What? Cancer, intimacy and sexuality in the same phrase? Does this seem like a contradiction? After all, many people say that cancer results in the end of their sex life. It may, indeed, be the end of sex as we knew it. And that may not be all bad… let me explain.
We live in a culture that teaches that orgasm is the gold standard for good sex. Orgasms are fabulous, and when you put them into the context of an entire sexual encounter, the orgasm lasts a very short time, usually about a minute. When we focus on orgasm, it’s easy to miss the rest of the journey because we have our eye only on the goal. Rather than lament this change, I suggest that you celebrate the openings that it creates.
When cancer comes into the picture, it’s time to slow down. Slow way down. First of all, our bodies may not function the same as before, especially if hormone production has been suppressed through chemo or hormonal therapies. Second, our sexual organs may have been removed or altered through surgery or radiation. This means that penetrative genital sex can be painful. Fear of pain can cause us to tense up and sexual intercourse works best with a physically relaxed body.
Hmmm, what to do? Rather than force things, so to speak, I suggest that you take penetration and orgasm off the table for some time. Why take it off the table? To give yourself time to explore other intimate and sexual activities. How long? That’s up to you. Patience and a sense of curiosity and humor are your friends, so take it easy, breathe, and relax.
Try this experiment for a month or so ~ make a weekly sex date with your sweetie, or yourself if you don’t have a sweetie. During the date, agree that this is a time to be intimate and loving, with no erotic agenda. There’s nowhere to go, no hurry, nowhere else to be. Relax. Play some music you like, light some candles, take a bath or shower together.
Lay on your bed (naked or clothed, that’s up to you), and lie facing each other. Look into each other’s eyes. Breathe deeply and continue to gaze into each other’s eyes. As you gaze and breathe, notice that your body begins to relax and your heart opens. Keep breathing and feel how deeply connected you are to each other ~ the heart connection, emotional connection, spiritual connection, physical and energetic connections. Really see each other, and allow yourself to be seen at the same time. Without words, just gazing and breathing.
This is intimacy. There’s a spiritual practice called Heart Gazing, and this is it.
After a few minutes, an inspiration may arise. Perhaps you’ll want to stroke each other’s face or share a gentle kiss, or place your hand on their heart. Perhaps something else, perhaps nothing. The point is to be in harmony with each other and stay in the moment. Allow your connection to inspire you, with no rush. There’s no wrong way to do this. It’s all about being present and intimate.
If you are alone, lie down and place your hands on your heart and breathe. Literally feel your heart and your love for yourself. If you are inspired to stroke your face, lovely. If not, that’s also lovely.
The experience is intimacy. It’s something that we all crave, and it’s often why we have intercourse ~ because this is the experience we really want. To be seen, accepted and loved just as we are, in each moment.
After a month of this experiment, you can begin to experiment with genital touching. Relax, keep a sense of humor and take your time. Use lots of lube, go slow and learn each others’ bodies now. Cancer changes everything, and it can be a portal into deeper intimacy and sex than you had before. How cool is that? Or should I say, how hot is that?
© 2015 Barbara Musser, Sexy After Cancer
Barbara Musser is a longtime breast cancer survivor, author and sex educator. She wrote Sexy After Cancer ~ Meeting Your Inner Aphrodite on the Breast Cancer Journey and is the founder and CEO of Sexy After Cancer. For more information go to www.sexyaftercancer.com.