Love, Intimacy, and Breast Cancer
What now? Here are insights on intimacy from women living – and loving – with breast cancer.
Cynthia Dennison Haines, MD
Breast cancer may bring challenges in love, sex, and intimacy. Read answers to common questions for women with breast cancer.
Will my marriage fall apart?
This diagnosis can make or break a marriage. You'll find that you have a better marriage after breast cancer, or you'll have no marriage. Fortunately, most women find the diagnosis makes a marriage stronger.
Your fight against breast cancer truly is a battle in the medical trenches. Let your husband or boyfriend climb in the trenches with you. Let him help in any way he wants. Some husbands come to every medical appointment and take notes. Some have their hands full just helping with the grocery shopping.
The point is, give your husband permission to be as involved as he wants. And understand that not every man can climb into the trench with you.
If you didn't have a strong relationship before your diagnosis, you may face a rough time now. But if you're both willing to work, you can find ways to get back to the love you shared years ago. A crisis has a way of drawing a couple closer.
Will I ever want to have sex again?
Sex sure isn't at the top of a woman's mind after her diagnosis, and treatment doesn't help! You're sore, you're scared, and some of the treatments cause vaginal dryness. It's common on the breast cancer message boards to see a posting that says, "Sex? What's that?"
Talk with your guy about it. He needs to understand how you feel, and that you won't feel this bad forever. Go slow, at your own pace.
Keep in mind that most chemotherapy puts women into premature menopause, so you may experience hot flashes along with vaginal dryness. Talk to your doctor about what you can do to reduce menopausal symptoms. And when you do want to try sex, don't hesitate to use a vaginal lubricant.
Some positions may hurt, such as lying on the side where you had your mastectomy. Certain activities that once gave you pleasure may not any more. Your partner needs you to be his guide. When you feel like having sex, let him know. Be willing to experiment. Your body isn't exactly the same. Why should you follow the same sex routine?
Remember, once you're feeling healthy, you can get back your sex drive. While you're feeling sick, don't concern yourself with anything except feeling better.