The last few months have probably been a whirlwind of emotions for you. You will have a lot of things on your mind, so it’s understandable if feelings surrounding your sex life have been pushed to one side. You may have had to come to terms with many different changes to both your physical appearance and how people react to you.
Your stem cell transplant has probably resulted in your body image changing; you will have had to cope with losing your hair, how your central venous catheter (CVC) looks and any changes to your weight. Many people worry about how this may affect their sex life or that people will not find them as attractive as they once did. This can in turn affect their self confidence and desire to be sexually active. You can read some of our patient stories surrounding body image and get a clinical perspective from our lead nurse on the Anthony Nolan blog.
'Changes in how someone’s body looks can have a knock-on effect on their confidence – for men and women. A positive body image is key to self-esteem, confidence, and maintaining relationships.'
Hayley, Anthony Nolan Lead Nurse
It can take time for you to get used to some of these changes but many patients talk about their sexual desire returning as their recovery progresses. During this time it’s a good idea to take stock of everything that you have been though recently and how you feel about yourself. If you are not comfortable with the thought of having sex, there is no need to rush things. You should focus on your own feelings and not on the needs of somebody else. Only attempt to have sex when you feel ready.
'In my experience, one of the things that helps patients and loved ones is accepting that the illness and the transplant have changed the person who's had it. these can be both positive and negative changes, but there is a difference.'
Philip Alexander, counsellor and cognitive behaviourial psychotherapist
You may find that you are struggling with your emotional wellbeing and that you would like some extra help from a professional. You can talk to your GP or transplant team about being referred to a counsellor or therapist, either with or without your partner if you prefer.