Rhode Island Monthly Breast Health 2013 : Page 7

SPE CIAL AD VER TISING SE C TION Talk It Out: The “S” Word Maintaining good sexual health during and a er cancer. by Carol Ann Donnelly cantily-clad women with legs up to their full, pouty lips are used to sell everything from hamburgers to automobiles. Sex sells — it’s that simple. You can’t turn on the televi-sion or open a magazine without seeing suggestive advertising. And, despite the fact that sexuality was a focus of the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s, most of us would rather stick our ingers in our ears and hum “Mary Had a Little Lamb” than have a conversation about sex. Why are we so afraid to talk about sex with our partners, especially after battling a serious illness like breast cancer? There are many physical and emotional reasons. Body changes from cancer treat-ments can leave women with low libido or vaginal dryness. There are also the physical scars from surgery, particularly after mastec-tomies. A woman may feel less attractive, and therefore less sexy, because of body chang-es such as hair loss, weight changes (either tion with “I heard about…” and ending statements with, losses or gains) and the loss of her breasts. Megan Andelloux, “So what do you think?” She also believes that you should make a certiied clinical sexologist and certiied sexuality educator it ‘your’ topic. Begin your statements with “I feel…” and stay with says, “We are sexual beings, and things change.” “I” to take the pressure Andelloux looks at why things change and o your partner. gets behind the emotions to deal with sex in Although Andelloux a holistic way. “We focus on the sex drive,” does not recommend she says. talking about sex when “Sexuality is a progression,” states Andelloux. you’re naked, she does People have di erent mindsets at di erent recommend closing times in their lives, and battling breast cancer the blinds and walking certainly can change one’s views on every-around the house na-thing, including sex. Andelloux recommends ked. “People who feel women mourn the loss of their sexuality It’s about treating the whole comfortable with their prior to treatment and to accept it. This allows person, which includes sexuality. ” bodies have better sex,” women to conceptualize what sex means to she says. them. “Exploration of their bodies will help Clinical sexologists like them rediscover their sexuality,” she says. Andelloux should not be Regarding sexual pleasure, Andelloux says, confused with sex therapists that help people heal from deep “The irst three times you do something, it’s going to suck.” emotional trauma. Andelloux considers herself to be a “irst It takes us some time to build muscle memory, to learn how response unit,” saying she deals with the physical and disposi-something new feels and to build a level of comfort. She says tional aspects of sexuality. that both partners have to be on board, so it is important to talk Remaining silent about your issues with sex during and post about new ideas. cancer treatments will not improve your situation. In fact, ignor-According to Andelloux, you should “never talk about sex ing them causes more problems. “You can experience pleasure when you’re naked.” She recommends long car rides because through illness. It’s about treating the whole person, which they o er plenty of distractions and give people time to process includes sexuality,” Andelloux says. ✛ what is being said. She also suggests beginning the conversa-S “You can experience pleasure through illness. 118 RHODE ISLAND MONTHLY l OCTOBER 2013

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