Regaining intimacy: Physical therapy gives couple hope
Last August, doctors found a large tumor in Jeannette Mitchell’s abdomen and diagnosed her with stage 3 cervical cancer. For two years, she had experienced pain and bleeding with sexual intercourse. A year later, after chemo and radiation therapy for her cancer, sex was impossible. But a specialized pelvic floor physical therapy at Anne Arundel Medical Center is helping her through the emotional and physical trauma, and Jeannette is looking forward to a day when she and her husband can be intimate again.
The cancer and the treatment have affected me a lot sexually and it’s put a burden on both of us. Before diagnosis, the tumor was blocking us from having intercourse. Every time we tried I would bleed and bleed. I thought maybe part of it was menopause, but I’d actually already been through menopause, so I didn’t know what was going on until the doctors told me it was cancer.
It was pretty bad, the tumor had blocked both of my tubes which go from your kidneys to the bladder, so the left kidney was shut down, and the right kidney was on its way out too. The doctors had to do surgery and put tubes in my back that went into each kidney and bypassed my bladder so the kidneys could drain. After they got me stable, I had the chemo and radiation everyday for five months.
The radiation has changed everything in my private area. I no longer have hair on my vagina and the canal is very small and has a lot of scar tissue. Every time my husband comes near me it hurts. We haven’t had sex in three years. But he’s supported me so much through everything. We’ve talked about it, and he’d rather have me healthy than worry about the sex part of it.
I’m going to physical therapy twice a week and it’s helped me a lot. There are exercises to do, and my therapist has really talked us both through a lot of stuff in the past months. She’s asked him to try to get a little intimate with me, but not to the point where it hurts. He’s willing to do anything it takes to help me get back to where we can be intimate with each other again.