THE BARRIER METHODS

We’ve popped our cherry!

In a GIRLvsCANCER first, our founder Lauren Mahon hosted a Live IGTV series for our ‘Feeling Myself’ campaign. 

The ‘Barrier Methods’ series does what it says on the tin. Every week during our campaign, Lozza interviewed a different sexpert to break down the barriers to sexual intimacy and exploration. 

Although classic British sex-ed will have us think it’s all about putting one bit of anatomy into another, sexual intimacy is much more complex. And not only for the cancer community! But we have an additional layer of malignant cells making the barriers more complicated and harder to break through.

Taking a hole-istic approach to us as human beings & our need intimate needs, the Barrier Methods series was split into three parts – mind, body and soul – covering everything from Mindful sex to neuropathic sensations and everything in between.

Go down…the page to find out more about each episode before checking them out on our IGTV.


MIND


For our opening episode, we focused on the most powerful sexual organ: the mind! Lozza was joined by the gorgeous Kate Moyle, a London-based Psychosexual therapist and podcast host, who took a break from maternity leave just to have a natter with us. Covering mental matters affecting our bedroom antics including body neutrality, mindful sex and societies cock-blocking sexual shame, Lozza and Kate spilled some scalding hot tea.

Here’s some of the best bits…


Out Of Our Hands: “Cancer is out of our control and takes our bodies out of our control…When you’re constantly being poked and prodded and having people’s hands on you, you have to separate from your body…Your body becomes medicalised- people are talking about it all the time! In a way people create a separation…but for sex we have to bring it back together.”

More Than Penetration: “I’m talking about a much more circular model looking at sexual experience- pleasure that doesn’t require intercourse…there is so much else that can happen. The problem is, as a society, we define sex as penis in vagina penetration. There’s a whole host of problems with that: it’s heteronormative, it’s ableist.”

So Last Century: “Sex is something we still don’t talk about in an open, honest way…We don’t always see average or everyday sex. The invisibleness makes us compare it to our lives and pushes us back…I encourage people to start small outside of the bedroom in a non-sexualised way. We talk about listening to podcasts or TED talks, following sex positive professionals…Surround yourself with more positive and normalised messages around sex, the normality of it.”

Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch Me: “A good way of getting back into our bodies is not doing it sexually at first…It’s not about sexual, genital or breast touch; it’s about noticing sensations and gently building up at whatever speed we want into a sexual space…Building up that sensual relationship because sensuality is a pillar of sexuality.”

Grab a cuppa & watch the full episode on IGTV.



BODY 


Our mindset might be in it but if our bod ain’t playing ball (or balls teehee), we’ve got yet another barrier. In this instalment, Lozza spoke about body barriers with Trudy Hannington, Senior Psychosexual therapist helping put Doncaster on the map as Britain’s capital of stellar sexual health services (Group trip this summer?). We chat the physical and the practical, covering body bothers from top to toe and offering up tangible solutions including Individual Funding Requests.

Tips, tricks and best bits below…


Get Wet:

*Check to make sure whether your chosen vaginal moisturiser and lubricant is safe to use with condoms and other contraception.*

“Try different moisturisers- there’s a good few ones on the market now, many of which can be prescribed on the NHS…there are many that a GP would be happy to prescribe…Vaginal moisturiser is good for daily use to keep the skin as moist as you can…and the lubricant when you’re going to be sexual but don’t rule out localised oestrogen, it is possible.”

ER+:

*Seek consultation with a medical professional. Provide them with your health history and only use localised oestrogen as prescribed*

“It’s looked at on a case-by-case basis, it would be discussed with a specialist (a general GP might be a bit nervous about [prescribing localised oestrogen]). You have to weigh up the benefits and the risks, and the quality of life- that’s the most important thing.”

“You want a really good quality localised oestrogen, not a cheap and cheerful or generic one. For external [use], I would definitely be recommending Ovestin because it’s much more concentrated so only a very small amount needs to be used whereas some of the generic ones you have to use a lot. I remember one lady telling me she wouldn’t use that again because it felt like she was squelching as she walked.”

Sexy Time With Stomas: “Look at when is the best time of day with the condition you’ve got, what might work for you and plan. Some people say we shouldn’t have to plan sex…but I think we should turn it on its head and call it your date night or date day or date afternoon. What you’re doing is giving it some importance.”

Own Your Bod: “You’ve got to be assertive with your GP. Write down everything that’s going on and be quite insistent so if you get a response of ‘well that’s how it is after cancer’, it doesn’t mean you have to put up with it… Whoever is listening, please don’t think ‘well this is just how it has to be’, it doesn’t. Being with the right [team] will hopefully at least make it better than it was…It’s about thinking a bit more and being more creative in a positive way.”

Want to learn how to get NHS access to psychosexual therapy? Find the full episode on our IGTV.



Trudy’s Resources & Recommendations:

YES Organic!

Ohnut

The Leger Clinic

You can find Trudy at The Leger Clinic.



SOUL


To bring this series to a close, Lozza spoke about relationships and connections post-cancer diagnosis with Dr Amani Zarroug, a relationships and psychosexual therapist who previously worked in cancer and palliative care. Just the doctor needed for this one! We touch on having those tough conversations and unapologetically owning your experience; you ain’t a victim so there will be no cancer-related pity shags here. 

Whether you’re single or partnered up, you’re going to want to check out these gems:


But When Do I Drop The C-Bomb?: “It’s all about your readiness. No one can tell you exactly when is the time to disclose. It’s about how comfortable you feel, how safe you feel in a relationship.”

Keeping It Casual: “It’s about conversation and how visible [that you’ve had cancer] is, and what might I have to tell this person I’m about to have sex with so that they know this is all I want…You don’t necessarily have to disclose your whole life history because that’s what you’re there for but you want to make sure they’re on board with what you’re there for.”

Ready For More: “It’s a vulnerable moment to be putting yourself out there and worrying that this person might decide they’re actually better off meeting someone else or that it’s too much. I think it’s worth, in the initial conversation, acknowledging all of that…In some ways, you’d rather know soonish…so they can move on and so can you.”

Like New: “Even if you’re in a long-term relationship it doesn’t mean it’s the best relationship… Sexually, it’s about rediscovering what works. Going really slowly and reintroducing touch, not for the sake of sex or sexual touch but touch that is nurturing, soothing and feelings comforting…something that’s very, very intimate and affirming of your relationship. and who you are but allows you to set the pace.”

Chatter That Matters: “The longer you leave it, the more difficult it is… If you find it difficult to initiate – it’s always the beginning of changing the dynamic which is the most difficult – there’s cards you can buy with questions from ‘The School of Life’…It sparks conversation that you don’t have to think about but it will trigger something from both of you.”

Patient Last: “It’s about acknowledging it and stepping out if [patient and carer roles]. Having those conversations about the way you see each other…Revisit what it used to be like and what it was that made you a couple in the first place when there was no caring or cancer. You’re going to be bored of me talking about communication but once you allow someone to put the feeling into words – whatever you’re feeling, whatever they’re feeling – it dilutes the intensity of the emotion.”

Put yourself & watch the full episode on IGTV.



Dr Amani’s Resources:

School Of Life 100 Question Cards (multiple editions available).

Keep in touch with Dr Amani at:

@DrAmaniZarroug


GIRLvsCANCER CREW

Art Direction: Lauren Mahon
Production Assistant: Emma McAuley
Location: Mama Shelter London
Photography: Kaye Ford + Alex Cameron
Videography: Rosalind Alcazar
Make-Up: Laurretta Power 
Hair: Julie Ganina
Styling: Alessia Farnessi