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Anne's Vulva Cancer Journal

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Part 2 -  Sex after Cancer

Is there ever sex again?....Have you put sex "on the shelf"?

Well I won't make you read through the whole article to find out. YES, there is sex after vulvar cancer.

Cancer can take a toll on your physical and mental health. It can also affect your sexual health a great deal. A changed body image, the stress of fighting your disease, or side effects of treatment can complicate life in general to say the least. So if you have put sex on the shelf and feel like taking it down, this article is for you. I hope that this article can help you start on the right pathway to being sexually active again.

Intimacy may be easier said than done at times, finding ways to have pleasure for the first time after surgery or a bad illness can be scary. The pain and fear can also lead to frustration and tension between partners. It can affect your sex life like a bomb hit it. Don't feel like you are alone. You are not the first nor will you be the last person on this earth to to feel this way.

Making the first move is the hardest part. When really is a good time? You know yourself and your partner the best. You may no longer feel as young and attractive, you may have trouble sleeping, and at times your whole body can feel like a truck just ran over it.  But there are days when you will feel better. They are the days that you have to take advantage of. Sexual activity may be a less spontaneous, more planned activity in order to address issues of fatigue & pain. Maybe you can plan to have sex an hour after taking your pain medication. Is there a certain time of day that is best for you?

What is sex? Well I am not going to get into the birds and the bees. I asked this question for you to imagine what you consider sex is? We all have different views and meanings.  We have all been taught that sex has to be intercourse in the traditional manner.  Well that is just not so. Sex can be whatever you and your partner what it to be. Whatever is comfortable and fun for you both.  We all fear the unknown, so the more we learn about our sexuality the less we will be afraid. You can have great fun exploring each other.

So where do you start? Everyone is different, doing something you are both comfortable with to start is best. Just touching can help you feel cared for and reduce anxiety and depression. So concentrate on showing your feelings for one another in other ways by enjoying being close to each other, touching, stroking and massaging each other.  A back rub with some scented oil can be a good start.  Another strategy may include trying different positions.  Experiment alternative methods of pleasuring.  Most of all take things at your own pace until you are both comfortable. 

Set ground rules, it is important that you both agree on what is acceptable to each of you right from the start. Talk to your partner about your worries and fears. Don't be afraid to ask each other what is ok and what is not. While talking about sex can be difficult, checking out each other's preferences can be very reassuring. Your partner also may have fears, they may fear that they will hurt you. They may want to try something new but are not sure about it. You may be pleasantly surprised that each of you have new ideas but just have not had the opportunity to talk about it.
Remember - problems with sex are very common. They just aren't talked about much. You never hear anybody boasting about their sexual problems. Talking about sex is difficult and can be very embarrassing at times. It often needs a lot of courage to talk about it. This is your partner you are talking to, not a stranger on the street corner.  Tell them how you really feel, honesty and complete openness are key.  Remember to keep things light. A sense of humor can help you get through some awkward situations. Your first attempts at intimacy might be disappointing. You might need to re-learn how to feel and give pleasure again. Do not put any pressure on each other. Once you discover that magic between the two of you again it will become easier.  The main thing is to keep the communication lines open. Changing any aspect of your relationship can be scary and unsettling. Be patient and loving with each other as you work towards improving your sex life, and keep talking about how you are feeling and what to try next. Yes it is hard for men to keep their rocket on its launch pad, but by slowing down you can really learn about your mate.  For many couples it is possible to discover sensual pleasures that they thought they would never have done. Only to find out that having sex is better than ever. Most of all be open-minded and respectful of your partner. Look for "new ways to get closer, emotionally and physically." Before you know it you will be making heaven and earth move with your own method.

In order to attain the type of intimacy that great sex requires, trust and security are essential.

Talk about it afterwards. In as much detail as you can manage, talk about what you did. Discuss what you liked, why you liked it and how you can recreate it or improve it. You are in this together; discuss what worked and what didn't, but focus on what worked.

Tips for a special encounter:

  • Arrange a night in a hotel a change of scenery or routine often works wonders.

  • Make your surroundings warm and atmospheric. Soft music, candles, wine can all help to put you in the mood.

  • Treat yourself to a new nightgown. So you are not wearing the one you wore when you were sick.

  • Ensure your privacy. Send children off to stay with friends or relatives overnight, or get someone to take them out for an afternoon. Make sure that no one can bother you. Turn the ringer off of the phone and let the answering machine take it.

  • Watch a romantic movie together.


Have a great time!

Anne :)

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