February 24, 2020

Did you say renewed intimacy? Point of view of a woman

We are a very close couple and we have always believed that important issues should be discussed. However, for me, this experience felt different. How could I burden my partner with my concerns, when he has cancer, and his life has been turned upside down? My greatest fear was to unintentionally hurt him. In the weeks prior to surgery, I held back for quite a while, hoping that in some way, I could do my part to protect my husband, at least from my worries. This silence created its own strains, as I found myself trying to second guess his fears and concerns. In this silence, I began feeling alone and out of touch with my husband. I felt that we needed to talk. I was deeply relieved to find that Ben was open to sharing his issues and wanted to know what was upsetting me. He had chosen radical surgery as the treatment.

We slowly began to look at the emotional and physical impact of the experience and the side effects he was going through. Physical intimacy was no longer a familiar comfortable experience. What was at stake, was the part of the relationship in which we offer one another comfort. It's one way we express our sense of aliveness. I wanted both of us to continue to feel alive. Again I saw myself holding back, on thoughts and feelings. I felt that my partner was feeling fragile, and vulnerable. He'd been through a lot.

I can remember going through periods of sadness of what was lost, and sadness, for our future had been altered; and with that goes the worrying about whether we could recreate a new balance. It became clear that these issues, both emotional and sexual, could be resolved only by dialogue between ourselves; to provide mutual support, encouragement and an opportunity to share our fears and frustrations.

I'd like to present some thoughts on what has been helpful to us to get back on track:

It helps to begin by appreciating that healing takes time. Physical changes resulting from the surgery can continue to occur over a two-year span. Mentally both members of the couple need this time to adapt to the changes that have occurred. With no clear answers about the outcome, couples need to tolerate a great deal of uncertainty. Each couple needs to find their own balance.

The conversations around this process helped us not only to support one another but to problem solve on an ongoing basis, around the challenges of the situation. I don't believe that the physical realm is under our control per se, but our interactions and the emotional climate we create very much is. Being gentle with one another is so important. Our talks, usually over a glass of wine, helped lower our stress and increased our understanding of what each of us was going through. It is not always easy to find the courage to talk about what is and is not working well so that we could consider alternatives.

Some questions that opened the conversations:

How do you feel about the changes? What are you finding most difficult? What is working for you? What's not working? What's been most frustrating or challenging? How can I be of help? The answers would often surprise me, reminding me that no matter how well one knows one's partner, we, cannot assume to know what our partners are feeling.

We consulted the medical experts about three months post-surgery to consider treatment options around erectile dysfunction. Often in the literature, we noted that people waited up to one year to do so. These interventions certainly helped to move us forward and reduced the frustration of simply waiting. I felt for myself it was helpful not to have any expectations in relation to the process of physical intimacy. Whether there is or is not the possibility of erections, so be it. It is without judgment, expectation, or a reflection of failure for either of us; it just is. Taking the time to enjoy being together and explore new ways to give one another pleasure. Allow for trial and error. As changes do occur over a two year period, this can enable couples to pick up on those subtle but important shifts.

In conclusion, I can honestly say that although the cure is a three-hour procedure, the healing process in both its physical and emotional aspects has spanned the past two years. I often look at that long scar, and think, yes, it really all did happen. I feel a deep sense of comfort in knowing we weathered this storm. It was a tough road, with tears, times of worry, and fears. We maintained our sense of humor, which came to our rescue many times during this process. Today, I am grateful my partner is alive and full of life. And, yes, there can be passion and above all, a quality of life for the couples after prostate cancer. We look forward to many more years together.


Take the time to visit each of our pages on this website, as well as our YouTube channel, in order to get familiar with the disease with our expert lectures, our section on available resources, the support that is offered to you.

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