Vol. 1 - The elephant in the room
The problem is we don't talk about sex, or even worse, about sexual problems.
No one really wants to think about that part of our overall health, but sexual health is part of one's total health. To be honest, I don't even think any of my doctors has even brought up the topic. Not during pre-treatment, treatment, or post-treatment... it's been let's not talk about sex.
Talking about sex is the elephant in the room.
Let's be honest, our first priority tends to be surviving and managing cancer treatment. Sex is not exactly our first or even second thought. I am pretty sure that your first question after hearing you have cancer is not, "So let's talk about how that is going to affect me, sexually."
Well, even if you do not ask that immediately, cancer affects sexuality. The impact on sex happens pretty fast. There are many hits to one's sexual self: fertility, physical changes from hair loss to body changes, the side effects of treatment, and those long-term or lasting effects. From self-image to fertility to physical responses, sexual health is affected.
Sex appears to be taboo, even for doctors. And as patients, it is almost like we're embarrassed to ask a sex question. If the doctor does not bringing it up, then who wants to admit that it is a problem... but it is. I mean we are already discussing graphic things, countless people are handling our boobs, so why not throw in "my vagina is dry", "it hurts when my breast are touched", "I am not orgasmic like I used to be"... I mean who wants to admit that?
It's time to talk about sex; address the elephant in the room.
I was fortunate, because I have a MPH in Human Sexuality. I was given knowledge and training that helped me. Without that insight I would be less able to cope or understand my body, thoughts, or general sexual health. I was lucky; it was like I had been given a sexual health manual for breast cancer. Over time I noticed I was one of the few that got that information. Honestly, I was surprised at the medical communities lack of addressing sexual health's impact from cancer.
Sexual health is not just the mechanics of sex, it goes beyond our physical responses. It is about how we feel about our own bodies. It is how we communicate our needs. It is about the physical responses and mechanics too. Cancer affects each of those areas in ways that can create short-term, long-term, or permanent changes. We are having to rediscover or address each of those areas while coping with cancer. Not an easy feat!
Sex and intimacy are about communication. Having the ability to share and discuss desires, fears, needs, and more with someone who can listen and share back. I am continually hearing comments from my breast cancer friends saying they have various problems since treatment. I have dealt with sexual side effects too. But who is listening and talking about sex and cancer?
Let's talk about sex!
I am planning to do a series that addresses multiple sexual health issues. I am hoping to share some of my educational knowledge, personal experiences, and questions from others. So, if you have sex question since breast cancer, please email me via the blog's contact link or email email@example.com. Hopefully, we can make talking about sex a little less intimidating.
Side note: Look for new posts addressing issues soon. Also, I am not a "medical professional", but I am willing address Sexological issues and hopefully let you know that you are not alone.