Ali on talking about sex and relationships

Published: 14 March 2024

46-year old Ali from North Wales was diagnosed with cervical cancer in April 2015 when she was in her late 30s. She is now cancer free. She has been with her new partner for the past few months. Not being able to have open and honest conversations about sex and relationships after her cancer diagnosis had a huge impact on Ali.


Ali spoke to us as part of our We need to talk about sex and cancer campaign.

Meet Ali

So, I guess it all started right at the point of diagnosis for me. When discussing treatment options, the consultant wrongly assumed that a woman of my age, who was single and had a son, would be ok with having a hysterectomy. I was 37 at the time and he couldn’t have been more wrong. I had always thought I would have another baby and was devastated at the thought of this being taken away from me. It was my Macmillan Nurse Jane who supported me to come to terms with this. 

Post surgery, the medical team were amazing and there to support me with recovery and the physical aspects of this. But the mental side is a different story. No one talks about how this diagnosis and a hysterectomy makes you feel, or about the effect it could have on your relationships or sex life

I felt less of a woman somehow, that I had lost my femininity. Looking back, I started doing things like wearing make up every day, false eye lashes, fake tan etc and trying to compensate for the part I had lost – my womb and ability to give life. 

"No one talks about how this diagnosis and a hysterectomy makes you feel or about the effect it could have on relationships or sex life."

My confidence regarding relationships was rock bottom. Especially when meeting someone new. Would men see me as less of a woman? Would they still be attracted to me now? Would it be an issue not being able to have children? I know many people choose not to have children but the choice had been taken from me and there was a loss of control. 

Regarding sex, I had so many questions. Would this now be painful? Would I be able to satisfy someone? Would they be able to satisfy me? Would there be any side effects: discharge, bleeding etc that could cause embarrassment? Essentially, would it still work down there? 

I previously had quite a high sex drive, would this be affected, would it be diminished? These were all questions I had – but had no one to ask. It’s just not a topic people discuss. It was unknown, scary and it affected my mood. I felt very anxious

"We need to have answers and be able to discuss sex and relationships after cancer openly, and not hide."

Friends would tell me it didn’t make me less of a woman and that I hadn’t lost my femininity, but as much as they meant it, it really didn’t help. I still felt and believed this. Counselling helped regarding the infertility. 

But the only way I got answers to all the other questions, was when I met someone. I had to take the plunge, so to speak. 

I was so self-conscious, scared and anxious. Luckily, he knew my history and was mindful of this. Glad to say that this was not a horror story and all was good. But I wish I’d had someone to talk to, or had information about it. This would have saved me so much angst and worry. We need to be more open and honest.... this is real life and we need to have answers and be able to discuss sex and relationships after cancer openly and not hide.