Intimacy / sexual relationships… And a cancer diagnosis
Intimate and sexual relationships may become affected by the physical, emotional and hormonal changes that sometimes arise from a cancer diagnosis and treatment… Connecting with Naomi Hutchings (A sexologist from Adelaide) gave us an opportunity to discover more…
Interestingly, information and exploration around intimacy and sexuality are often ‘skimmed’ over… These conversations are not always easy for the medical profession or in general… It is surprising though given so many relationships are affected during this time… WE are grateful for our chance meet with Naomi and in our first conversation we knew she had so much to offer…
Naomi has been working solely in the area of Sexual Health and Relationships Education and Training for over 9 years. Naomi holds a Masters of Health Science in Sexual Health from the University of Sydney. Naomi was drawn to this work out of a strong desire to improve the sexual health education curriculum and sexual wellbeing for all people and communities. Naomi brings this same passion and commitment with her whether working at an educational level in a school or university, through public speaking or media interviews or consulting with individuals, couples and families.
So, thank you again Naomi for the insights you’ve shared… This is for EVERYONE!
|Your Name||Naomi Hutchings|
|City of Residence||Adelaide, South Australia|
|Occupation or Experience||Sexologist|
|Your Passions/Interests||Human Sexuality|
|A favourite quote|
How would you describe a ‘healthy’ intimate / sexual relationship in general?
Humans are very diverse creatures and what works for some people may not work for others. What I do know is that communication is vital in ensuring people are able to get the very best out of their sexual relationships with others.
A healthy sexual relationship will consist of many different aspects, depending on people’s unique desires, likes, dislikes etc. but all healthy sexual relationships will have key components such as; attaining and maintaining consent, mutual respect, feeling safe and the ability to communicate their sexual wants.
What are some of the main reasons that intimate / sexual relationships break down?
A sexual relationship can become problematic for many different reasons, intimate relationships themselves are often complex, full of ups and downs and a sexual relationship is no different. People often take for granted that this part of their relationship will just run along smoothly and are often shocked and deeply saddened when it isn’t functioning as well as they would like it to. A sexual relationship can become dissatisfying when partners are not able to communicate freely with each other what their concerns are, or they are unable to disclose their real desires, wants and sexual needs for fear of judgement.
When people are going through cancer or recovering from cancer or other major life challenges, what other side effects or complications may arise around sexuality?
Often after a cancer diagnosis your sole focus is on surviving. Thoughts about your sexuality and sexual function may only come later. Everyone reacts differently but there are some common challenges that might arise.
These might be:
- Lethargy and loss of libido.
- Changes in the functioning of your intimate relationship due to stress and depression etc.
- You may find you have some concerns about your body image due to scarring or hair loss or other changes from treatment.
- You may have some pain, due to dryness, scarring or reduction in vaginal size. You may experience some erection concerns.
- Concerns about the impact on your fertility.
How can healthy intimate and sexual relationships be built / rebuilt?
Communication is a key component. How can we ever get what we want (or say what we don’t want) if we don’t actually speak up about what that is? Honest, open communication is essential in order to build a healthy foundation to create a satisfying relationship but also in order to re build one that has been broken.
What role does a professional sexual therapist / counsellor play in supporting people with intimacy challenges?
Their role is to support a client/s with the exploration of their sexual concerns with a view to improving their overall sexual wellbeing. They can do this in a number in ways, sometimes it is as simple as tips and suggestions other times it is about exploring the past sexual history and family values/beliefs that may be currently impacting on a person being able to function healthily. Often, despite being surrounded by sexual imagery and sexual messages everywhere we look, we are not really given an opportunity to talk about, critique, deconstruct and challenge what we see.
This is often the space where you can do this in a supportive and non-judgmental way.
If someone found it too difficult to talk about their intimacy / sexual concerns, how could they access the support they may be seeking?
There are many fantastic online sites that give excellent information to assist someone who is not ready to speak face to face. Facebook also has many excellent sexual health pages that you can “like” in order to access information about a range of sexual issues and many other aspects of sexuality and relationships. Some sexologists/therapists even offer phone counselling.