Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 26

Sexuality

INTIMATE ISSUES WITH MARLOE

the same kindness and comfort to ourselves
that we would offer to others. In fact, we
can be pretty cruel. But what if we treated
ourselves like we'd treat a good friend?
Choosing to utilize the Friend Lens is a
great example of practicing body self-compassion. Being self-compassionate means
recognizing negative self-talk, self-criticism
and self-judgment, and actively replacing
these thoughts with kindness and understanding. It might feel unnatural at first,
but stick with it. Self-compassion is a skill
that you can strengthen; and with practice,
it becomes habit. Check out the work of Dr.
Kristin Neff to get some great ideas on how
to get started.
4. HAVE A LOVED ONE REFLECT
YOUR IMAGE

If it's hard for you to look at yourself in a
mirror and identify things you feel positively
about, enlist some help! We are poor interpreters of our own reflection, because we tend
to break ourselves down into body parts and
focus on what's changed or what we've lost.
Other people, though, recognize and take
into account the whole picture.
To do this exercise, sit in front of your
partner or a friend, and allow him or her
to ref lect back to you everything they see
when they look at you, including what they
love about who you are. We might not have
control over all of our physical traits, but
we can learn to view ourselves in the same
ways our loved ones see us. Getting their
perspective helps us reinterpret the meaning of our ref lection the mirror.

5. LET YOUR PARTNER SEE YOU
 If you are currently in a romantic relationship, think for a moment about your partner's best qualities. What's at the top of the
list? Is it their straight teeth, or their nipples,
maybe? Or are you more apt to consider
their humor, kindness, generosity or confidence? Finding someone attractive goes far
beyond the physical. And if we are taking
into account so much more than physical
attributes when we look at our partners, can
we appreciate that they are also taking into
account so much more than our body parts
when finding beauty and value in us?
Your partner is actually quite likely to be
unconditionally accepting of your changed
body. Where you see imperfection, they find
strength and resilience. With this in mind,
consider resisting the urge to go behind
closed doors. When you (consciously or
unconsciously) hide yourself in the bathroom or closet to dress or undress, you are
depriving your partner of the opportunity
to show and tell you that they still find you
(the whole you!) amazing, and that they
love you just the way you are. Give them
the chance to do so!  

my life! Not to mention the eyes and hands
of so many strangers on my chest. One way of
coping with these uncomfortable or distressing situations is to subconsciously disconnect from our bodies. But once treatment is
over, it can be hard to reverse this protective
mechanism.
Doing so requires relearning your body
as a source of pleasure. Start by taking some
time to get reacquainted with what feels
good and how your body responds to touch.
Explore for yourself what's changed about
your body, without the pressure of performance that might be felt in the presence of
a partner. When you are ready to connect
again physically with your partner, you
can share what you've learned during your
self-study. Sensate focus exercises can also
help you and your partner work together
find pleasure, enjoyment and connection
through touch.  
7. ALLOW GRIEVING

6. REDISCOVER PLEASURABLE
TOUCH

Receiving treatment for cancer often requires
us to expose private, intimate parts of
ourselves. I mean, I have never had so many
people interested in my pooping habits in

Grief is a natural reaction to loss, and
acknowledging losses can be a healthy route
to healing. Consider saying good-bye to the
things or body parts you've lost during your
cancer journey. It could be in the form of a
good-bye letter to a lost or altered body part,
or to your pre-cancer self. In the spirit of
moving forward, consider writing a welcoming letter to the new you.
8. PRACTICE FORGIVENESS

BIBLIOGRAPHY/RESOURCES:

* American Cancer Society. (2020). Fertility and sexual side effects in people with cancer. https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-sideeffects/fertility-and-sexual-side-effects.html
* Aubin, S., Perez, S. (2015). The clinician's tool box: Assessing the sexual impacts of cancer on adolescents and young adults with cancer (AYAC). Sexual Medicine,
2015(3): 198-212.
* Chiyon Yi, J., Syrjala, K. L. (2017). Overview of cancer survivorship in adolescent and young adults. UpToDate. Retrieved June 21, 2018 from https://www.uptodate.
com/contents/overview-of-cancer-survivorship-in-adolescent-and-young-adults .
* Cornell Health. (2019). Sensate focus. https://health.cornell.edu/sites/health/files/pdf-library/sensate-focus.pdf
* Foley, S., Kope, S. A., & Sugrue, D.P. (2012). Sex matters for women: A complete guide to taking care of your sexual self (2nd Ed.). The Guilford Press.
* Katz, A. (2014). This should not be happening: Young adults with cancer. Oncology Nursing Society.
* Katz, A. (2015). Meeting the need for psychosocial care in young adults with cancer. Oncology Nursing Society.
* Macmillan Cancer Support. (2019). Cancer and body image. https://www.macmillan.org.uk/cancer-information-and-support/stories-and-media/booklets/body-imageand-cancer
* Neff, K. (2020). Exercise 1: How would you treat a friend? https://self-compassion.org/exercise-1-treat-friend/
* Neff, K. (2020). Self-compassion. https://self-compassion.org/
* Stanton, A. M., Handy, A. B., Meston, C. M. (2018). Sexual function in adolescents and young adults diagnosed with cancer: A systematic Review. Journal of Cancer
Survivorship, 12(1):47-63.

26

ELEPHANTSANDTEA.COM
DECEMBER 2020

Negative emotions are an inevitable part of
our cancer experience. We may feel anger,
fear, frustration, resentment of our bodies
or jealousy of our healthy peers, just to
name a few. We may try to find someone or
something to blame, and often times it ends


https://www.self-compassion.org/exercise-1-treat-friend/ https://www.self-compassion.org/ https://www.self-compassion.org/ https://health.cornell.edu/sites/health/files/pdf-library/sensate-focus.pdf https://www.elephantsandtea.com/sexuality/a-goodbye-letter-to-my-breasts/ https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/fertility-and-sexual-side-effects.html https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/fertility-and-sexual-side-effects.html https://www.uptodate.com/contents/overview-of-cancer-survivorship-in-adolecent-and-young-adults https://www.uptodate.com/contents/overview-of-cancer-survivorship-in-adolecent-and-young-adults https://health.cornell.edu/sites/health/files/pdf-library/sensate-focus.pdf https://www.macmillan.org.uk/cancer-information-and-support/stories-and-media/booklets/body-image-and-cancer https://www.macmillan.org.uk/cancer-information-and-support/stories-and-media/booklets/body-image-and-cancer https://www.self-compassion.org/exercise-1-treat-friend/ https://www.self-compassion.org/ http://www.elephantsandtea.com

Elephants And Tea - December 2020

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