The Elephant In The Bedroom

Dr. Rick Wirtz Health Guide
  • Having cancer or any other chronic illness brings lots of changes to our lives. In fact, not very much is left unchanged once we have received the diagnosis and undergo surgery or treatment. So it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that our sexual lives will be affected!

    Let’s face it, we have such a hard time talking about sex and negotiating our sexual needs under the best of circumstances that it’s no wonder that we would really have a hard time with it when a serious illness interferes. So, let’s not ignore “the elephant in the bedroom” and instead dispel some myths and address some fears that can get in the way of you and your partner having the most fulfilling sexual relationship possible after diagnosis and treatment.
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    This deeply intimate and highly physical part of our relationship with our partner is obviously the most troublesome when the type of disease and treatment visibly affect our appearance. Worries about whether we are still attractive to our partner are very common and often prevent us from initiating any type of contact that might possibly lead to sexual activity. This is particularly the case when body parts that we associate with sex are altered or affected in any way.

    There is no way around it, you are going to have to talk about it! How are you feeling about the changes to your body and what are you worried your partner is thinking or feeling about those changes? What are your partner’s fears about being sexually intimate and how is he / she feeling about getting sexual needs fulfilled?

    Let’s tackle the simple stuff first. It is totally understandable that we would be afraid that having sex might be physically uncomfortable or, even worse, physically damaging in some way. Here’s where common sense is key and where a simple question to your doctor or other member of your treatment team will get you a straightforward answer.

    Now some people get really uncomfortable with such questions and worry that it might be viewed as unnatural to want to be sexually intimate when serious health matters are being confronted. But if you and your partner are interested and willing it can be a very important way to preserve some semblance of normal life and share a very powerful closeness which can be very comforting and soothing when the rest to the world seems to be spinning out of control.

    Ask the question!
Published On: January 19, 2007