Guest Author - Rann Patterson
If you've been adversely affected by radiation and chemo treatments for Breast Cancer, Gynecological Cancers, or even from other cancer types, this book can help. As a personal witness to what treatment side-effects can do to your body and life, I was very interested in what this couple had to say. What I have learned has given me hope. My desire is for you to feel that hope, as well.
The Table of Contents, which consists of a mere thirteen chapters, gives a clear preview of what’s inside. But since the book is a whopping 280 pages from cover to cover, I knew right away this would be no ordinary book. In my own opinion, this book is a bomb-shell. It may not be the whole enchilada, but it’s as close as you can get.
FORWARD BY FORMER SURGEON GENERAL OF U.S.A.
The Forward is written by Dr. Joycelyn Elders, Former Surgeon General of the United States of America. I like what she says:
“It is accurate to say that we are sexual beings from birth to death.”
- Dr. Joycelyn Elders
DRIVEN BY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
In the Preface Barbara tells right up front that Ralph was the one who had the cancer. After Ralph's diagnosis for Prostate Cancer in 1995, in trying to get help, they found that the subject of Prostate Cancer was not documented. So they determined to research it themselves, and eventually published two books.
During support groups, they were approached by women and other couples to write a book for women cancer survivors. This book is a collaboration from many experts, however, alot of the information comes from the women themselves. Some of them are quoted, and it's actually very moving.
THE NEW WOMAN
Whether we want to admit it or not, every woman changes after a diagnosis of cancer. Many women have called this evolution, the New Normal. This chapter covers a woman’s self-image, which is a huge hurdle for many women. One of the first things they teach you to do is to find out who you are, so that you can redefine who you are. Personally, I found this to be a key foundational component to the entire message of the book.
FEMALE SEXUAL DYSFUNCTION
The next chapter covers female sexual dysfunction (FSD). It includes a woman’s sexual response cycle, lifestyle choices that affect sexuality, including alcohol, drugs, and smoking. Normal aging is covered as a culprit, along with the already known main factor, which is the treatments, discussed in Chapter Three.
TREATMENTS - The Main Culprit
This chapter covers how the treatments change the body physically and emotionally, including psychological effects such as anxiety, fear of rejection, identity disorder, and depression. The social challenges are discussed as well. They have also made a list of suggestions on how to prevent or curb "chemo brain". The bottom-line of this chapter is not to pull away, or isolate yourself because you’re having trouble.
This book is chock-full of information. There are shaded graphs, and practical tips that you can copy, or scan and download, to refer back to, or share with a friend.
Other Topics include:
I, The New Woman: Using Cancer to Redefine Yourself
The New Single Woman
AIDA - Admire Yourself/Identify Interests/Do It!/Assess
The Elephant in the Bedroom – That thing no one wants to talk about.
10 Practical Ways to Create a Loving Environment
20 Ways to Reinvent Your Sex Life
Develop a Sexuality Script (like a play) – write down likes, dislikes, what works, what doesn’t, etc.
Emotions/Psychological/Biological Changes – Patient/Partner Response
Drugs/Pharmaceutical- Brand name/Used for/Positive effect/Side-effect
Herbal Supplements- Name/Used for/Positive effect/Side-effect
M-E-D-S – Motivation/Exercise/Diet/Sleep
CREST – Creativity/Respect/Excitement/Sensitivity/Togetherness
The book does not discuss Lymphedema.
There is an Appendix at the end for women who have, or have had, Breast Cancer, and need information on options about surgery and reconstruction. It is very clear and easy to understand.
There is a limited, yet rich, Resource section, and a nicely detailed Index.
In the end, Ralph and Barbara say this-
“A good sex life expresses and reinforces a loving relationship, which in turn makes for better sex, which deepens the love – a mutually reinforcing cycle.”
However, in case you’ve misunderstood, this book is not all about sexual intercourse. Society has defined making love this way, which is an erroneous concept. Expressing love to a person wholly, is not only vital to any relationship, it is essential if you want to renew your sexuality and intimacy. If fear has paralyzed you in this area, don't fret, it's almost as if the authors take you by the hand while guiding you through the process.
It would be unrealistic to say that this book will help every cancer patient. However, it should help most, along with being a valuable tool in the hands of healthcare professionals who treat cancer patients. Every Mental Health Counselor should have this book in their library for reference to help those traumatized by the effects of cancer.
Some books we pass on, and some we put our names in and we never let them go. We can refer back to them again and again. This is that kind of book.
Ralph and Barbara Alterowitz are founders of The Center for Intimacy After Cancer Treatment, a non-profit organization. Sexuality counseling service is available in person, via Skype, or by phone.
The Alterowitz's are also available for public speaking engagements.
To purchase the book and for more valuable information visit the couple's website at RenewIntimacy. Ralph and Barbara Alterowitz are certified sexuality counselors through the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT).
The Lovin' Ain't Over for Women with Cancer by Ralph and Barbara Alterowitz, 2011 by The Center for Intimacy After Cancer Treatment (C-I-ACT) 280 pgs.
Editor's Note: This book was provided for review by the authors, Ralph and Barbara Alterowitz.