Intimacy and The Cancer Experience

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Breast cancer diagnosis can lead to sexuality and intimacy challenges. Gina Costa, cancer coach, shares her personal story.

We go through so many changes as a result of surgeries and treatments like lumpectomy, mastectomy, double mastectomy, the side effects of chemo and radiation. Some of us will have the option of reconstruction and some will not, depending on the circumstances or complications. Everyone is different, heals differently, has different genetics and even those with the exact same diagnosis may not heal in the same direction. Our differences are what make us unique and beautiful human beings.

The effects can leave us feeling less than. Less than feminine, less than sexual, less than human or not like our own self. We may even feel less sexual and less sexually driven.

So how do we cope then? The first step from what I see as a common theme among my clients is self-love. Not many of us know what self-love is, nor do we exercise it. Before you can move forward in owning your sexuality again, you have to love yourself at your core, be non-judgmental of yourself (not an easy task for many of us) and be accepting of who you truly are (the real you, not the person others want you to be). Once you have done this, and believe me, it takes time…there is no magic bullet to grasping this concept…you can move on.

For me personally, I remember it was probably almost a year before I took a bra off after wearing it 24/7. I think it gave me a false sense of security. Nor would I undress (or make a quick t shirt change which took all of 30 seconds) without barricading and locking myself in my bedroom door. It took me time and confidence for me to love my body again and I can truly tell you that I love myself more today in all ways, more than I have in 50 years.

I do also have to give credit to my husband for accepting me as I was (with or without reconstruction) he told me many times he loved me, not my breasts and was just happy that I was alive to be available to love. I do remember having to ease back into intimacy and the fact that I had lost all stimulation in my breast area. Despite what my husband told me, I also thought what it would be like for him. It took me time, with his support to step into my own and love myself at my core, more than I ever had before. I am probably more confident now than I ever have been before because I chose to dig deep and look within.

I think one thing that we have to remember is that there are so many ways to be intimate. You can have a conversation and be intimate, you can look into someone’s eyes and feel the intimacy, you can hold hands, go for a walk, go to favorite places that you frequent that remind you of your connection, going to a movie or a drive. There are so many ways of recreating intimacy and it can actually be fun and revitalize the relationship!

Again, the first step is self-love, non-judgment and unconditional love of yourself. And trust me, not only will this help you to love and accept yourself more, it will allow you to love and accept others for who they are. Everything that we learn about ourselves and put into play has a ripple effect in all areas of our lives.

If you are struggling with intimacy issues with yourself or in your relationship, reach out to me and let’s see how we can create in partnership a plan for you to move forward in this area of your life. Email me at or fill out a contact form on my website


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