By Amy Kalman, RN
George, a youthful 78-year-old, had worried that prostate cancer and its required treatment would destroy his sexuality. Luckily for him, it did not, but independently of one another, or combined, surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy may affect the recipient’s sexual drive, ability, or interest in sexual activity, related to symptoms they may experience. Side effects from treatment, ranging from pain at the treatment site, damaged or sensitive oral mucosa, sensitive skin or loss of sensation, insecurity related to hair loss, and hot flashes (for both women and men) may drive the need to learn, or re-learn, about intimacy.
Do you remember the first time you held hands with your first love? Maybe even the partner you’re with now. That vision is burned into my memory! I can only imagine it is for you as well. Simple touch filled both physical and emotional needs in a single moment. Feeling loved and wanted and needed in the most basic way. That need exists for most of us, especially when challenged with the stress of illnesses like cancer.
I’m sure this list is just scraping the surface, but there are plenty of things you and your partner can do to meet the need for intimacy at times when sexual intercourse just isn’t an option. Keep in mind, you should be following your physician’s recommendations for protection from infection with regards to potential risk, including that of forming or healing wounds and imbalanced labs.
* Holding hands
* Gentle touch or massage
* Spooning or cuddling
* Reading to one other
* Talking eye to eye
* Writing notes to one another
Learning how to love your partner “without” sex for any period of time may be a blessing in disguise… imagine all the new things you may learn about both them and yourself!