The 4 Worst Things About Sex After Cancer
After having cancer, a person's sensitivities to touch, intimacy, and physical activities like sex, can be complicated. The things you wanted before may be different now. Read more below.
I will not claim to have been a crazy sex kitten before cancer because I was not. My husband and I were a normal married couple of 15 plus years with 4 kids. While we did not have wild sex nightly, we were active and I certainly was not self conscious. I am not going to beat around any bushes here - this post is about trying desperately to get back what was robbed from so many us after cancer: sex.
If you have read anything I write, you know that I am not a doctor, rocket scientist or even a pharmacist so that is not where I am going here. I want to talk mental and why this is such a sexual mind fuck. I hope you don't mind my use of the phrase, but that's just the best way I can put it.
1. It’s hard to feel sexy after cancer.
- My husband loves me, supports me and cherishes me like the princess I am. Tells me I am gorgeous, even hot. He does not care a freaking damn about my scars or how much weight cancer has made me gain. Why do I have a problem feeling sexy as he touches me? In my head I wonder how can he feel that way when I can not even stand to see myself. I do not even want to touch myself, why on earth would he want to? What does he find
- in these extra 15 pounds of scared ragged doll? I just do not see it. I am self conscious as he touches me- even pulling away because I am afraid that if he touches my scars (and there are many) he will realize how ugly and broken I am. I am nervous that he will realize that under the clothes I really am what I see: a mess. Not the women he has created in his eyes. I want to keep my tank-top on and not show him what I see in the mirror. How can he feel sexy when I look like this? Better yet, how can I feel sexy? I want this part of me back.
2. Cancer stole my sex drive.
- I should fall his arms and be thrilled to have sex with my adoring husband...but I have no drive. None. I cannot even feel his hand under my shirt. I have no idea what part of my breast he is touching and it makes me mad. I try hard to push that anger aside and focus on how it used to feel but I want to cry. Tears of sadness and anger mixed together while I should be feeling lust and desire to be with the man I love so much. FUCK YOU, cancer. You did this to me and took my sense of feeling along with everything else. My nipples are gone too. Now I am a clean slate with no erotic zone- it makes me feel empty and for lack of creative terms: plain.
3. It hurts like hell.
- Now I am honest to a fault, I had a little filter once but cancer broke it right off. When you mess with a women’s hormone’s you then take not just her desire but her lubrication. Vaginal dryness is a HUGE factor. The
- of sex is massive - like grabbing the sheets,
“OMG when is this over”
- type of pain. Yes we have tried different gels but the issue is that you have check and make sure they are safe - some contain estrogen in them, which is a no no. So, now on top of all of the mental pain, there is physical pain too. I know what you are thinking reading this, "there are other things to do". Tell me would you want to do any of it after everything I just wrote? He does not want to hurt me so I mask the pain and push through. I miss orgasms so terribly bad. This is not something I lost with old age - I am 43 not 93. Cancer took this from me too. We need to be discussing this with our doctors to get help, don’t you think? But talking to them can be embarrassing and make you feel even more broken. It is a vicious cycle.
4. Sometimes I hate being touched.
- Wanting human touch is in our DNA but after all the poking, testing, prodding and surgeries, it almost makes me flinch now. At doctors appointments I feel like I am in a straight jacket and I need out of this body that I now have to live in. Every time I am touched it reminds me that I am in it with no way to get out.
- I miss the touch so bad yet at the same time I hate it because I can not feel it. I want to shove my husband’s hand away like he is violating me which makes no sense but all the sense in the world. To see him touch me but not feel it is mentally painful. And to tell him breaks his heart and mine. This part is just not fair.
Learning how to embrace this body is new and figuring out how to adjust is a challenge. It takes adults years to be self confident right? So how can we expect someone who just went through all this shit cancer gives us to adjust to this body over night? Cancer happens fast. After the treatment, surgeries, and the dust settles you are left staring in the mirror trying to understand this new you. There seems to be lack of support on how to proceed and cope with the aftermath. All the while your spouse just wants to get their groove back, wanting you to “get over it”. It is not as easy as sexy lingerie (and for the record that is HARD to find) and high heels. It is about getting outside your own head and grasping the reality of where you are now, who you are now and how you feel in this new changed body.
I just want to straighten my tiara, get into bed, have my husband hold me and feel it. Is that too much to ask?
A version of this post originally appeared on Wildfire Magazine.
AnnMarie Giannino-Otis took Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer on through sarcasm, photos and just being herself. She wants to take the scary out for women and give them the real uncensored side to this emotional, physical changing journey. Check out AnnMarie's page, Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer and connect with her on IHC under the username annmarieg.