Dealing with Cancer: Discuss Sex With Your Doctor

Useful insights and pieces of advice from those who have gone through cancer.

Photograph by Jeff Elkins

Two years ago, at age 37, former attorney Stef Woods was known as DC’s Carrie Bradshaw, thanks to her uncensored City Girl blog. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer—her mother died of cancer when Woods was 24—she had a double mastectomy as well as chemotherapy and radiation. She’s now in remission. Woods writes about cancer and relationships on her blog and is a sexuality, activism, and media educator at American University.

“I knew I’d do whatever I could to keep my sex life normal. But everything out there was so negative: ‘You won’t have the energy or desire, you won’t like how you look, you’ll be in menopause, your partner might leave you.’ I realized that talking about sex during cancer needs to be part of the instructions you discuss with your doctor, like diet and exercise. It needs to be a conversation between partners. It won’t be the same as before, but it’s a big part of your wellness plan. I don’t give the men I date an option—I talk about it freely, and they’re surprised I’m so frank. Both my sexuality and my cancer are a big part of my life.”

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This article appears in the October 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.