Friday, 23 June 2017

Weekly Discussion Summary ~ Intimacy After Breast Cancer

Summary of our weekly group discussion ~ 23rd June 2017
IS IT POSSIBLE TO BE INTIMATE, POST BREAST CANCER DIAGNOSIS?
“Intimacy is being seen and known as the person you truly are”. But what if the person that you truly are is ‘hidden’, ‘lost’, ‘unknown’, and ‘rediscovering herself from trauma’?
Is it possible to be intimate, physically and emotionally, post breast cancer diagnosis?
This week we focused our discussion on the vulnerability that is often not expressed or talked about openly, because of the embarrassment that it brings upon us. While targeting a difficult, yet most needed to disclose subject, we talked about how surgery and breast cancer treatment can severely undermine our confidence about our breasts, our ability to be sexual, and form, as well as sustain, intimate relationships. One of our most powerful sexual organs, that used to be sensual, is now not. It is numb, scarred, and deformed, or no longer there. We talked about how this affected our womanhood, our sense of being sexual and the way in which we perceived our bodies.
For many of us: we are ugly, deformed, lop-sided or without breasts. For many, the effects of chemotherapy and hormonal treatments stripping off oestrogen from our body mean that intimacy and intercourse is difficult and very painful. Dryness and lack of libido adds to our problems. Feeling ugly and not confident dampens our ability to be close. We talked about how some creams may help with vaginal dryness and pain but when the drive is dampened for most of us, the pleasure is almost gone. For some, physical intimacy is loaded with fear, with rejection, and disability. What does this say about our womanhood? Our sexuality?
We talked about how for some, the role of an understanding partner helped. We often felt sorry for our partners, guilty sometimes, and felt that they were better off with someone else. Some relationships could be at stake due to the ghostly impact of fatigue and a lack of desire to be close. We concluded that the ‘new’ me post diagnosis is an ill-understood concept that brings with it many changes impacting relationships at a fundamental level. Emotional fragility doesn’t help physical incompetence and the latter fuels the former.
We wanted to have the ‘old’ me back. We talked about how the old me was pretty, sexy, and fruitful. But for many younger women, it is not possible to conceive to have children as a result of treatment anymore, escalating the impact of breast cancer on femininity.
We agreed that with time we could feel more confident about our body image, our intimate relationships, but we will never be the same. The scars of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment run deep, they plague our self-esteem, can rob us from our womanhood, and dampen our basic healthy desires. No, we are not the same, and for many of us we still struggle to understand who we are as a result of these fundamental changes. From the outside, we seem to be coping well, and moving ahead, but from the inside, it's another story. A story less told.
If you are a woman living in the UK with a diagnosis of breast cancer and you would like to join our private group, please contact is by facebook message https://www.facebook.com/resilienceinbreastcancer/
Thank you to Sally for the beautiful picture


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