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Cancer, self esteem
218 Posts

I am a breast cancer patient battling this disease. Dealing with the cancer has been one of the hardest things I have had to to go through. My discussion question is regarding self esteem and intimacy. The breast cancer has taken a toll on my body which has impacted my self esteem about my body and also affected my relationship with my spouse.

To me it seems as if cancer and self esteem and intimacy are not discussed too often, or the effect of a diagnosis on an intimate relationship

10 Replies
2486 Posts

Hi @Climbing I have quoted two paragraphs, (couldn't have said it better myself), from a link for you to consider: https://www.groenerekenkamer.com/why-does-my-boyfriend-looks-at-other-females-online/

Don't make assumptions

“The first thing that you need to do is not make any assumptions about your partner. Just because he is looking at other women online, it does not mean that he is unhappy with you or that he wants to leave the relationship. There may be several reasons why he is looking at other females and it is important to talk to him about it so that you can get to the bottom of things”.

Talk to him about it

“The best way to deal with your partner looking at other women online is to talk to him about it. This will allow you to express your concerns and get his point of view on the matter. By talking to him, you will also be able to make sure that he understands how his actions make you feel. You want to make sure that he understands that while it is normal for a guy to look at other women, it can be hurtful if this starts happening more often”.

Sometimes we men do dumb things that upset our significant other without that being the intent. Hence the reasons for flowers and chocolates, and going out for dinners etc… and saying “I'm sorry”.

I understand completely why you are upset given all the circumstances you mention. Having had many cancer surgeries myself, I have had the concerns we have with our bodies, self image and how fragile and vulnerable those concerns can make us at times in certain circumstances.

I hope this helps you, and that you can work out the issues with your partner. Sometimes it's difficult to broach subjects like this, but clearing the air and understanding one anothers feelings is the best case scenario.

Keep well


Runner Girl
3153 Posts

You just got married, was this before your wedding or after? I agree with @ACH2015 that you need to sit down and talk about it. Perhaps see if there is counselling available at your cancer centre with someone who has experience with cancer patients and their significant others.

I completely get your body image issues. I have them too, from the scar, to the change in what remains of my breast after radiation, to the weight I have gained from the aromatase inhibitor and the other side effects of being estrogen deprived. I see a psychologist regularly, but she doesn't have experience with cancer patients and I find even her advice and comments absurd at times.

I hope you two can talk this out and move forward, you were just so happy for your wedding.

Thank you for sharing. You are correct, this is not often openly discussed so I am glad you felt comfortable to do so. As others have noted, I think for me, I would want to have a discussion with my partner and get an understanding where you are both coming from.

I also wanted to share with you our group called Sexuality and Cancer : https://cancerconnection.ca/groups/home/31 where more of these types of conversations do happen here.

Keep us posted as you are comfortable on how things are going. We are listening


1294 Posts

@Climbing Thank you for your courage in sharing this. I'm sorry you are having to deal with cancer and I am sure relationships do change because of same.

One poster above said something about trying to have a conversation with your spouse and let him know how his actions do make you feel. I think that might be an important first step.

I was caregiver for my late wife for 5 years and one thing I learned about intimacy in our relationship is that cancer cannot, or at least does not have to be the reason for no more intimacy.

We found that our intimacy intensified for the most part as she got sicker, but it did not stay the same. It changed over time.

we always felt that a good long ten minute hug, for one example, was far better than other forms of physical intimacy that we had previously enjoyed

It might be a good idea if you could try to explain to your spouse about what kinds of intimacy experiences that you would enjoy the most, given how you are feeling? Maybe if he has a “roadmap” of sorts like that to follow it will help.

My late wife and I at one point did use a social worker to counsel with us about such things, and then when she got too sick to do that, I had a few sessions on my own. It was one of the best things we did for us.

I hope you will be able to communicate adequately with your spouse about this important topic Please check in with us when you can and let us know how you are doing.

2159 Posts

@Climbing Think it’s good to get some counselling to help you process your body issues.

Re your husband‘s internet habit. Maybe he did this before and you’ve only just learned of it…it may have nothing to do with your cancer. My hubby uses similar for ‘extra’, it doesn’t take away from our intimacy…

and things have changed with my cancer treatment - it took him a long time to touch me without looking at me with concern after my surgery, but we have learned to talk more…

Thank you for sharing what is absolutely not discussed very much xx

25 Posts
@CentralAB 👍
1477 Posts

good morning friend.

I have been following this discussion and it just hurts to see you going thru this.
there are about 5000 reasons why I am single, but watching you suffer like this cements my decision even more.
you sound like such a committed and caring partner. being in a relationship is hard work….bravo to you for staying the course and working on this with your groom.

I happened across the Oct calendar for my local WellSPring programming and it seems like there is an intimacy panel late in the month.
I will post the information here for your or anyone else's interest.

the great thing about these virtual programs is that you can remain totally anonymous--you never have to share your name or face if you don't want to. I have attended so many presentations over the last 2 years that I have found really really helpful.

I am sending my very best hugs your way. I hope you & your partner can find some resolution with these issues.


living your best

#wellspring #cancerchangesthings #bodyimage #intimacy #breastfriends

157 Posts

@Climbing You are very perceptive and have raised a very important subject. My wife was diagnosed with breast cancer about 10 or more years ago and had a lumpectomy and radiation. Initially it affected our intimacy. On my side, I was initially afraid to touch her because I feared causing pain or injury. On my wife's side I have no doubt she was inhibited by self-image and self-esteem issues. Over time we went back to our previous and enjoyable intimate relationship although my wife began to wear a tank top to bed to cover the scars. That didn't bother me at all nor did it interfere with our relationship. One important point here and that is it was my wife who initiated intimacy (sex) and that gave me a clear signal that it was okay to touch her and I wasn't going to hurt her by doing so.

My wife had a recurrence a few years ago and decided to have a mastectomy which I fully supported. A year or so after, I was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer and had to have surgery, then radiation, and ADT which continues to today. This certainly challenges our intimacy. In case you are unaware, the surgery and radiation can and does cause erectile dysfunction and the ADT destroys a man's libido. Intimacy is still enjoyable but not nearly as frequent because it now takes work and planning. Spontaneous sex is a thing of the past I'm afraid.

I was very fortunate I got coaching from one of the best oncology psychologists in Canada at PMH and was part of an initiative known as SHAReclinic (Sexual Health And Rehabilitation online clinic). The plan and hope is to expand this program to other cancer patients such as yourself to cover issues like body image and much more. I am a big advocate of this program and have written a six page endorsement for the program as it has helped me so much to deal with the kind of issues you are dealing with. So, if they get funding, help and hope is on the way.

Regarding your spouse watching porn on the internet I wouldn't worry about it unless it is an addiction. Nearly every man looks at internet porn from time to time. Show me a man who denies it and I'll show you a liar. Sorry, but this is a fact backed up by plenty of research. Heck, we had to fire a young lawyer who was watching porn while we were on a Zoom call discussing labour relations issues.

Likewise, I don't know any man who doesn't deeply love and care for their spouse even though we are pretty crappy at showing this. Blame male stoicism. In one on one discussions with male friends, all will confide in how much they love their wives. In a group we become a bunch of jerks. Sorry. My neighbor, a big tough guy who looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger, broke down crying when he told me his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer because he felt so helpless and didn't know what to do. He froze.

Men crave affection and intimacy as much or more than women. By intimacy, I don't mean only sex but touching, hugging, and caressing. It means a lot to men too. So maybe try being the spark that lights a fire.

Well, I've bared my soul here and said some things that may be a lightening rod for criticism but I hope not. Since being diagnosed with cancer I now speak my mind because I don't have time to be PC. Hope this helps.

5 Posts

I agree with essjay. Perhaps this was something your hubby always did. Lots of men look at other women it could be a fantasy and not anything against you. Perhaps it is bothering you more now because of your cancer. How would you have felt about his actions had you not had cancer. Maybe talk to him, knowing that this is not an action he has taken up since your cancer may help you .

Runner Girl
3153 Posts

Have you shared this with him?

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