Let’s talk about sex
Lots of young people find that having cancer and going through treatment changes the way they feel about their bodies, and about having sex. We asked two young people to share their experiences.
When I was going through cancer treatment, I didn’t have a partner. Even so, I had little to no sex drive due to treatment so feel if I did, I would not have wanted to have sex very often.
Cancer has changed my perception of myself. I praise my body in the sense that it withstood intense treatment and has allowed me to be cancer free for five years. On the other hand, since treatment and remission (even up to now) I find it really hard to see myself as ‘sexy’. I don’t always like what I see in the mirror, and sometimes fear this may impact on my relationship. This is due to weight gain from steroids that I have just never been able to shift, changes in hair and skin type – my hair and face get oily very quickly and I have suffered with mild cases of adult acne. I have also developed green and blue veins that stand out on my chest as a result of having a large tumour impacting the main vein in my chest. I have been told these will more than likely be there for life, which is a constant physical reminder. As time goes on, I am slowly learning to accept that this is the way my body is and embrace my imperfections.
I am in a relationship now and have been for three years. I had been honest about my cancer journey and how it has affected my perception of sex and relationships. There are some parts of my body I just do not like the look of. My partner is respectful of this and will never expect me to do things I am not comfortable with.
My advice to other young people who might feel that cancer and treatment would affect their relationship with a partner is to talk. It seems like the simplest thing but can be so effective. Sex can often be difficult and uncomfortable to talk about, but it will be beneficial for you and your partner to be open and honest. Issues with sex and relationships after cancer are more common than you think but take courage to speak out about.
I was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 23. I had only been with my partner nine months before being diagnosed. When I met him I was a confident, fun young girl. We had no idea how much our lives would be turned upside with a shocking cancer diagnosis.
Having cancer changed our sex life completely. I lost all my confidence with losing my hair. I felt ugly and to be honest having sex was the last thing on my mind. Not only did all the medication I was on make me tired, it is a common effect to lose your sex drive too.
I can count on one hand how many times we had sex whilst I was having treatment. I am very lucky that my partner completely understood and never pressured me about it.
My advice to any young person going through cancer treatment would be not to put any pressure on yourself. Explain to your partner how you feel and if they don’t react in an understanding way, they’re probably not good enough for you anyway. If you do have any concerns speak with your healthcare team and do not feel embarrassed.
*We’ve changed Becky’s name as she chose to share her story anonymously.
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