A guest post from Rachel I. Mandel, MD FACOG
A woman’s sex organ is her brain. For many women, sexual response and intimacy can be influenced by a variety factors that have nothing to do with their anatomy. For example, it is harder for women to be completely engaged in physical intimacy successfully when they are stressed or fatigued. Medications, medical problems, hormone imbalances and pain can diminish one’s interest in relations, or one’s ability to respond. Something as simple as a bad day at work or a stressful drive home can completely eliminate a women’s interest in relations with her significant other. Imagine what kind of impact a cancer diagnosis would have on libido and intimacy. It could be catastrophic.
Hundreds of thousands of women annually go through the shock of receiving a diagnosis of cancer. Aside from the cancer diagnosis itself and the psychological impact of the diagnosis, the surgical and medical management of cancer can cause short term, long term and permanent changes in a woman’s body, creating what Certified Sexuality Counselors Barbara and Ralph Alterowitz call a “new normal”. Once a couple or family navigates through the immediate difficulties of the diagnosis and treatment, the recognition and response to the new normal will determine how they emerge on the other side of the cancer diagnosis. The Alterowitzes’ book, “The Lovin’ Ain’t Over for Women with Cancer” explores this process in depth.
Sometimes the hardest part of treating a problem is to recognize that you have one. Different challenges exist for different people, but until you acknowledge those challenges, you can’t begin to overcome those challenges. This is certainly true when dealing with sexual intimacy in the aftermath of a cancer treatment. For example, self body image is important when addressing intimacy issues. Post treatment, it may be necessary to seek counseling and/or support to work through these concerns so that they don’t become an impediment to healthy sexual intimacy.
A cancer diagnosis makes an already complex process much more challenging when it comes to sexuality and intimacy. There are many resources available to individuals and couples who want to seek assistance with finding, and embracing their new normal. Acknowledge the issue, start the process, and end up where you want to be.
Come join us on January 22, 2013 at 5:30 p.m. for “Sexuality and Intimacy After Cancer Treatment” at the Women’s Center at FMH Crestwood. Guest speakers and subject matter experts Barbara and Ralph Alterowitz will speak about finding the spark in your love life after cancer treatment and answer your questions. Pre-registration is recommended, so please call 240-215-1447 if you plan to attend. For more details or to share this event with a friend, please see our event flyer (PDF) or Facebook event listing.