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Beating the Big C isn’t just about getting the all clear from the medics – it’s also about getting quality back in all aspects of your life and relationships.

As a psychosexual therapist, couples often tell me that the experience of going through cancer together has brought them closer – they talk about supporting each other and battling through the illness as a team. But even though their relationship may have improved in significant ways, their sex life is sometimes a casualty.

Change in roles

For a start it can be difficult to re-establish intimacy after a period of illness because the relationship may have changed. Your partner may have slipped into the role of carer while you were undergoing your treatment and might find it difficult to get back to a more intimate way of relating.

Of course, it’s easier if you can talk openly and honestly about sex, but a lot of people just aren’t good at this. Particularly if you’re one of the generation who grew up NOT talking about sex. It doesn’t matter too much when it works, but when it goes wrong or stops happening then it’s very difficult to find your way back without honest talking.

Changes in your body

And then, of course, your body may have changed because of the cancer. A common side effect of treatment for women is early menopause with all the issues that brings; for men often they’re left battling with erectile dysfunction. Also, if you’ve had surgery as part of your treatment, you may be left with some body image issues.

Problems like these can all too easily make you feel like it’s the end of the road sexually. A lot of people resign themselves to this, believing that they should just be grateful to have beaten cancer and that the loss of their sex life is a small price to pay.

It’s possible to get it back!

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Having a rich, full, satisfying sex life is possible for everyone.
True, you need to alter your view of what sex is about and learn how to talk about it openly and honestly but learning to do these things is really worth it.

Going back to the start

There are so many wonderful ways of being sexual without penetrative sex. They’re probably the things you used to do at the beginning of your relationship. Sit down and talk about it. Talk about the things you used to do before you got to the main act. Talk about the things you might like to do. Start at the beginning again. Re-invent your sex life from the start. Take it slowly and enjoy every little thing you do. You might just find that your new sex life is actually far better and more meaningful than the sex life you had before your illness.

By Ellen Brady, Select Psychology’s Sex Therapist

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