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Impact of diagnosis on partners

What you as a partner can do

Cancer treatment or surgery can change your partner’s body. Areas where touch used to feel good may now be numb or painful. Some of these changes will go away. Some will stay. For now, you can figure out together what kinds of touch feel good, such as holding, hugging, and cuddling. Your partner needs to know that you still love her and find her attractive. Remind yourself of her other qualities: sense of humour, intelligence or personality.

Talk to your partner. Ask her to tell you or show you what feels good or what areas are sensitive to touch. You might feel awkward about sexual contact because you think your partner is not ready for sex or that physical contact may hurt her. These feelings may affect your libido or your ability to maintain an erection (impotency). These effects are temporary and will improve with time.

Make dates. Many couples find that it helps to plan special occasions. Some days may end up being better than others for these dates, depending on how your partner feels. So you may need to be okay with last-minute changes.

You don’t have to be fancy. It’s about spending time together. That can mean watching a video, going out to eat, or looking through old photos. It can be whatever you both like to do. You can also plan these dates to include other people, if you miss being around others.

A counsellor can help you find ways to help each other. There are many who deal with intimacy and sexuality issues with cancer patients.

Call the Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20 for more information, or talk to your treatment team.