When Keith and I published our book in 2002, we thought of our readers as limited to men who had survived prostate cancer as well as their partners—couples seeking a return to intimacy after sexual dysfunction. However, as the book made its way into the world and we began to get feedback, we learned the story of returning to intimacy after sexual dysfunction is one many people were hungry for.
Since the publication of Making Love Again, we’ve had the privilege of speaking to scores of people and organizations who want to hear a ‘real couple’ speak of their journey in regaining and reframing their ability to be intimate after a significant medical intervention, one which compromised their sexuality. These have included:
- Cancer support groups; including of course, prostate cancer, but also breast cancer, testicular, colon, bladder and almost any type of cancer which has required surgery and/or chemo or radiation therapy
- Organizations that offer referral and supportive services. These include hospitality houses, hospices, and facilities offering supportive therapy, possibly transportation, and in some cases meals
- Nurse and medical specialists who provide on-going care to people with heart conditions, organ transplant recipients, diabetics, amputees, and those in dialysis for kidney disease.
- First and second year medical students at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine, as part of their curriculum in Human Sexuality
- Social workers and therapists
Our audiences have been highly diverse, from a large gay men’s cancer support group in the heart of Manhattan, to a shy couple in Ohio who were trying to establish a relationship after bi-lateral breast removal; a twenty-year-old who had testicular cancer and was afraid he would never again have a girlfriend; and a couple in their early eighties who hadn’t been intimate in eight years but waned to begin again. And, of course, there are the always eager, inquisitive medical students, who want to know ‘everything’ and are surprised at the candor they hear from people who are as old as their grandparents.
No matter the audience, our format is similar. We share our story of the impact sexual dysfunction had on our relationship: how we pulled away, nearly fell apart, and slowly reestablished a new normal in how we pleasure and please each other. We’re open, honest and candid, acknowledging what we did right as well as the mistakes we made.
We stress two points. One: loving touch is essential to one’s well-being. And two: we are always changing, which means we need to continually adapt.
Our presentations are short, allowing plenty of time for questions. And our audiences have proven, time and again, that given a safe place, people will shed their fear and ask incredibly honest, forthright, and emotionally charged questions—confirmation that sex can indeed be talked about openly, without shame and embarrassment.
The questions, conversations and diverse interactions I’ve shared with this wide spectrum of people have enriched my own story, which I will be sharing in a series of blog posts under the title “Community Stories”.
You’ll read questions you perhaps have had but were hesitant to ask—or never had the opportunity; you may recognize feelings and fears you’ve experienced but didn’t realize were so universally shared; perhaps you will gain comfort in knowing you are not alone, or recognize your own courage and strength as you have coped, or you may discover new ways to be intimate when your or your partner’s body has been compromised do to medical treatment or intervention.
I hope you are looking forward to this series as much as I am. It is through stories that we heal the most. So please don’t hesitate to comment, make suggestions, or contribute as we continue to grow and learn from one another.