- Question from Roberta: I'm back in the dating scene, but I still can't seem to get close and intimate with some of the men in my life now that I've had my surgery. How do I broach this subject before we get in a sexual situation?
- Answers - Debra Thaler-DeMers When dating, there is no perfect time to reveal your cancer history. It's important to have developed the relationship enough so that you would feel comfortable talking about your cancer experience with this person. Keep in mind that everyone reacts differently to knowing of your cancer history. If a man runs for the nearest exit, he probably was not someone you would want to have a long-term relationship with. Also remember that men in general may have a difficult time talking about feelings. I live in Silicon Valley where the typical man has a difficult time knowing what a feeling is. You may have to help him to identify in words the feelings that he is having.
- Leslie R. Schover, Ph.D. In dating, one of the most important things is to feel good about yourself. Before you go out and put yourself back in the dating scene, it's important that you have a clear feeling of self worth and that you can even see how your survivorship experience makes you a more worthwhile person. The better you feel about yourself, the easier it will be to share your experience with others.
- Marisa Weiss, M.D. In any relationship the dynamic between two people is very interdependent. In this case, a man will probably take his biggest cue from you. So if you're uncomfortable with sex, he's likely to sense that and also possibly feel uncomfortable. I find that a lot of my patients assume that if they don't feel attractive, then their partner or a potential partner will also find them unattractive. This is a dangerous assumption to make. And in terms of illness and other things that can challenge an individual as well as a relationship, men certainly are not free of health issues themselves. For example, high blood pressure is more common in men than in women, and the medications used for high blood pressure can cause impotence in men.
- Leslie R. Schover, Ph.D. If you as a woman feel reluctant to go out and date because of your breast cancer, think about how you would feel if you met an attractive man and then found out he had had prostate cancer and was having erection problems because of his treatment. How would you want him to tell you about that? Would it make you reject him as a potential mate? Sometimes it can be helpful to think about how you would react if the shoe were on the other foot.
- Marisa Weiss, M.D. Keep in mind that breast cancer and prostate cancer are relatively common problems. You do not have a rare condition. So many other women struggle with these issues. There is the chance to learn from each other on the discussion boards at Breastcancer.org for example, in the relationship section.
The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Intimacy, Sex and Your Love Life featured Leslie R. Schover, Ph.D., Debra Thaler-DeMers, R.N., O.C.N., P.H.N., and Marisa Weiss, M.D. answering your questions about how to improve your sex life during and after breast cancer treatment.
Editor's Note: This conference took place in February 2002.
The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.
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