About The Lovin' Ain't Over for Women WIth Cancer
The Lovin' Ain't Over for Women with Cancer takes a frank and open approach to discussing the issues with sexuality and intimacy that many women experience after undergoing cancer treatment. It guides women and their partners with facts, knowledge and techniques that have worked for other women, and strategies recommended by top health professionals.
The book takes a holistic view of creating a good sex life after female cancer treatment. It recognizes that a strong sense of self, and good communication between the partners, are essential to a happy and satisfying sexual experience, and gives pointers and examples to help on that path. It provides facts about women’s bodies and sexual function, and the effects of cancer therapies. It covers information about aids and medications in understandable language. It contains many practical suggestions and examples from women who have gone through the experience of breast and gynecological cancers, and strategies recommended by top sexual health professionals.
The goal is to help readers cope and take the necessary action to make their sex lives as vibrant, vital, and fulfilling as they would like. Each chapter provides women and their partners with information and options. In plain, frank language, it offers a reader-friendly, proactive, practical, and optimistic guide for women and couples struggling with sexual difficulties after cancer.
Our aim is to help you understand the facts and be aware of your options regarding the renewal of intimacy after struggling with the physical, emotional, and psychological impact of diagnosis and treatment. With this information, a woman or couple will have tools at their disposal to overcome the challenges. You can use this content to create your personal path to reinvigorating your love life.
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Table of Content :: Exceprt from Chapter
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Cancer and “The New Woman”
My hair was my crowning glory. The first thing people often mentioned after they
met me was that I had beautiful hair. So you can understand how freaked out I
was when I saw a big clump in my hand while showering. This was the moment I had
dreaded. I had gotten somewhat complacent because it had not happened after so
much therapy. Other women in the support group kept saying it would happen.
But I was prepared. After the first clump came out, I bought two wigs. It didn’t
make me feel better about losing my hair, but I was determined to look good,
hair or no hair.
Feeling good about how I looked with my wig lasted for a few days. The wigs were
uncomfortable and hot. I was suffering while trying to look cool, as the kids
would say. Before the breast cancer, summer temperatures in Virginia had forced
me to run for air conditioning whenever I could. Now with this rug on my head,
and that’s what it felt like, I was perspiring all the time.
It suddenly hit me that I was doing this for others, not for myself. I felt good
about me. That’s what mattered. I was respected in the work world, had a loving
family, and so on. So, even though I had said that I would never let anyone see
me bald, I tossed the wigs in the closet. I felt freer than ever in my life.
With the wigs went a lot of fears. I saw the breast cancer as a sort of signal,
the beginning of an open road. It was an opportunity to reshape my life. I began
to think about things that I’d never done. It’s like opening a new life book.
I’ve gotten the message to give myself the freedom to do new things even if
there are some risks that they won’t work out. What a feeling!
The “New Normal.” Some call it a mantra, but the phrase seems to aptly
characterize many women’s post-cancer-therapy phase of life. Life will never be
exactly as it was before, and many aspects of themselves and their lives now
need to be redrawn, revised, or even created anew. While some of these women
have not even completed their treatment - usually chemotherapy - their
declaration of “I am not the same as I was” is a notice to the world to be
prepared for dealing with a changed and often renewed person.
The New Normal can come at any time. Thoughts and feelings, and just things
going on around her, can prompt a woman to notice that although many aspects of
her life seem to be the same as before cancer, there are distinct differences.
The Old Normal and the New Normal now need to be meshed to form a new and
The experience of cancer creates an opportunity for a woman to stop and think
about her objectives and her needs, about what she expects her future quality of
life to be. Cancer means change, and change can be both frightening and
invigorating. As they go through the experience of cancer diagnosis and
treatment, many women feel that they get to know themselves much better. They
have a reason to step back and think about their lives and how they would like
to reshape them.
Hundreds of thousands of women annually go through the shock of receiving a
diagnosis of cancer. Suddenly, they must make decisions about therapy, and then
fight to achieve a desired quality of life. Cancer therapy affects everything.
Where do intimacy and sexuality, key components of quality of life, fit in? Part
of a woman’s cancer journey consists of rebuilding her love life. And energizing
or reviving intimacy and sexuality in a relationship requires the partners to
According to Barry McCarthy, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at American
University, when sexuality functions well, it is a positive and significant part
of a relationship. Sexuality energizes, strengthens, and makes the marriage bond
special. However, when sexuality is dysfunctional, it has a powerful negative
effect, robbing the relationship of vitality, closeness, and intimacy. Intimacy
is especially crucial for couples dealing with cancer, and merits special
Both intimacy and sex involve people opening themselves to others, presenting
themselves through their thoughts, ideas, and behaviors. The total person
appears, which is the basis for intimacy. Intimacy may evolve into its sexual
dimension to provide satisfaction and a sensation of physical and emotional
connection. Sharing sexuality is the most intimate experience two people can
Sexuality reflects and is a part of a person’s total health and quality of life.
Sex expresses both partners’ emotional states, the health of the partners, their
physical environment, each partner’s view of her- or himself, the nature of
their relationship, and the quality of the relationship. Cancer treatment
changes sexuality in many ways. It can change mental orientation and the way the
body functions as it concerns sex, and can create physical changes that may
affect the way a woman makes love.
A good sex experience is complex. Even healthy couples that are madly in love
can’t expect a great experience every time they make love. When cancer is added
to the mix, in addition to the physical effects of therapy, the entire
Relationships After Cancer
A loving environment all day long sets the stage for good sex, and the pleasure
of sex is heightened by feelings of love and intimacy. Both partners should be
in the mood, bring high emotional content into the physical interaction, have
intensity, and be creative.
Sex is possible without these things. But good sex happens when all these
factors come together. Making love is no different than playing a sport,
singing, or performing on a musical instrument. If everything is just right, it
can be great. When one partner is out of sorts, tired, or distracted by a
crisis, sex can feel just so-so. It can prompt the question, “Why did we
bother?” If this happens merely once in a while, it is not a problem. But if it
happens most of the time or all the time, it is a serious issue.
A cancer diagnosis may alter a woman’s self-image and often changes the balance
between partners. After working through the battery of cancer tests and
determining her therapy, a woman may wonder if she will still be desirable. She
might even wonder, “Will I still be a woman?”
The assault of cancer treatment often leaves a woman with physical changes, and
almost surely leaves her psychologically affected. As a result, some women shy
away from sexually connecting with their partner. On the other hand, some women,
like Christie, believe their partner needs to be taken care of and put sex on
their schedule regardless of their personal desire. Christie said that she
thought she would address her own sexual needs after she completed her
chemotherapy. But for her, making sure her husband’s needs were met was a
priority even throughout her therapy. He showed his appreciation by being caring
and considerate during loving - and in everyday life. This mutually supportive
relationship enabled them to keep their sexual relationship alive even during
As they go through therapy, many women take steps to redefine their future. They
shape their world by initiating changes in their relationships and in the face
they present to the outside world. Throwing away their wigs, as Janice did, says
“This is me,” and “Here I am.”
A diagnosis of cancer may reveal tensions that have existed in a relationship
for a long time. Often, the relationship was not satisfying before cancer
entered the couples’ world. Many women who were interviewed or participated in
our focus groups showed an emotional strength that surprised even them. Some
women did not recognize they were changing until they did something that
surprised them, such as dismissing an unsupportive partner. During her course of
chemotherapy, Elizabeth told her partner, “You haven’t been supportive since I
was diagnosed. What do I need you for now?” With that pronouncement, she showed
him the door.
A feeling of mortality changes the sick partner’s perspective. A
well-functioning couple rewrites the old rules, to allow the ill partner to
explore opportunities outside the boundaries of life before cancer,
opportunities that she feels were left unexplored before because of the
trade-offs couples always make. Edith is a breast cancer survivor who told her
executive husband that she felt he did not support her enough. She then outlined
what had to be done to get their marriage back on track. Edith's cancer
experience prompted her to express key issues that had developed over many years
of living together. She saw it as an opportunity to improve the relationship.
Her husband agreed, and they made changes to their relationship to meet both
"I’m Still Sexy!” or “Am I Still Sexy?”
Betty’s husband often tells her she is sexy. To which she replies, “I’m glad you
think so.” But to her, his comment is just a confirmation of how she feels: “I
don’t have the perfect body - but it’s the only one I’ve got, and it gives me
and my husband a lot of pleasure. Am I still sexy? You bet! You don’t have to be
a Victoria’s Secret model to be smokin’!”
Christine was asked what makes her feel sexy. She answered by explaining how her
boyfriend evaluates her appearance each morning. “When he says that I look sexy,
that’s one of my sexy days.” When asked a question about her subjective
experience, about her knowledge of how she feels, she replies from a position as
the object of her boyfriend’s judgment. That is, she sees herself as sexy if she
is the object of male desire.
A confident woman in a sexually equal relationship enjoys better health,
longevity, better bonding with her partner, and less stress. The benefits are
even greater if she doesn’t rely only on her partner for affirmation that she is
sexy, but relies on her own sense of attractiveness.
After cancer is treated or cured, a woman has an opportunity to reflect on what
she has done up to that point in her life, dreams that have been realized,
dreams that have been forgotten or pushed to the side, choices that have been
made, and her degree of fulfillment. Her relationship with her partner is part
of these thoughts, and sex is a key ingredient of the relationship.
Intimacy and sexuality sit at the tip of an iceberg with a massive foundation.
The base consists of knowing and feeling good about oneself, living in a loving
environment, having a sense of humor, and introducing a creative flavor to her
activities and sex. Many women with cancer see themselves on a path to
self-renewal, moving forward toward a new and better version of themselves.
We have found women who truly discovered themselves only after they went through
cancer treatment. After a life-changing event, some people live much as they did
before. Some make small adjustments, and some make dramatic changes. Every woman
decides for herself how far she wants to go in making changes.
Many women have demonstrated a unifying philosophy that speaks of revitalization
in the New Woman phase of their lives. Denise speaks of the support she received
during her breast cancer experience. Filled with emotion and appreciation, and
endowed with a capacity for going beyond her former executive self, she started
the SOS breast cancer support program for women in a number of cities in central
Maryland. With the same ingenuity and dedication she had applied to her
responsibilities as an executive, she developed a successful program for women
with breast cancer. Like Denise, a large percentage of women with cancer
demonstrate their capacity for self-renewal.
you are in a relationship, the self-renewal may extend to your partner. The
changes brought about by cancer prompt many couples to reinvigorate their
relationship and their sex life. This process takes time and is both scary and
exciting. Something may have been lost: the familiar way you have made love for
months, years, or even decades. Yet something very precious may be gained:
greater closeness and intimacy, a rediscovery of each other, and a deeply
satisfying sexual relationship.
www.thelovinatinover.org for more information.
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