Body Image Concerns for Men
Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
I am 20 was diagnosed last year with testicular cancer. I thought it was a groin pull from wrestling so I waited months before I told anyone. I had to have surgery, radiation & chemo. I am one year out of treatment. I have a new girlfriend who is awesome! I have told her about my cancer stuff and she says understands but I worry about the first time we have sex. I mean everything works OK, but my body looks different to me and I feel self-conscious. Do you have any ideas how I could get over this?
Helen L. Coons, PhD, ABPP, Clinical Health Psychologist, responds:
Cancer treatment sure can be hard on the body image and sexual functioning. Sounds like your girlfriend responded supportively and now it is time to improve your body image even with your sexual functioning OK. Your body may not be just the way it was before given all the treatment you have gone through. I highly recommend you consider an exercise program to start to feel stronger and more connected to your body. Walking, biking, swimming, elliptical or rowing, etc and weights at home are fine or consider a gym with or without a very experienced trainer. Also, start out slow with sexual activity with your girlfriend. Remember that sexual intimacy is way more than just intercourse. Spend time getting to know her body, vice a versa and in return experience your body in old and new ways. Kissing, massage, showers, etc. together are fun places to start and continue throughout your relationship. While you may be missing your old body that was familiar, be open to some old feelings returning as well as new experiences. If you still find your are very worried about your body image and sex after trying some of these tips, consider seeing a Psychologist with expertise in working with men with cancer.
Rebecca Nellis, Director of Programs at Cancer and Careers, responds:
In addition, Jonny Imerman of Imerman Angels, Sage Bolte of Life with Cancer and Tamika Felder of Tamika and Friends talk about these kinds of things all over the place, there was an episode of the Stupid Cancer show dedicated to Sex and Relationships this spring that is archived on their website that you could listen to. You can contact Jonny through his website, Imerman Angels.
This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series, Issues Facing Young Adults After Cancer. View the entire transcript.