Loving with cancer

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart. – Helen Keller

Over the next couple of issues we are going to look at the way your treatment and surgery may affect your love making. This will help you to recognize problems and find solutions to help manage them. It is always important to have a conversation with your doctor or health care team when symptoms occur.


Feelings of fatigue are common for people living with cancer. No matter what your level of fatigue, don’t ignore it as it can strongly affect your quality of life. Symptoms vary but can include: low energy levels, an increased need to rest after normal activities, overall weakness with heaviness in your arms and legs, difficulty completing daily activities and difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly.

Tips for managing fatigue

  • Prioritize your activities to conserve energy.
  • Schedule any important activities for earlier in the day, make sure to include love making in there!
  • Exercise daily if possible.
  • Try to eat a balanced diet. A dietician can counsel you on a good eating plan.
  • Maintain a normal sleep routine. Too much or too little sleep can cause fatigue. Reduce daytime naps and limit caffeine to morning or early afternoon.
  • If you are having difficulty sleeping try relaxation techniques before bedtime. If sleeping difficulty continues, discuss it with your doctor.


It is common to have pain after surgery, but this should decrease over time. Your health care team will ask you to rate your pain on a scale of 0-10 and can apply interventions to help manage pain.

Pain can impact your self-esteem and desire for sexual activity. While pain medications may influence your ability to enjoy sex, you may need them in order to reduce your discomfort and help you feel more interested in sex.

Tips for managing pain

  • Take your pain medication 30 minutes to one hour prior to sexual activity.
  • Take enough pain medication to be physically comfortable, but not so much that you get sleepy and can’t enjoy sexual activity.
  • Try relaxation techniques before and after intercourse to help you keep your muscles relaxed. Deep breathing can aid in relaxation.
  • Experiment to find the most comfortable position. Use pillows to help provide support.
  • Use water-soluble lubricants for comfort with intercourse.

Many couples don’t talk much about sex, but after surgery your sexual routine may need to change for a while. For example, you may want to try a new lovemaking position after surgery so you don’t put pressure on surgical incisions.

There is not one position that works for everyone, you and your partner need to find something that works for both of you. Use large and small pillows for support. Your sense of humour can lighten the situation.

Written by Elna McIntosh