Sex & Cancer

Written By Robert Hawke
Image of an artwork entitled Red Canna by George O'Keeffe
Red Canna by Georgia O'Keeffe

Sex. Everybody talks about it. Actually, let me rephrase that. Many people joke about it and then laugh uncomfortably. In our society, we don’t usually talk about sex honestly or in any way that might leave us vulnerable. We pretend to be enlightened about intimacy, but just try bringing the topic up around the dinner table during the holidays. Someone might choke on their cranberry sauce. (No, that’s not a euphemism.)

Even more difficult than talking about sex is talking about sex as it relates to our journey with cancer. Cancer and Sex? Aren’t these two things diametrically opposed? Nope.

Very few of us actually have meaningful discussions about sexuality – so what is sex really? It can mean different things depending on your point of view – intimacy, entertainment – heck, I‘ve even heard a sex therapist talk about how some people use sex as exercise. (I can almost hear the personal trainer yelling “C’mon give me another set of 12!”)

This is such a big topic that it needs to be given space, especially if we are on a journey with cancer. Our image of our bodies and who we are as people can change radically when we are in the midst of a major life change especially as it relates to our most intimate moments. This can bring up many questions for individuals and couples. But the overarching answer to most of the questions is….”It’s OK.”

It’s OK if you don’t feel sexual for a while. It’s OK if it feels different. It’s OK if you’re not the powerhouse in bed you once were. It’s OK if what used to be a marathon lovemaking session is now some kissing and touching. It’s OK if it looks different. It’s OK to have fantasies about your radiation oncologist. It’s OK to have hot, sweaty dirty sex now that you’re a cancer survivor. It’s OK to talk about it. And it’s way more than OK to find healing and solace in honest intimate contact.

There’s space for all of it. It’s all OK.