women, sex and cancer

Women, Sex and Cancer

Cancer treatments can have an impact on your sex life.  As a woman, having an understanding of changes that you may experience during the course of your care can help to prepare you and to ease your concerns.

Reproductive Issues

If you are in your reproductive years you should speak to your oncologist, before you begin treatment, about its possible impact on your fertility. Preserving fertility is a viable option in many cases.  It is important to discuss the options available to preserve fertility. women, sex and cancer

Pain or Discomfort During Intercourse

Pain or discomfort during intercourse can also be problematic for some women going through cancer treatment.

Here are some suggestions should this be an issue:

  •  Vaginal lubricants

There are natural vaginal lubricants on the market.  Seek out companies that offer organic oil or water based products.  These will help to increase the comfort of sexual activity.

Coconut oil may also be of use not only as a lubricant but also as an external vaginal moisturizer.

  • Pelvic floor therapy

Pelvic floor therapy for women is a type of physiotherapy that helps with relaxation to loosen tight, tender vaginal muscles resulting in reduced pain during intercourse.

  • Vaginal dilators

Vaginal dilators can help to relieve pain during penetration. They function to stretch the vagina and reduce tightness. They can be used in combination with pelvic floor therapy.

Conclusion

Additional side effects of cancer treatments that can inhibit your ability to enjoy sex include low libido, nausea and fatigue.

It is important to understand that in most cases side effects will be remedied once your treatments are completed.

It is also very important that you keep an open dialogue with your partner during this time.  Speaking to someone with experience in this area may be beneficial both individually and as a couple.

And do remember this.  Intimacy with your partner can be experience in ways other than sexual if, for the time being, a sexual relationship cannot be enjoyed.

 

 

4 Things to Consider if You’re Travelling with a Medical Condition

Guest Post by: Barbara Williams

A majority of travellers who set out to explore the world will have some kind of medical condition, however minor.

But while most will enjoy their adventures without complication, it is worth understanding the importance of taking necessary precautions so that you are fully prepared if your condition does worsen while you are away.

As a rule, anyone who is planning to travel with serious underlying health problems such as cancer or heart disease (among others) should always consult with their doctor before they travel.

But here are four other things to consider if you’re travelling with a medical condition.

  1. Do You Need a Doctor’s Letter?

We have already mentioned the need to consult with your GP before you travel, but you may also need them to write an up-to-date letter if you intend to carry large amounts of medication or an emergency injection kit, which requires you to take hypodermic needles on to a plane. Security staff at airports are used to dealing with cases like this and so will quickly understand your situation. But if you don’t have a letter that has been signed off in the last week before you travel you could face the life-threatening situation of having that medication confiscated before you travel. Don’t put yourself in that position.

 

  1. Know Where to Get Medical Care at Your Destination

You can’t do enough research and preparation on your destination. You should know where you will go if you fall ill and need to see a doctor. You and your travelling partners should also know where you would go in the event of a medical emergency and where the nearest major hospital is. If you do fall ill, you may not be in a position to explain what you know, so make sure you spend some time talking to your travelling companions to make sure they know it all. They should also know the number for your travel insurance company, as they can be invaluable in helping in the event of an emergency. Join the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers, as they can be hugely helpful too.

  1. Keep Your Medication in Your Hand Luggage

Perhaps this is self-explanatory – but don’t trust the airlines with your medication. Travel can be completely unpredictable, and you can never be sure your luggage will arrive where and when you do. So, take it in your hand luggage and keep it close at all times. You should also ensure you have enough medication for the duration of your trip. Carefully count out how much medication you have and then pack more just in case your trip goes on for longer than you anticipate.

 

  1. Wear Medical Alert Identification

If you have an underlying medical condition you should already know that you need to wear a medical alert tag, but this is especially crucial when you are travelling. You can now programme medical alert information into your smartphone, allowing medical personnel to check your condition if they find you unconscious or unable to respond. Don’t take any chances.

 

3 Common Characteristics of Cancer Survivors

June is Cancer Survivor Awareness Month.  Battles are being won as the war against cancer continues.

  • Over 60% of Canadians diagnosed with cancer are expected to survive for 5 years or more after a cancer diagnosis (Canadian Cancer Society)⠀

 

  • Cancer death rates have been declining since 1988 among men, and since the mid-1990s among women (Government of Canada, Canadian Cancer Statistics)⠀

  • Cancer mortality rates are decreasing more than 2% per year for lung, colorectal, prostate and oral cancers in males; breast and ovarian cancers in females; and Hodgkin disease and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, stomach cancer, and larynx cancer in males and females (Government of Canada, Canadian Caner Statistics)⠀

My unique vantage of being both a cancer survivor and a professional working with cancer patients has offered me the opportunity to bear witness to some common threads that weave many survivors together.

Although not exhaustive, I feel that these are the most constant traits of cancer survivors that I see.

3 Common Characteristics of a Cancer Survivor

1. A resolve to make necessary changes in diet and lifestyle

cancer survivorsMany cancer survivors change their diet to include whole, plant-based foods and eliminate processed, pro-inflammatory foods because they understanding that what they eat can either enhance health or detract from it.

Supplements to support health are often included along with dietary changes.

The importance of proper sleep, exercise and mindfulness is appreciated and strived for within the lives of many cancer survivors.

2. A willingness to take active participation in determining their cancer protocolunderstanding

Most cancer survivors have asked questions, considered many avenues of care and have taken an active role in determining the cancer protocol that feels right for them.  Many cancer survivors have taken an integrative approach to their care including modalities such as yoga and meditation in to their cancer protocol.

3. A belief that their body can heal

Survivors tend to have a strong belief that given the proper tools their bodies can overcome and heal from cancer.  Once established, a common trait of survivors is the firm belief that their protocol will be successful.

Life after a cancer diagnosis is different.  As with any profound event we experience, cancer resets the framework for us moving forward.  But we do.  We move forward.

We are survivors.

cancer survivors

 

References:

https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/chronic-diseases/cancer/canadian-cancer-statistics.html

http://www.cancer.ca

 

Cancer Taught Me to Embrace Normal

It’s a rare occasion when I sit down at 7:30 am in the morning, flip on the television and watch a Netflix documentary.  But after 4 straight days of early morning rises, this is what I did.  I invited Brene Brown into my family room to join me in my day.

Now if you have had the good fortune to watch The Call to Courage on Netflix I am sure we share, at the very least, an admiration for her stage presence.  Beyond that I can only reflect upon my personal admiration for her work, her research and her word.

To itemize all of her insights would be a total spoiler for you.  But there was one that I would like to expound upon because it resonated so deeply with me.

Appreciating Normal

I was totally qualified to lead the line of the great many of us who go through life mechanically.  I tended to the daily tasks that needed tending to.  I said ‘have a great day’ without thought as someone left the house in the morning.  And I grudgingly tackled the nuisance of the daily dinner menu.

This was how I did the normal of my everyday life.  I did normal mindlessly.  Until I got cancer.

In no way, shape or form do I consider this disease, my disease, a blessing of any kind contrary to those who have offered up to me the notion that some form of clarity is tied to a cancer diagnosis.

What going through cancer did do was steal my normal.  Those aspects of mundane in my life were replaced with appointments, tests, results, recoveries and fears.

I found myself searching for normalcy and it was in that search that I found gratitude.  Yes, in the midst of it all, I became grateful.  Grateful for hearing the garage door slam because I knew that someone made it home safely.  Grateful for a dish breaking because people were eating together.  Grateful for kids fighting because those children are mine and they are well and they are near.  Grateful for my sleeping husband because he is my best friend and most avid supporter.

So Now…

As life moves forward from cancer and with the grace of God that I am still living it, I have gratefully settled back in to my normal.  It’s not, nor will it ever be perfect.  But I have made a commitment to practice gratitude daily which helps me to breathe and accept some nuances of my normal that will never quite be appreciated.  Case in point is the danger zone marked by the 75 pairs of shoes piled in my back hall for instance.

So here is to Normal!  Normal is where I live most of my life.  Normal is that sweet spot between the highs and the lows.  And normal is right where I want to be.

 

Does Sleeping in on the Weekend Make Up for Lack of Sleep During the Week?

Sleep is our reward at the end of the day that allows our body to regroup, repair and restore.  But what happens if we don’t get enough sleep?

In the short term the effects of not getting adequate sleep can include:

  • Lack of alertness
  • Impaired memory
  • Moodiness

Chronic lack of sleep can have a severe impact on your health leading to serious health issues such as:

  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • heart issues
  • obesity
  • depression

And research has shown that long-term sleep disruptions may raise the risk of some cancers including prostate cancers and breast cancers.

https://www.cathybiase.com/sleeping-cancer-fighting-powerhouse/

So now that we know, in broad sweeps, the importance of getting adequate sleep,  how much sleep is enough sleep?

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF), along with a multi-disciplinary expert panel recommends that adults get between 7-9 hours of sleep nightly.

So let’s do the math.  If we take the average of required sleep time to be 8 hours per night then multiply that number by 7 days a week, that works out to 56 hours of sleep a week to hit the desired target.  And when we get less than our needed amount of nightly sleep, this results in what scientists call a ‘sleep debt’.

So here is the question, if we fall short of the average 7-9 hours of sleep during the week, can we repay this sleep debt by sleeping in on the weekend?  Many of us assume yes but research suggests otherwise.

In this study researchers enlisted 36 healthy adults age 18 to 39 to stay for two weeks in a laboratory.  Their food intake, light exposure and sleep were monitored.

Volunteers were divided into groups. One group was allowed to sleep 9 hours each night for 9 nights. The second was allowed 5 hours per night over that same 9 day period. The third group slept no more than 5 hours nightly for 5 days followed by a weekend when they could sleep as much as they liked before returning to 2 days of restricted sleep.

Both of the sleep-restricted groups snacked more at night, gained weight and saw declines in insulin sensitivity during the study period. While those in the weekend recovery group saw mild improvements (including reduced nighttime snacking) during the weekend, those benefits went away when the sleep-restricted workweek resumed.  According to Christopher Depner, lead author of the study

In the end, we didn’t see any benefit in any metabolic outcome in the people who got to sleep in on the weekend

Getting a good sleep on a nightly basis is something many of us need to work on.

Here are some tips to help the Sandman come your way.

Tips for better sleep:

  1. Turn all electronics off 1 hour before bedtime
  2. Do not eat 3 hours before bedtime
  3. Sleep in a cool, dark room
  4. If you must have electronics in your room, keep them 2 feet away from your bed
  5. Be consistent with your bed time aiming to go to bed around 10pm

Sleep well friends!

Here is a very interesting and informative interview that I did with Dr. Garcia-Rill entitled “Why Do We Sleep?”

Have a listen:)

 

References:

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/press-release/national-sleep-foundation-recommends-new-sleep-times

https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(19)30098-3

http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/22/5/872

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0149763417301628