If you had asked me even just a few months before my cancer diagnosis what I thought of my body, you would have gotten a laundry list of complaints:
My legs are starting to dimple. Does my tummy look round to you? These bags under my eyes are making me look old.
But once my breast caused a big stir with one tiny little lump, something in me clicked: It’s time to love this body.
I wear my body differently after cancer. She is strong, supple, and made for touch. It's also time to experience more pleasure — and I’m not just talking about orgasms. I’m talking about pleasure in snuggling, kissing, caressing, holding, being present, and feeling good in my body.
You may think the words “better sex after cancer” don’t go together. Many women struggle with sexuality in post-surgical bodies, and feeling sexy doesn't happen overnight.
But for me, it started with focusing on feeling grateful for my body and all it's done for me, rather than thinking it let me down with cancer. Owning and appreciating my post-cancer body was the key to better sex, and more pleasure.
Here are five ways I improved my sex life after cancer:
1. I practiced positive touch.
During and after treatments, I got regular massages to remind my body that she was loved and not just a medical experiment getting poked and prodded.
It helped me relax and enjoy my body, which made me feel more open to touch and sex with my husband.
2. I wrote love letters to my body.
Instead of pretending my scars weren’t there, I honored them and wrote them love notes. I thanked my breasts for all they had done for me throughout my life: They fed three children, filled out many dresses, and enjoyed being touched.
This process of accepting and loving certain body parts helped me love my body “as is.” Nothing puts you more in the mood than feeling good in the skin you’re in.
3. We found creative ways to feel close together.
Sexual activity isn’t just intercourse. If you're feeling drained or sore in parts of your body, you can find other ways to be intimate.
Tell your partner what feels good to you, and stay right there. Maybe it’s eye contact and snuggling. Maybe you want an old-fashioned make-out session. Or perhaps you'd simply like to take a bath together.
4. I made a wardrobe change.
I created a new habit of wearing only cute things to bed instead of the old, tattered PJs I’ve had since college. I decided to treat myself to a few new nightgowns.
It felt good to get rid of the old stuff and find new patterns and soft fabrics that helped me bring my sexy back.
5. I started going to bed early.
My husband and I make a point of getting into bed early and touching each other. I now look forward to going to bed and saying yes to letting my husband cup my breasts, instead of saying "Um, not tonight.”
I’ve become more playful and more open to saying "yes" in the bedroom.
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