I had no idea! This is a really well kept quiet secret here in the UK! I was surveying survivors and was surprised to see the ‘write-in’ portion of my survey had 99% response rate of intimacy being the biggest issue for them after the surgery was all done.
I had a look around the internet and found some resources: http://www.breastcancer.org/tips/intimacy Yup, that’s it my friends, a big giant non-profit org that gets large amounts of money donated and raised for them and all they can muster up is a paragraph addressing intimacy! I can promise you this, my company would not do that to you! When you attend one of our seminars, retreats or even one-to-one services, you are going to get a whole slew of exercises that will help you reconnect with yourself, your partner (no matter what your sexual preference) and regain your confidence once again to be unchallenged by any of the things that hinder intimacy for you.
What I think is happening is everyone is talking about all of the victorious stuff that happens when you come out of surgery and are done with all the steps towards reconstruction (if you opted for it) and no one is talking about those little nagging things that are going through the mind after this release from care occurs.
When you are wanting to be intimate with your partner again it is important to get right in your mind with your new body image. No matter what your choice was for surgery a close and personal connection with what you now look like is important to get your confidence back. So, my first step towards this confidence would be:
1. Get in front of the mirror topless
You need to look at your new body shape and really get to know the new curves and the scars that may be there so that you are familiar with every detail. Why is this important? Well, the points where you have scarring can be the source of a spot that will be tender if you are doing intimate touching with your partner. Knowing and being familiar with these spots will help you to understand directing your partner to be sensitive with those areas. (An exercise to perform later with your partner would be to have them sit in front of you and for you to guide their hand over these areas so that they understand what degree of touch you can manage in that area. Something vital for them to be able to feel as there are many times when it is in the dark that you are being intimate.) Understanding how tender that area is, is important because it will be you who can say what level of pressure is allowable.
2. Touch yourself!
Yes, that’s it, touch all the areas of your breast (or breasts if both were operated on) and see how it all feels to the touch. Not just for tenderness but for a deeper understanding of what your partner will feel and you can make analogies to them when explaining the touching aspect of things. It’s important that YOU know your body before attempting the intimacy with your partner as it is easier for you to explain how things should go.
3. Have a conversation with your partner
The next step is to talk to your partner about intimacy. Whether you have had no intimacy during your treatment or you have, it is important to set up the open communication with your partner on what the expectation is from you, what the fears and reluctance may be for you ,as well as, for your partner and then also to give a refreshed line of communication. It’s not always 100% clear to a partner that the communication that was had before is the same. There is a change and for some it can be more open communication and for others the communication is cut off. So it is important to re-open the line of communication and don’t be shy!
The level of timidness in regard to your body needs to be put aside. Why, you may ask? Because this is your body and there have been changes that only you know and understand. You are the only one who can communicate these changes to your partner. You may have been very much into having your breasts touched and played with prior to all of this but somehow that has changed. You may not have changed that and there are frustrations with lack of feeling or even too tender and you are frustrated with that. This all needs to be put out in the open for you and your partner to discuss.
I hope this helps and there is some level of opening up that you will be able to have with your partner. Let me know if you have further questions and if you want me to run deeper into some intimacy exercises. I have spoken with a couple of professionals that deal with many of the issues that can help and I am glad to put them to task and get the answers if you feel you need more. Also, in the summer, 2013, my book will be out and you will be able to get that. It will be filled with exercises to do in order to re-connect with yourself as well as your partner.