Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Walk Beyond Post Cancer Body Image

Body image is a complicated subject as it has a great impact on the physicality, emotions, spirituality as well as sexuality of any person. And when the disease like cancer comes in question, its treatment affect the physical appearance and how one feels about oneself a whole lot. Every survivor has different aspects of change in response to their cancer treatment. Some cancer survivors get concerned about their physical aspects, feeling as if their bodies have been damaged while others get more concerned about issues like sexual interest, sexual response or fertility. Some may worry about how such changes impact current relationships or may affect their ability to find a future partner. We discuss in detail the concern of survivors as per their gender and the respective grieving changes they suffer.

Body Image Concerns

In people going through comparable cancer treatments, such as blood stem cell or bone marrow transplants, the common concern of both men and women remain same like their minimize emotions around anxiety, depression and problems with sleep.

Women more often share their concerns to physical appearance while men tend to focus more on roles than appearance like being able to still function as a husband, father and employee has a big impact on how they perceive themselves. Also losing sexual function, athletic ability, a job or a limb can be more significant issues for men than appearance. Culturally, women are taught to pay more attention to their appearance, so they may be more focused on these physical changes.

Recognize the grieving changes

Survivors feel a lot of pressure to go back to the way things was in their life before cancer. Some common concerns which grieves most of the people include: “My partner is different and we don’t connect anymore,” “Sex is painful,” “I just don’t feel like myself,” and “I can’t seem to relate to people in the same way anymore.” It’s often easiest to process these questions and feelings by seeking ways to connect with others who have been through cancer themselves. Few other changes brought on by cancer sometimes render some unrecognizable experiences like some say, “I look in the mirror and I don’t recognize myself.” Lives really get impacted but recognition to acceptance of changes in one’s body and body image, without losing a sense of one’s self and feelings of attractiveness is important to acknowledge those feelings instead of trying to skip over them says expert oncologists.

Tips to move forward

For some women who have had mastectomies, getting reconstruction or prostheses to restore body symmetry without feeling self-conscious can be very important on the road to recovery and a more positive self-image.

With hair loss, some people find it easier to minimize their changes with wigs or other products to normalize their appearance for other people in their lives.

When treating anxiety and depression after cancer, it will be helpful to focus on some of the positive aspects of getting past cancer. To help treat post cancer anxiety there are a lot of free or low-cost resources and support groups.

So as a survivor to cancer, one should stay focused to thrive on the new normal and have a sense of their lives’ broader meaning and purpose in the world than being just focused on their bodies or appearance.
Cancer survivors often show great strength, tenacity and ability to rebound from cancer and find things to be grateful for in their lives, including their health, the physical functions they do have, their mental capacity, and other personal attributes like humor which can surely get rebuilt with strength.

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Category: Defeat Cancer
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