I loved it when breast surgeon and breast cancer advocate Susan Love said she would rather talk about death than sex. I think it puts in perspective how very difficult it is to discuss something that has always been seen as mystical, and yet, as we all know, people who can talk about it have the best sex lives.
I say "people" because single people get cancer too. So, whether single or married or divorced or whatever, cancer changes our perspective on sex. When I wrote my book "The Breast Cancer Companion," I wanted to include sex because it had been an issue in my marriage and I knew it would be for other women.
What surprised me was the wide variation of responses that women and men gave me when I asked about sex. One woman said she and her husband had become so close during the cancer experience that she was having trouble relating to him sexually, and another said she refused to talk about sex because they never had. It had been the one thing in their marriage that worked without words or communication of any kind and now the deal had changed and she was angry.
For men who get cancer the issues can be the same or different. Some men see it as their place to take charge in the bedroom, and if they feel diminished physically because they don't feel well or they have had to let their wives take care of them, they may have trouble finding their role again.
The bottom line is that cancer changes us, mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually and if you look at that list, each of those facets is part of sex. It also changes our partners who will, perhaps, see us differently than they ever have. How these changes play out in sex will depend on the two people who have gone through the experience and their commitment to the relationship and each other.
For single people it's a whole different ball game as they try to find a life partner with the added chapters of their life that cancer brings. Fertility may be affected by cancer, and there is always the question, "So when do I tell him or her that I have had cancer."
Talk to people who have been there, get help to find your way, every piece of advice comes from a core message: communicate. Communicate with your partner, your potential partners, yourself.
We have done a number of stories about sex in CURE
. Go to www.curetoday.com and put sex in the search field and have fun.