Fatigue After Cancer Treatment
Fatigue is the most frequently reported symptom of cancer. It transcends across all cancer types and greatly interferes with routine day-to-day activities. Fatigue is the second topic in my four part series of topics addressing the challenges that cancer survivors face after treatment to find intimacy again. The first topic of the series covered communication. Today we’ll discuss fatigue and loss of interest and how they affect cancer survivor’s intimate relationships.
Fatigue experienced by a cancer patient is extremely different from the fatigue a healthy person would describe. Their fatigue could often be resolved with a good night’s sleep or an afternoon nap. Cancer patient’s fatigue affects both mental and physical functioning and can last months after treatment. In many cases fatigue affects intimate relationships, because we’re tired and feeling exhausted just doesn’t feel sexy.
Is fatigue affecting your relationship? Below I share tips to help you connect with your partner in spite of your fatigue.
Identify the best part of your day, when you feel you’re most energetic and optimistic about life. For me, it’s early in the morning before the challenges of the day have entered my mind, before I’ve turned on my phone or my computer. Whenever the best time of your day is, schedule time with your partner then. Your conversations will be more successful and productive.
Lighten your load. Many of us have families to care for, jobs to go to, and commitments to keep. Consider your recovery from cancer a team effort, and lighten your load. Assign household chores to others in the house. Take your friends up on offers to help you get groceries, cook meals, or do some of those household chores. This will reduce stress in your day and leave more time to connect with your partner.
Seek professional help if you have any concerns that your fatigue could actually be depression. Fatigue and depression can often look the same.
Loss of Interest After Cancer Treatment
The second and often related topic includes loss of interest. Loss of interest can also be described as loss of libido or a lower sex drive. I was surprised to realize how true this was for me immediately after cancer treatment. It’s easy to get stuck in a place where no sexual contact is normal. If you have no interest, you may have no interest in changing it either.
Below, two tips will help you ‘get unstuck’ and regain intimacy despite your loss of interest.
1. Interest doesn’t have to be present to allow yourself sexual contact. As young healthy humans, interest usually came first, triggered by several organs in our body. But “interest” wasn’t necessary to experience a satisfying sexual encounter. Even without the initial interest, you can still respond to sexual stimulation. Interest doesn’t have to come first. It may kick in after you’re sexually stimulated.
2. Emotional intimacy and physical intimacy are related and build on each other. One can cause the other. If you have no interest in physical intimacy, consider what emotional intimacy looks like for you. It can be the path to connecting again physically. Consider the activities you enjoy with a partner. It could be as simple as a walk, a cup of coffee together, or just lying quietly together. Any of these things may bring on emotional intimacy for you, which in turn could trigger physical intimacy. None of these feelings or emotions are sequential. There’s no required order of events to create a satisfying connection for you and your partner.
If fatigue or loss of libido has impacted your relationship after cancer you are not alone. Cancer may have changed many things in your life, but it doesn’t have to continue to be the reason you’ve lost intimacy. Use the tips I’ve provided as a guide to regaining a satisfying intimate relationship with your partner.
As always, your question and concerns are always welcomed in the comments below. To connect with me, visit aftercancer.co or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.