Navigating prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment is a journey unto itself.
We previously discussed in one of our previous articles the importance of education, especially since September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. At the time, you feel as if there is no end to the stress involved with concentrating on finishing treatment. Much less, resuming your previous normal lifestyle. How to move forward? What is going to change? And, will it change for the better or worse? Worrying about the return of prostate cancer or other forms of cancer can be a worry as well. How much you dwell on this can impact your recovery both physically as well as sexually and emotionally. There is no doubt if you are worried and apprehensive, your desire level is probably not where you would like it to be.
Many of you view this return to normal activities with trepidation. Possibly, you also believe that because you survived treatment, you should immediately be back to 100 percent. Only in a perfect world. After such a long dry spell without sex, you think you are ready to go back to the way things were in the bedroom before your cancer diagnosis. Wonderful thought, but not always the case.
Communicating with your partner about your apprehension about things possibly not working at all or, dealing with changes to your sexual relationship can put both of you on the same page. Discussion and alternative plans can alleviate some of the nervousness of your first intimate sexual experience POST CANCER. With a plan in place and choosing the perfect timing without interruptions, you can begin restoring the intimacy to your relationship.
While we understand as partners that YOU were the one that had the cancer and went through everything you did, your partner went through your treatment as well. Realizing your partner may still be coping with the aftermath of your cancer is crucial to keeping the communication flowing between you during this critical time.
It is important to remember that your partner has also been without sex for a period of time as well. Patience and working together as a team to adjust to any sexual changes can bring you together and improve your intimacy. Make sure you consider your partner’s lubrication, the amount of new foreplay time needed for the both of you to feel completely comfortable, and a new attitude regarding your entire relationship. Concentrate on the complete and total pleasure of your partner, without concentrating on the final outcome. Your orgasm abilities may be stifled or changed depending on your course of treatment and/or surgery. Learning all you can about new sensitivities and changes can be viewed as exciting. Your new journey can be a period of discovery and quite fun to boot! Almost like the first time!
You already know that it is going to take time to regain your full strength of body and mind. Recovery and the timeline of resuming your previous activity levels is a very private and individualized situation. There will be good days and bad days for awhile while you realign how you are going to do things in the future. Others may also assume because your prognosis is favorable and treatment is complete, that you are well. Education is truly important for people to understand the effects on cancer patients with returning to what was your routine previously. Understanding the effects can make for an easier transition when returning to work and other activities that were the norm prior to your treatment.
It can be stressful and embarrassing for a prostate cancer survivor to discuss the most intensely private issues a person can have with their physicians and spouses. Without complete honesty and a willingness to discuss these tough things, you might miss out on some of the excellent resources available for all aspects of recovery from prostate cancer. Patience and a positive attitude will propel you forward. Do not be discouraged if things are not working properly at first try. I know, it is a “man thing”. But, we get it. We have been there with you through everything. Whatever it takes to get you back to your idea of total wellness is what we want to help you with.
A good website we recommend for more resources is HisProstateCancer.com
As a partner, be particularly sensitive to the fact that all aspects of prostate cancer cause the patient to consider his manliness or lack thereof. Understanding and being armed with as much information as possible can prevent your partner from feelings of inadequacy or not providing what he thinks you need. Nothing is more important than feeling supported during this trying period.
You need to assure your partner that providing pleasure to each other does not necessarily mean orgasms. Intimacy can be found in any number of ways, all increasing the pleasure of both participants.
Continue communication with your partner and physician to achieve a return to a mutually satisfying sexual relationship with your partner. With so much attention being given to your sexual relationship and improving the intimacy you both share, many couples report that their entire relationship improved and that they felt a closeness with each other never experienced before prostate cancer. Do not give up trying. Keep practicing at every opportunity. Masturbation is also recommended. According to Medical News Today in their article entitled: “How to improve your sex life after prostate cancer”, they state that masturbation helps promote healthy blood flow to the genitals, which can support erectile function.
Your oncologist will ask you about your sexual activity and if you require any assistance with regard to your recovery. Do not be afraid to explain everything sexually you are experiencing. Things are going to feel different. The sensations are going to be different.
Bear in mind, that if as a couple you experienced a lack of intimacy or erectile dysfunction prior to prostate cancer, these issues may have to be addressed in a different manner. Many prostate cancer survivors and their partners seek outside assistance for support in dealing with the aftermath of cancer and/or guidance from a sexual expert to assist in returning to a satisfying sex life. There is no specific timeline and certainly, it will not be what you think it should be. Some sexual complications can occur for as long as up to four years after concluding treatment.
While you are doing everything to get well, figure out your new way of life AND, trying to restore intimacy with your partner, there are a couple of other things to add to your list:
Taking care of yourself physically is super important to repairing your immune system and the assault it is has sustained. Eating well and exercising are important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and hopefully, reducing the likelihood of your cancer returning.
Managing your fatigue by getting plenty of sleep, as well as managing your stress are extremely beneficial in returning to your idea of normalcy.
Nurture and respect each other through your recovery from prostate cancer. Maintain the same high level of communication that you utilized when deciding the course of treatment to pursue.
Remember: Practice patience, practice often, and seek assistance if necessary. The resources are available.
Good luck on your path forward to total health and sexual wellness.