Monday, February 11, 2013

Don’t Let Cancer Block Cupid’s Arrow

By Mary Jo Rapini, LPC

For both men and women, the occurrence of cancer affects every area of their lives, including intimacy. Fear, anger, and questions of “What is happening to me?” or “Why is this happening to me?” are common. People worry about what their inability to enjoy sex will do to their partner’s need for sex, and they feel sad for having lost this bond. Valentines’ Day is the perfect day to remind yourself that cancer doesn’t have to steal Cupid’s arrow.

No matter what type of cancer you are being treated for, it is likely you will express intimacy differently for a while. Different isn’t bad, though. In fact, different can add a deeper connection within the relationship if you are open and work together as a team.

Chemotherapy is exhausting, but holding hands or relaxing with your partner in a bathtub of warm water with wonderful-smelling bath bubbles can provide a deep connection and even unexpected eroticism. There are ways to make love during and after cancer treatment. Once patients get their energy back and are cancer-free, they may find their lovemaking has grown more pleasurable and meaningful.

Here are some ideas for sharing Valentine’s Day with your partner.
  • Have lunch for two, rather than dinner, inside or outside depending on weather. It’s less expensive and more enjoyable because you aren’t as tired as you may be at night.
  • Have a movie night at home with a bowl of popcorn or a plate of light foods. If you are getting chemotherapy, you may be reluctant to go out into crowds; being home with the one you love affords you security and a deep sense of being cared for.
  • Human touch is healing; offer your partner a massage as a way of escaping and feeling as though you went away for a mini-vacation.
  • Read to each other from a romance novel, erotica, or classic love story. Sometimes during treatment your vision may be affected. It feels loving to have someone read to you, especially if that is a voice that calms and restores your faith. Literature supports the fact that couples’ heart rates actually calm down when the person they love talks or reads to them.
  • Reassure your partner that you love him or her and you love your sex life. Whether it’s a mastectomy or a colostomy, making love changes. When you are able to experiment and try new ways to love one another, you are telling your partner he or she is irreplaceable. This is the greatest Valentine gift of all.
Ms. Rapini’s lecture, “Sexual Intimacy During and After Cancer Care” is available for continuing medical education credit, and can be downloaded at To receive a CD of the lecture, contact Laura Wells at POEP at or (512) 370-1673.

Mary Jo Rapini appears at 9 am weekdays on Fox 26 Houston for “Mind, Body, Soul with Mary Jo.” You can sign up for free monthly relationship tips or download free podcasts at Talk to Mary Jo on her fan page at or tweet her @ Mary Jo Rapini.

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