Recently I had the opportunity to lecture at Gilda’s Club to other young survivors. The topic I discussed was body image and cancer. I now want to share some of it with all of you and hopefully get your input on it as well!
For most of us body image issues began way before our cancer diagnosis. I know mine sure did! I never thought my boobs were big enough, my stomach was too fat, and I never seemed to be happy with my hair. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer as a young woman my body image issues increased with intensity to say the very least.
At the top of my list of concerns then was hair loss. Yes, I put that before boob loss. My boob I could hide away under my clothes but the hair…..that was going to be dam tough to hide. I had new scars to deal with when my boob was gone, I enjoyed chemo induced menopause (full on with hot flashes, and I dried up like an old prune at 31), fatigue that felt as if my body was beat until bloody, my skin color began to look a greyish green (oh so lovely) and I was beginning to no longer recognize the girl staring back at me in the mirror.
How did I deal with all that? As a young single woman clinging to the hope she wouldn’t die, how did I try to feel better about myself, about my body, my disappearing self? Well, it wasn’t easy and somedays even now it still seems like a struggle. Here are some tips I want to share to help pick yourself up during cancer treatment and beyond to try and do just that….
- Loose the scale! When I focused on my weight I only felt worse.
- Refocus your energy on healing the inside.
- Wear lipstick everyday……if no other makeup.
- Get a mani/pedicure….I had a standing weekly manicure appointment. It may have been a small thing but it really made me feel better about myself.
- The hair thing…..experiment with wigs and try to have fun. I had more than one wig just to change it up a bit. Or if you are one of those girls that rocks the bald head….you go girl!! You should feel good about yourself no matter what!
- Start to look at your new scars in a different way……my scars are now a daily reminder that I am a survivor!
Most important to remember is that at the end of the day we are all just girls with the same worries we had about our bodies before cancer smacked us in the face. Focus on what makes you who you are on the inside. Change your focus and get rid of fear. Think about what makes you feel creative and what you are passionate about. For me it was writing, photography or just taking a long walk. It was a way for me to empower myself. Fear can steal away our power. Don’t let it!
It is important to realize that you don’t have to keep up appearances. Just be yourself. Turn focus to the positives. Reach out to other cancer survivors who will know what you are going through. Who know what it is like knee deep in the sh**!
What was it that helped you feel better about you? How did you deal with your own body image crapness??