Sexuality for the Woman With Cancer

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Rebuilding self-esteem

Feeling attractive is just one part of your self-image. Dr. Wendy Schain, a psychologist who counsels men and women who have had cancer, describes self-esteem as a set of bank accounts:

  • One account contains the net worth of your physical self – what your body can do and how you look.
  • The second account is your social self – how easily you get along with others and the emotional support you can count on.
  • In the third account is the total sum of your achieving self – what you have done in school, work, and personal and family relationships.
  • The fourth account is for your spiritual self – your religious and moral beliefs and the strength they give you.

During your life, you make deposits in your accounts, but when a crisis like cancer comes up, you must also make withdrawals. Going through cancer treatment has costs. It takes time, and may take away some of your physical ability to function. It can harm your relationships with others, your career goals, and sometimes your faith. When funds from one of your accounts become low, you may need a “loan” from one of the others to balance your account.

Try to be aware of the costs of cancer in your life. Make a special effort to get new deposits for the accounts that remain active. By doing so, a drain from one area of your self-worth will not bankrupt you entirely. If your cancer treatment has affected your looks, focus on the love and care you get from friends and family who react to you with a deep level of intimacy. If treatment interrupts your work, use some of your energy to enrich your social or spiritual life.

Although you may sometimes feel that all your accounts are getting low, a more careful look should reveal some areas where “income” is still flowing in.


Last Medical Review: 08/29/2013
Last Revised: 08/29/2013