Women quit sex after cancer.
I was saddened but not surprised to read a recent headline in the Daily Mirror newspaper quoted the results of a survey from the UK’s Breast Cancer Care charity.
They asked nearly 1,000 women of whom almost 95% said cancer treatment had stopped them from having sex. This figure included a high percentage of women who had been diagnosed three or more years previously indicating that women struggle with this problem for a long time.
Of the total of women surveyed 94% reported that side effects of their life-saving treatment such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or hormone therapies had stopped them having sex and they blamed the adverse impact on their libido, uncomfortable vaginal dryness and reduced self-esteem.
More than two-thirds said they were not warned about the possible detrimental impact of their treatment on their sex life and the majority reported they did not receive adequate support from health professionals.
Samia al Qadhi, Chief Executive of Breast Cancer Care, said, ‘These figures paint a troubling picture of the reality for countless women whose relationships and sex lives are sidelined – sometimes permanently.’ She continued, ‘Everyday we hear from women with dramatic scars, hair loss and intimate physical changes. The treatment for breast cancer can be utterly traumatic and side effects can continue for years.’
When I read the article in the newspaper, it hit home to me that for every traumatised woman there must be quite often a traumatised partner too also sidelined and cut adrift by a system not geared up to resolve the emotional fallout of these treatments and the inevitable physical changes that survival has demanded.
Clearly, cancer survivors, in particular, are exposed to PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) from both the diagnosis and the rigours of the treatment.
It feels cruel indeed to submit women to all of what cancer treatment entails to continue living and yet not be given every possible support to thrive fully.
I work with a lot of clients living with chronic disease and have worked over the years with many women survivors of breast cancer too.
The work often needs to begin by exploring how their image of who they are has so fundamentally changed and that naturally brings with it grief and sadness for the person they were before their illness.
There are similar feelings of loss acknowledged by most of my clients who are living with the fall-out from chronic disease. The loss of one’s former self is felt very strongly and deserves to be acknowledged and mourned.
There is no expectation of clients having to accommodate a blanket acceptance of everything that has happened to them on the premise of ‘I can’t dwell on this because I’m lucky to be alive’. The work gives a voice to all of their emotions from anger and sadness to fear, and the work can only be transformational if those emotions are acknowledged as valid.
When working therapeutically with life-changing issues such as these, it is wonderful to be able to work directly with the sub-conscious mind. Working in this way cuts through all of the subtle and not so subtle pressure to be brave or stoic or whatever else is going on so that powerful changing can be made at a profound level.
It is important not to underestimate the enduring trauma of partners, parents and other family members too. Their need for therapy to resolve the residual fears they are holding on to and their own sadness can get lost in the relief of their loved one’s recovery. However, it is vital to work so that everyone is able to unite once more in their new landscape.
Survivors of cancer need to find a way to fully come home to themselves and that journey is just as vital for their complete recovery than the chemo or whatever else they had. Therapy can bring them back to who they are, even as charged as they may be. It can also give them the choice and hopefully the desire to reconnect with the sexual part of themselves and renew their emotional relationships. The aim is never just to survive but to fully thrive again.
If you have recovered from cancer or know someone who has who continues to struggle to reconnect with who they are then you can book an obligation free call with me here on this page. If you thought survival was your goal but now you’re ready to thrive then its time to reach out.
If you want to lead a happier more fulfilled life it’s almost impossible when you’re doubting yourself or sabotaging your chances of success. Therapy isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve ‘tried everything’ it could be just what you need. You can book an obligation-free 30-minute discovery call to find out for yourself.