A blog about sex and relationships - by Marion Foreman from the patient group

"Please don’t expect an article on new positions if you have had life changing surgery or cancer treatment, I just want to talk about how adjustments can be difficult.

It is just possible that you weren’t madly in love before the cancer got diagnosed.  You might feel really trapped now – unable to leave someone now that they are ill. Please find someone to talk to about this. There are huge numbers of conflicting emotions flying around and you may well feel very trapped. I’m not here to give advice but I would say that staying in a bad relationship is horrid with or without the cancer. Please find someone that you can share these complicated thoughts with.

But – let’s assume that all is well with your relationship and you have always got along happily and your sex life has been good.  Do not be surprised if a diagnosis of cancer changes this. Of course, the physical changes will have an impact but so will the emotional and psychological ones. 

If you don’t know if it is physically possible to have sex given that you have (insert here whatever is happening to your body) going on – then make sure you ask your treatment team. We did this. Once we had pulled the oncologist out from under the desk where he had attempted to hide his embarrassment – he did answer our questions.  These are legitimate questions (your nurse specialist at the hospital is ideally placed to answer these if you would rather phone them one day when you are quietly on your own) and you are right to ask.  If you can’t quite bring yourself to ask if you will ever have an orgasm again you might feel more comfortable finding help on the internet – on reliable sites like Macmillan and CRUK. 

Your relationship will be altered by a cancer diagnosis – everything is. Your sex life may well change.  You might find that life is very precious and that you want to change direction and do things that you have never done before.  There might be times when an erection seems impossible or vaginal dryness means that penetration isn’t possible.  And do you know what – you might just be way too tired to do anything but pull up the duvet. The overwhelming fatigue that often accompanies cancer treatment is like nothing you have ever had before. Don’t be surprised if the energy for sex is just not there. Explaining this to your partner might be difficult – sex often says more than words ever could – so one of your usual ways of communicating might be temporarily on hold – this is where words and loving gestures will have to do.  It might also be worth prioritising and maybe sex in the morning is more important than doing the thousand and one household tasks that are stacking up. It’s a reasonable bet that others have had the same experiences and have found ways to deal with it. Please ask your nurse, your GP, others who have been through the same thing.

Oh – and watch this space for handy hints."

Marion