Body image is how we perceive our physical appearance in our mind and when we look at it in the mirror. Body image is influenced by many factors, including the reaction of others. Most breast cancer survivors face a range of emotional issues, including body image. Overcoming this anxiety is a process and the rewards are worth the effort.
Reconnecting to our bodies is a personal journey.
Sometimes body image problems get in the way and skew our sense of identity. Even if our self-esteem is reasonably intact we feel a gap, a loss, a different way of being with our physical self that can increase normal side effects including depression, fatigue and loneliness.
As we struggle with our changed physique, sexuality and intimacy can take a dive. Attractiveness means a lot of different things and whether we want to nurture a current relationship or to find a future partner, there are many thoughts and feelings that we need to confront.
Embracing our new normal body requires awareness and action.
There are physical and a mental components to this and when they’re in sync, it is easier to practice self-compassion and self- care – the pillars of healing and restoration.
What You Can DO:
Good nutrition fuels healthy cell development and circulation. The American Cancer Society recommends at least 2.5 cups of fruits and vegetables every day. Go for whole grains, Choose lean protein. And keep dairy products low fat. Scores of healthy recipes for breast cancer can be found online. Our favorite is Pink Ribbon Cooking.
Move your body.
If we don’t use it we will lose it, and muscle tone, oxygen levels and vitality depend on your endurance, strength and flexibility. The American Cancer Society recommends a goal of exercising at least 150 minutes per week, to increase our energy and to help us bounce back after treatment. Exercise is also critical to reducing the incidence of a future cancer diagnosis.
“Don’t work out so you can love your body. Work out BECAUSE you love your body.”
Good rest is essential to heal and recover. If it eludes you, try these strategies by the Mayo Clinic: If you’re unable to sleep within 15-20 minutes, leave the room and try something relaxing and non-stimulating; Practice yoga or meditate; Tense and then relax your muscles and visualize yourself in a pleasant place; If you’re anxious write down what worries you and agree to revisit it at a better time in the future; Don’t watch the clock, just allow yourself to be; Use sleep aids in moderation; Schedule your bedtime and make it a soothing space; Don’t drink alcohol or caffeine before you head to bed; See your doctor if you need more guidance.
Focus on your assets.
There are many parts of you that are lovely. Notice, appreciate and honor them. You are brave – celebrate what you have overcome in your journey with cancer! There are surely new strengths you have added to your toolbox.
Liven up your appearance.
The Eileen & Eva® Recovery Essentials, scarves, shawls, hats, jewelry, make-up and shoes can highlight your attributes and drape you in elegance. The “Look Good Feel Better” program, sponsored by the American Cancer Society, offers hair and make-up tips during treatment and beyond. Contact your local chapter for upcoming dates and times.
“Confidence with what you’re wearing is very important. If you feel good, you will always perform your best without worrying about anything.”
Sit up, use eye contact, smile, hold up your head, walk with grace – these are universal signals that help us to connect, to bring energy into our lives and to “fake it until we make it.”
How You Should THINK:
You have been through an ordeal that has rocked you in many ways. Many people have supported and nurtured you along the way – they believe in you! When the going gets tough remind yourself that you are precious and you have value.
Your thoughts are normal.
There is nothing wrong with feeling grief, loss and fear. You have many sisters out there who are struggling with similar body image issues and multitudes of them have come to a place of acceptance and new normal thriving.
There are many resources to help you.
Over the past ten years much has been studied and created to help cancer survivors overcome body image problems. Cancer.org (the American Cancer Society) is especially rich with tips and resources! Look for support groups at your local hospitals and non-profits, and search Facebook for groups that can inspire you (there are loads of cancer and survivor groups there).
“One way to feel good about yourself is to love yourself…to take care of yourself.”
You are Indeed a Beauty Bundle
You deserve the best, as you have certainly given your all to get this far. Talk to your body like you would to someone you love. And take new actions to make it real.
Revive your sparkle. Wear your invisible crown.