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The struggle to be intimate is stopping me and my partner putting my illness behind us

I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in October 2016 and had a full hysterectomy shortly after. Following a period of treatment, including chemotherapy, I’m finally in remission but sex is still painful. I’m assuming my vagina has been shortened because the cervix was removed, so my partner can only just enter me. As soon as he tries to go any deeper I feel sharp pain, even with lubrication. I really would appreciate any advice as this is the final hurdle stopping us from putting the cancer behind us once and for all and getting that intimacy between us back.

The aftermath of a hysterectomy can bring different types of challenges for different people ‑ and for their partners. While being unable to give you specific advice regarding your particular physical condition, I want to strongly encourage you to address this problem with your physician. Do not be afraid or embarrassed to tell them exactly what you and your partner are experiencing, and ask for information, as well as help finding a solution. It is your right to be able to return to intimacy, although specific accommodations may be necessary. After a hysterectomy, certain people need help addressing problems brought about by physiological issues such as hormonal changes or nerve damage, and your doctor should be able to help you with such challenges. Following any surgery or disease process there might be significant psychological and relationship effects ‑ as well as body image concerns ‑ so psychological help might be indicated. And a qualified sex therapist could address the specifics of your problems with intimacy and penetration by suggesting beneficial changes in sexual technique, style, or positions. Persevere. The solutions will not instantly appear. But be brave and insist on receiving the help you need.

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