I’ve talked alot about how our bodies change as we age and that we need to learn to re-adjust to those changes both mentally and physically. Our bodies at age 50 may not be able to do the same things that our bodies were able to do at age 20. Sex at an older age doesn’t mean its going to either go away or be awful, it just requires a new attitude and some acceptance of all the changes going on! But its not just age that can throw a wrench into our sexual lives. Illness can to. Illness can have a devistating effect on a person’s mental and physical health. Not only does your body go through the illness itself but also the treatment, which can result in side effects both mental and physical. And when a women is able to conquer her illness and go into remission sometimes the effects from treatment can be lingering. We focus so much on the success of the treatment and that the illness is gone but over look the lasting effects. Low libido, lack of desire, lack of sexual functioning call all happen as a result of treatments and illnesses. And sometimes it doesn’t go away even after the illness is gone. In an article written by Dr. Gayle Sulik, Ph.D, posted over on Psychology Today called Pink Ribbon Blues, she talks alot about the effects of cancer treatments on sexual health but also the emotional, psychological challenges going through treatment can impose on a woman. And with sex already a somewhat difficult topic for many women (especially those who are older, or who grew up in a time when sex was not a topic of discussion ever) it can be hard for women who are facing troubles in the bedroom after completing treatment to speak to their doctors, or when they do…they get shut down. “Those are the little things…you don’t need to worry about it…etc” Their concerns can be invalidated by medical professionals or even by themselves. Which is by no means ok. Those concerns are just as valid as any other! Sex is healthy, it can be a great mood booster, get your blood flowing and do good things for the body. And if changes happen that affect your sex life, you should know what you can do to help adjust to it!
According to one gynocologist interviewed for the studies featured in this article ” Women are assigned a responsibility to engage in sexual relationships” And when we aren’t able to fulfil our responsibility set forth by society’s rules, we feel as though we failed. Which is by no means true. Just because our bodies react to a treatment by reducing our desire or libido does not mean we are a failure! It just means we perhaps need to discover new things that excite us, or learn to work with what we’ve got. And that means our partners too. Because it takes two to tango…so our partners need to be included in just as many of these conversations about sex as we do. But I also believe this idea doesn’t apply to just survivors of cancer or other illness, when you’re not in the mood or your libido is low (whether it be from stress, medications etc.) it doesn’t mean you’re failing your partner or your relationship…it just means there are some changes and you need to adjust. If you know its a medication (say Birth Control) and you’re unhappy with it creating a low libido, talk to your doctor! Find out what other options there are.
Always talk to your doctor about what options you have. Cancer Survivor or no, a doctor is going to be your best resource for medical information. If they aren’t able to help give you some suggestions there are other resources. Surprisingly enough, my company has been focused on sexuality in women who have survived cancer (breast, ovarian, cervical etc) and how to help get your groove back! Seek out a specialist (sexologist or even a sex therapist) they may have some suggestions as well. There are also tons of books and resources online that can offer some guidance to helping get back your sexual mojo after cancer/illness.
But don’t go at it alone! Involve your partner. That is so important, your partner should be along with you for the journey, learning along the way with you. Because if you’re trying to get your libido back up or create some desire, its so you can have a sexual realtionship with your partner. They definitely should be included!