A post from Jane Silverstein of Soul Source:
You’ve survived cancer, with the help of great medical care; perhaps consisting of surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation. At first you just wanted to make it through the treatments. Now life is starting to get back to normal, except for one big area of concern: your sex life.
Many cancer patients are reluctant to discuss this topic with their doctors. Years ago physicians would tell their patients, “You should be glad just to be alive.” Times have changed, and today we know how important sexuality is for intimacy, stress reduction, sleep, and self-esteem. Most health care professionals are now comfortable discussing sexual issues with their patients, and there are many options and treatments available.
Many women cancer survivors report feeling less sexual. Fear,decreased self-esteem, and loss of desire may be compounding the problem. The key is open communication with your partner. Don’t forget that the brain is a very important “sex organ.” Setting the mood can definitely help. Candles, music, massage oils, and sexy lingerie can’t hurt. Keep in mind that intimacy does not mean intercourse. Start gradually, touching and caressing enhances our relationships and gets our pleasure receptors firing.
Many women report experiencing vaginal dryness and tightness after undergoing cancer treatments. Ask your gynecologist for advice on using over-the-counter vaginal moisturizers, such as Replens. Try using a vaginal moisturizer at least two hours before intercourse. Using a vaginal moisturizer during cancer treatments can also help reduce vaginal discomfort. Some women may also benefit from low-dose vaginal estrogen in a cream,tablet, or ring form. These localized hormones help the vagina regain moisture and elasticity, with less hormones getting into the bloodstream.
If vaginal tightness is a problem, talk to your physician about the use of progressively-sized vaginal dilators. Dilators are used at home to gradually stretch the vaginal tissues. Soul Source vaginal dilators are unique because they are soft and flexible, and more closely resemble body tissue.
A women will usually start with the largest size she is comfortable inserting and then gradually move up to larger sizes. Lubrication is the key to a more comfortable insertion. Use a water based lubricant on both the dilator and the vaginal area. While lying down, insert the dilator. This is the time to relax. You can read, watch TV, listen to music, etc. The dilator should be left in place for about 15 – 20 minutes. Some women will need to dilate every day, others less often. Check with your health care provider regarding the frequency and duration of dilation therapy.
The key to regaining your sexuality is open discussions with your partner and your medical team. I just returned from the ACOG (American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology) conference in San Francisco, and I can tell you from my experience that doctors really want to help their patients regain their sexuality. There was even a lecture called “Sex/Pain/Desire.” and it was a full house, standing room only!
It may take some relaxing music, a nice glass of wine, and some medical advice, but please don’t give up – you can get your “mojo” back!
Jane Silverstein is the owner of Soul Source Therapeutic Devices, a company specializing in vaginal dilators.She has lived in Los Angeles for over 30 years but still can’t lose her native New York accent. She has been married to her best friend and business partner Lloyd for almost 33 years. They have 2 grown sons who know more about menopausal issues, vaginas, and dilators than any 20- something young man ever needed to know!
Jane is passionate about helping women regain their sexuality. She also has a passion for helping refugees in the Congo and Darfur. She loves to travel, spend time with her large extended family and friends, and rescue dogs. The latest rescue is Sunny, a skittish golden retriever. Skinny was abandoned by a puppy mill but has now found her forever home.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists offers articles for patients. Check out their patient pages here.