ask. That is usually a sex question.

Talking about sex can be hard with your partner, and now I am saying to discuss it with your doctor. That is exactly what I am saying. How else are you going to find out (other than reading blogs like this, which are personal experiences and not medical advice)? You may wonder why things hurt. Or afraid that some sexual activity might hurt you? You may just want to see what is available to aid in dryness or pain? Ask. Always ask.

The worst case scenario is you ask the most embarrassing question your doctor has ever heard. And if that is the case it must have been a great question, so please send me it to me!

Communication is key to creating sexual satisfaction, and so is understanding how to reinforce a positive self-image after breast cancer... which I will talk about in the next Let's Talk about Sex blog post...


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