As we recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month it is important to stress prevention as well as understand the toll this disease can take on the mental health of those that suffer. Statistics from Johns Hopkins Medicine claim that 88% of individuals who had breast cancer say the disease and the treatment had a negative impact on the way they feel about their body. It is not surprising that many women with breast cancer experience a negative body image and have feelings of being unattractive as part of the side effects of chemotherapy, impacting their emotional state.
What is the connection between body image and breast cancer?
Your body image may center around your femininity and the effects of breast surgery or the side effects of treatment can leave you feeling as if you are disfigured. Surgery due to breast cancer can leave the body scarred. Additionally, treatment can cause weight gain and some women experience early menopause which can cause body changes. For women who already have a negative body image or low self-esteem, breast cancer and treatment can cause them to perceive these changes as major imperfections. These dramatic changes in the body can severely impact the quality of life.
How do you address negative body image?
Struggling with a negative body image can be difficult and requires you and your loved ones to have patience. Someone recovering from breast cancer has undergone a traumatic event and needs additional support and care. Support is the most important element for everyone. You may often find that you compare your body to the way it was before the cancer. However, this comparison can only result in negative feelings and can lead to depression. Look at how far you have come and the hurdles you have crossed. Recognize the strength of your body, physically and mentally, and try not to focus on your physical appearance.
It is important to talk about your feelings, which can help to address body image and take the needed steps in improving self-esteem. The key to sharing how you’re feeling is to talk to someone who makes you feel comfortable and safe. However, it is understandable that you may not be ready to talk about your body image and your feelings. If this is the case, you may wish to write your feelings in a journal and share them later. If you choose to do this, write three things that you appreciate about your body. For example, you may say, “I am grateful for my scars, for they show my strength.” “I appreciate my arms, for their ability to give hugs.” “I value my feet, as they have carried me on my journey.”
Additionally, you need to allow yourself time to adjust and treat yourself with compassion and kindness. Because you begin to accept your body and choose to be kinder to yourself does not mean that you must be satisfied with every aspect. This simply means that you appreciate your body as it is and what it has done, and you want to care for it properly. Self-compassion means that you understand that you have been on a tough journey and you don’t need to punish yourself.
Lastly, make yourself a priority. You are equally important now as you were before breast cancer, so choose to make time for yourself. As women, we often neglect ourselves and setting time aside to do things that make us feel good about ourselves is important. Now more than ever, you need to choose you. Take time to do the things you love without feeling guilty. You deserve this!
Selah House can help you find freedom.
Selah House understands that life events can lead to a negative body image and these feelings can lead to eating disordered behavior. We offer Christ-centered, clinically excellent treatment that helps women develop a healthy relationship with their body. Our holistic approach to treatment helps to meet the unique needs of women physically, mentally, and spiritually.
You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you. – Song of Solomon 4:7