SEX...something that is furthest from my mind at the moment.
For those of you who know me well, this will surprise you.
However, cancer has changed the way I view sex, my appetite for it and even how the act itself is performed.
I am suffering with unbelievable fatigue at the moment, a side effect not only of my particular treatment but also, of many treatments, not least chemotherapy.
Add in other side effects such as nausea, and joint and muscle pain, and the enthusiasm for any intimate frissons is very difficult to drum up.
I don’t even feel sexy. When I look in the mirror, I don’t like the body I see before me, which affects how I imagine my partner see me too. He assures me he still finds me sexy but I can’t get my head around that because I don’t look sexy to me. I used to have curves in all the right places, voluptuous bum and ample breasts. Now there are curves where I don’t want them to be and the other bits are just too large, from my perspective. Body dysmorphia definitely affects what happens in the bedroom, psychologically and physically.
There are other side effects of treatment which mean that sex is physically impossible, such as penile dysfunction and vaginal dryness. Although there are products available which can counteract these issues, they can still affect one emotionally.
Even after everything mentioned above, sex drive itself can be affected, not only a result of the side effects, but as a side effect in itself!
Throw into the mix the occasional forced separate bedrooms, which are wholly unhelpful to a healthy sex life.
However what I have discovered is that sex can be a very powerful drug which combats and alleviates many physical discomforts, as well as aids sleep.
This is because sex causes an increased production of oxytocin, which is often referred to as the “love hormone”. Before orgasm, oxytocin, released from the brain, surges and is accompanied by the release of endorphins, our natural pain-killing hormones. The area of the brain involved in pain reduction is highly activated during arousal and endorphins are released; endorphins soothe nerve impulses that cause menstrual cramps, migraines or joint pain. Oxytocin also affects the way we feel, helping us form strong emotional bonds as well as reduce pain *
The act of sex may have to be adapted to suit you and your partner. Some positions may be uncomfortable, due to scars or tumour masses. You may have to be more gentle then pre-cancer and of course, the fatigue may make you less energetic between the sheets.
Sex with cancer is a double-edged sword, whilst you may not have a sexual urge, it could be the best medicine for you.
So what are you waiting for? Whether or not you feel like it, grab your partner, have an early night and give yourself a dose of one of the best natural drugs there is. And if you don’t have a partner, that’s not a problem, self pleasuring through masturbation is just as effective.