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Family and friends can be a tremendous comfort and support, but you may feel torn between leaning on your loved ones and feeling that you are a burden to them.

Even if you have the support of your family, friends or partner, you may still be feeling isolated or your self-esteem may be low. This is a common experience particularly if you are worried about the future. Spending more time with family and friends is something that might help. If you can, talk to your loved ones about how you are feeling. People close to you will want to support you might may just not feel confident about how best to do this.

Woman gesturing

You may feel that people are trying to control your life by 'wrapping you up in cotton wool' and trying to make decisions for you. If this is happening and it's not what you want, you need to let them know, 

You may feel like you are looking after those around you, by protecting them from the reality of your situation. This is quite likely if you are used to putting the needs of others before your own. But now you need their support. If you don't feel comfortable asking for this from those close to you, there are others you can turn to. Try speaking to your Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) or palliative nurse, the local hospice, a counsellor, your GP, or a combination of these.

Often your partner, family or friends will take on the role of caring for you when you need extra help. Communicating with those who care for you, including your medical team, about what is important to you is essential. Sometimes a CNS from a palliative care team or hospice can support you through this conversation with your family by helping you gather your thoughts, or by being involved with a family discussion. 

It's also important to share with those close to you who's who in your hospital team, your hospice or palliative care team and your GP. Making sure that people have this information means they can get in touch with your medical team on your behalf if you wish. 

Sex and intimacy

Woman and husband in kitchen

It is normal for women to vary in terms of wants or needs for sex and intimacy. Your sexual feelings may or may not have changes and it is OK to want, or not want, to hold hands, kiss, or have sex with a partner.

Having ovarian cancer can cause emotional and physical difficulties that can impact on your sexuality and sex life. Some women might find they have an increased need for closeness and others may withdraw. However you feel, it's important to find the right balance for you. You might find it helpful to talk to your partner, friends or CNS about how you are feeling.

It's still OK to have sex if you want to. If you are finding sexual intercourse difficult, it is OK to ask for help and advice. Sometimes simple changes such as a different position or being intimate when you are not tired or in pain can help. You may find you need more lubrication during sex than you used to. Some lubricants are available on prescription so ask your GP or CNS for advice about these. You should also be able to find a variety of lubricants quite easily on the shelves of the larger chemists.

Some women feel unhappy or frightened about having sexual intercourse. There are also other ways to find sexual satisfaction that don't include penetration, and these can be very pleasurable and rewarding both physically and emotionally. It is also not essential to have sexual intimacy to feel closeness to a partner. Intimacy is greater than just sexual intimacy, so you might prefer to spend time relaxing in and enjoying your partner's company. 

Listen to our Ovarian cancer, sex and intimacy podcast, where we answer your questions, talk about what physical and emotional issues you may face and discuss how you can seek help and support.

Creating precious memories

Woman and grandson

Dr Ros Taylor shares some insights from her work with families during her time at the Hospice of St Francis in Berkhamsted and the Royal Marsden hospital. Read more about families, children and creating precious memories

Find out more

This content is primarily taken from our guide, My care, my future. 

My care, my future cover

Our expert guide aims to help you get the most from every day, while living with incurable ovarian cancer. It offers insights into looking after yourself, understanding symptoms you may have, your relationships with others, and more.

The information on this page is approved by the Information Standard scheme to ensure that it provides accurate and high-quality information.


Last reviewed: May 2017
Next review: April 2020