Let's talk about sex... with Cancer, baby

Katie Sims talks to Brian Lobel about his new performance-cum-training course, Sex with Cancer

Katie Sims
24th February 2021

An art project and community enterprise designed for people living with and beyond cancer is inviting the public to take part in an online performance-cum-training course.

The course, running from Tuesday 2nd to Saturday 6th March, wants to help people get better at talking about sex and cancer.

Sex with Cancer was launched last year by former cancer patients Brian Lobel and Joon Lynn Goh, when they noticed a gap in conversations around cancer. Brian and Joon Lynn saw that the problems of illness, intimacy, sexual function and pleasure experienced by many cancer patients were being ignored, in both medical and social settings.

Sex with Cancer organisers Joon Lynn Goh and Brian Lobel

Brian, an artist who has been working in the world of cancer for 18 years, told The Courier: “People’s sex lives are deeply affected by cancer, whether that’s through a change in their body size, scarring, pain, sex drives, emotions etc… so there are a huge amount of problems associated with sex and cancer, but very few people talking about them.”

Brian added: “Our goal is to start a conversation that will eventually become a long-standing permanent resource which is led by people living with and beyond cancer.”

The online course running through the first week of March is an opportunity for the organisation to get in touch with their audience, which includes cancer patients and their admirers, or any partners patients have a relationship with. The course provides people with the opportunity to gain their Certificate in Sex with Cancer Conversation Competency.

Brian hopes the course will provide users with fun, interactive ways to start potentially difficult conversations. “We want to support people to reflect on why they don’t ask themselves certain questions, or talk about certain topics. What am I afraid of saying out loud? Where do shame, embarrassment, and grossness exist?”

Covid-19 has inevitably changed the format the course originally intended to take, but Brian and Joon Lynn didn’t want to pause their mission and wait for normality to return. “We want to encourage cancer patients to engage with the world they are living in right now” Brian told The Courier.

“The pandemic has created whole new dynamics around touch, intimacy, distance… so engaging with that instead of waiting for it to pass is something we think is important.”

Sex with Cancer is the first group dedicated purely to talking about two issues which have previously been discussed in separation from each other. A cancer diagnosis inevitably changes a person’s relationship with sex, which in turn affects their wellbeing. Unfortunately, the medical industry isn’t yet fully equipped to have this conversation with cancer patients, an issue which Sex with Cancer hopes to improve.

“The long-term vision is a totally more confident population, both of people who are ill and of the people who are treating them, talking with clarity, without shame and embarrassment, and acknowledging that people’s sexual functions are critical to their understanding of themselves, and their health and wellbeing.”

People wishing to sign up to Sex with Cancer's online course can do so here. The first event, on Tuesday 2nd March, is produced in collaboration with Wunderbar Newcastle, one of the organisation's partners.

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