Cancer surgeries, such as nerve-sparing radical
prostatectomy, have helped preserve urinary and
erectile functions in many men, says Arthur Burnett,
a urologist at Johns Hopkins University School of
Living with cancer? We believe a strong support
community is critical to healing and recovery.
Join MyLifeLine to connect with friends and family
for social, emotional, and practical support
throughout your cancer journey.
Medicine in Baltimore, although he cautions that
there is still work to be done to understand and
improve erectile function after surgery. He advises
his patients to work on their physical health, which
includes adopting a healthy diet, not smoking and getting regular exercise, all of which have been shown to
improve erectile function.
Activate your friends and family to
support and encourage you
Techniques to help connect mind and body may
also help to increase sexual satisfaction. For example, a study in the Jan. 1, 2018, issue of Cancer that
polled 46 ovarian cancer survivors found that a half-day workshop that combined sexual health education, rehabilitation training and cognitive behavioral
therapy skills increased self-reported sexual function and reduced anxiety about sex.
MKeep your family and friends updated on
MYAssign a website helper and delegate
In many cases, couples may need to learn new
approaches. With regard to sexual intimacy, “you may
have to do things you never did before,” says Cameron,
whether that means planning ahead to use devices to
help with sex or finding alternatives to vaginal intercourse. Ultimately, these efforts can bolster relationships. “Those conversations are intimate, and they can
build intimacy—and that can strengthen the partnership,” Cameron says.
KCoordinate volunteers to help with meals,
rides to treatment, child care and more
to help with medical needs
This was the case for Ginyard, the prostate cancer
survivor in Baltimore. During the time he and his wife
couldn’t have intercourse, they developed a new sense
of intimacy by talking about the changes he was experiencing and deepening their shared religious faith.
Control who can post on your website and
volunteer to help
The couple spent time walking, holding hands, reading
and watching movies at home together. “I could admire
my wife without sex being on the table,” he says, adding
that that admiration and closeness remained once his
sexual function returned after his treatments ended.
Reframing how a person or a couple thinks about
sexuality can be the key to finding intimacy and satisfaction after a cancer diagnosis. “The goal of sexual
intimacy and intercourse is to enjoy it,” says Dizon, “so
sometimes play is more important than performance.”
CAMERON WALKER is a writer in Santa Barbara, California.