Subject still very taboo, the sexuality of people with cancer is the subject of an omerta. However, speaking out on this subject is very beneficial, even life-saving for patients. This allows on the one hand to inform and understand the different reasons for the lack of libido. On the other hand, the dialogue helps to put things into perspective and to find solutions to revive – very slowly – sexuality. Here are 4 valuable tips to help you in this complex process.
Respect your rhythm and listen to your desires
Libido and disease do not mix well, especially when we add to the general concern the side effects of treatments. However, you can keep in mind that this is completely normal: more than 50% of women experience a drop in desire during and after their cancer treatment. This partial or total loss of libido can last between 2 to 3 years, and in the vast majority of cases, the desire returns naturally. The first thing to do to better live your sexuality is to respect your rhythm. You don’t feel like having sex? It does not matter, your libido will revive when the time comes. Give yourself time to get your bearings gradually, without judgement. Things will then happen on their own.
Use appropriate treatment in case of pain
Treatments such as radiotherapy, chemotherapy and hormone therapy have side effects, such as early menopause. The same symptoms are then felt: hot flashes, vaginal dryness, pain. If this is your case, opt for management, talk to your gynecologist or your doctor, because these effects of menopause can hinder your (return to) sexuality. Qualified nursing staff can prescribe appropriate treatments to relieve your pain and improve your sexuality.
Reclaim your body
Being able to resume a life as a couple during or after breast cancer also means reconnecting with your self-confidence. Breast cancer can have a big impact on self-perception. For many women, hair and chest are body parts that play an important aesthetic role. It is therefore essential to find ways to reclaim your body. More and more care or treatments can help you in this process. Julie Meunier’s products, Les Franjynes, are intended, for example, to re-tame your identity. As she explained to us during an interview given last year: “For me, being able to reclaim my identity through the tying of the turban was therapeutic, in particular thanks to the sensation of doing my hair. I recognized myself in the mirror when I was dressed. And if this approach helps to go towards treatments, it also allows to regain confidence in one’s body and to reconnect with a positive self-image.
If you feel the need, breast reconstruction can also help you reconnect with your body. It is recommended in the 6 to 12 months following the mastectomy. Another approach is also recommended: continue (or start again) to touch yourself, so as not to lose (or regain) the link with your body. However, there are no set rules. Each woman has her own way of reconnecting with her own body. Only one element counts: that it does you good and allows you to get better. And again, allow yourself time to make this transition smoothly.
Communicate about feelings and needs
The taboo surrounding sexuality and cancer is tenacious. However, whether with your partner, with your doctor or within a support group, it can be lifesaving to speak freely.
Try as best you can to talk openly with your spouse: tell them how you feel about the disease. The effects of the treatments, your general state of mind or your transient feelings, your absence or reduction of libido, your apprehensions and fears concerning it… Dialogue is essential, because it will allow you to expel all these difficult to manage emotions. and to be reassured by your partner. This will also allow him not to feel rejected, to maintain a balance within your couple.
Also, call in specialists. Sexuality is complex and obscure, but above all shifting. It is governed by emotional as well as physical or relational factors. Understanding the sources of a sexual disorder can therefore take time and patience. Combining the help of a gynecologist and a sexologist is, in this case, a good combination to address these difficulties with the greatest possible serenity.
The discussion group is also an excellent way to take a step back from your situation. It allows you to feel understood, thanks to the similar experiences that other women are going through, especially concerning a subject that knows so many taboos. Finding that your peers can really understand you has a direct influence on your well-being and your perspective. If support groups interest you, do not hesitate to talk to your referring doctor, psychologist or gynecologist. Finally, the Instagram account “vons_y_prevention”, created by Alexandra Mariez Ferec, will allow you to find hundreds of testimonials from women who have had cancer.