I can’t say that breast cancer survivors come to my office in droves, though I know so many of them could benefit from sex therapy. When breast cancer goes into remission, it isn’t as if life goes back to normal. Normal has changed, normal is gone. What needs to be created is a “new normal.”
If couples are to thrive after treatment is completed, they need to accept that their life will be different. But different doesn’t have to mean worse. The couples who do best take their time, relearning how to be emotionally intimate in the face of a potentially frightening loss. They need to just be close, to tell one another how important they are to each other, and to engage in some simple touching and caressing.
I will carry the same message to the men in the audience who are prostate cancer survivors. A man may never experience his erection in the same way, but he can still enjoy sexual pleasure. His partner will need to accept this and support the survivor. Much can be done without a rigid erection! The other necessary ingredient is patience. It can take a long time before function is returned. In the meantime, the same encouragement is given to couples affected by prostate cancer, to delight in what can still be experienced.
I am looking forward to this and other engagements coming up later in the year where I can educate and reassure couples who have survived cancer, or any other physical illness.