A positive test for cancer is the start of a journey, not the end. But the road can be particularly fraught for gay and lesbian people who may not have the resources or the family to lean on for support. Luckily, there are community supports available.
The Wellspring Centre offers two support groups for gay and lesbian people living with and affected by cancer to meet and discuss any issues they need to and ask questions of others who are experiencing the same things they are.
“When men in general discuss cancer, it’s rarely ever discussed in the context of one’s sexuality,” says Tristan McFarland, a facilitator of the gay men’s group. “It’s an opportunity for people to know that they’re not on their own. There’s an opportunity to relate to others in a way that’s meaningful, relevant and supportive, so they can come out of it with a skill set that helps them gain more confidence in navigating what can be, at times, a complicated healthcare system.”
The group can be helpful for couples trying to navigate sexual intimacy after cancer treatments or to understand what different cancer treatment options mean for their sex lives.
“I don’t think anyone ever talks about that,” says Stephen Weiss, a cancer survivor who had his prostate removed 10 years ago. Surgical removal of the prostate can reduce enjoyment of anal sex and make it impossible to experience normal ejaculations.
“There has been no studying on the issue of topping and bottoming. It’s all about the penis, whether you can get it up and penetrate,” says Weiss’s partner, Richard Durk.
McFarland says hearing the stories from people who’ve been there helps the newly diagnosed cope through treatment.
“Newcomers are often awed by the experience these men have had as longtime survivors of cancer,” he says.