Sexuality is a basic part of a person’s identity and influences many aspects of life including:
- how you look and feel
- your roles in life
- sexual function
After a stem cell or bone marrow transplant there can be a number of effects on your sexuality. These might include the way your body looks or responds, changes to levels of sexual desire, as well as difficulty getting an erection, erectile dysfunction, painful sex, changes to mucous membranes due to graft versus host disease (GvHD), early menopause and an altered view of yourself as a man or woman. Having a sore mouth in itself alters so much of how you express yourself sexually… you cannot kiss or lick or smile broadly and this changes how you interact with others, including partners. Sexual side effects can also lead to a change in general intimate expression and alter relationships such that you may feel like two people sharing a space.
Healthcare staff are aware of the sexual effects after transplant and are only too happy to talk about these. They may be able to alter medication, offer psychological support or signpost you to other help, which may include referral to a psychosexual therapist. Psychosexual therapy offers expert guidance to help you understand what has happened to you, to decide on some goals for recovery of intimacy and renegotiate a satisfying sex life.
If you feel that you need to address some of these issues yourself, the following resources might be useful:-
Intimacy and Sexuality for Cancer Patients and their partners: http://www.sda.uk.net/
College of Sexual and Relationship Therapy: http://www.cosrt.org.uk/
Relate website: http://www.relate.0rg.uk/
Little specific advice on sexual recovery after cancer has been written from a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender point of view. Most of the above resources will probably include useful advice but the following resources might also be useful: