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Being diagnosed with cancer is a life changing experience.  There is usually initial shock and denial, then the sometimes long journey of facing breast surgery and various oncological treatments. The focus during this time is that of survival, and of adjusting our daily lives to be able to cope with the treatment ahead.

The treatment of breast cancer usually changes the way we look, there are surgical scars that where not there before, side effects of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormonal treatment. At times, this can leave us struggling with our body image because what we see in the mirror is different from what we used to see before diagnosed with cancer.

However during and after the treatment of cancer we remain sexual beings, needing to be close to our partners. Research suggests that partners feel helpless during this time and at a loss of how best to be of support.  They can be afraid of touching the operation site and feel that you are too fragile to hold during the oncological treatment. Most of the time, the instinct in both patient and partner is to protect each other from feelings of depression and fear.  Therefore having a safe space to talk about these thoughts and emotions is imperative. It will help the couple feel close to each other and understand better what the other is going through.

Anna Catania is a counsellor with Willingness. She has had a special interest in working with clients facing intimacy and sexual difficulties and runs a service for families going through cancer and chronic illness. She can be contacted on anna@willingness.com.mt