The body changes after breast cancer. There’s no denying that. You may feel that your body is now completely foreign. Or your self-esteem and body image may take a nosedive. While these may be normal experiences, they don’t have to control the rest of your life. You are still beautiful and your new post-breast cancer body deserves love.
But how do you get from disliking how you look to loving yourself again?
How Your Body Will Change
You may experience some sexual dysfunctions after breast cancer. This includes loss of libido, vaginal dryness, and changes in sexual arousal. We have an article that talks about these, so we won’t discuss it much more here.
There are also several long-term changes, such as weight gain, that can change how your body looks. Feel free to check out our other article about these effects.
While these changes can be significant, the loss of a breast is the most permanent. And often, it is the change that most affects how you see your body.
Part of your treatment plan may involve removing either part or all your breast. This may have a devastating impact on your femininity. You may feel that you aren’t a woman anymore. You may also feel that you are incomplete without your breast. Or lopsided. Needless to say, losing a breast is impactful. In fact, dealing with the aftermath may require you to go through an entire grieving process.
Even if you undergo reconstruction, you may still feel that your body is somehow wrong. You will still have scars around your breasts. Plus your implants or reconstructed breast may not feel quite right. One woman described her two breast implants as “the strangers beside me.”
Getting Used to Your New Body
Of course, there is nothing wrong with your new body. Learning to see that is a process, though. One that might be difficult for you to get through.
After your treatment, your body and mind have to recover.
This takes time.
Your body may heal within a few weeks. Yet emotional healing can take much longer.
No matter what, don’t rush through your emotional healing process. Take the time you need to grieve for your old body. And to embrace your new one. Acknowledge any negative feelings you have and work your way through them.
There is no set amount of time for emotional healing. It may take you longer or shorter than other women. And this is completely okay! Just make sure you are coping in a healthy way.
Look at Your Body
As soon as possible, start looking at your body.
This may make you unhappy at first. You may even want to avoid looking at your body in future because of the experience. But it will become easier over time.
To start, look at yourself in a full-length mirror while clothed. While you do this, pick three things about your body that you like. It can be anything from your eyes to how you styled your hair. Or it could be even simpler, like the way your waist flows into your hips. The point is, it doesn’t matter what you choose. It just has to be physical and positive.
After that, do the same thing while standing in front of a full-length mirror in underwear or lingerie. Then, do it while standing in front of a mirror naked.
Make sure you really look at your body. Touch your scars to see how they feel and describe what aspects make you uncomfortable. Doing so helps you learn to love yourself again.
Besides looking at yourself, set out to find a good support system. This system can consist of friends, family, or other women who have gone through breast cancer. Basically anyone who can remind you that you’re beautiful.
Women who have had breast cancer are particularly supportive resources. They’ve had to go through the process of embracing their new body. Or they are currently doing so. Either way, it gives you someone to talk to who understands your feelings. It also gives you someone who may have some advice or tips about boosting confidence.
Further, don’t be afraid to reach out to a counselor if need be. A trained professional can give you different tasks designed to increase self-esteem.
Dress for Confidence
Shopping for clothes can be nerve-wracking after breast cancer. Fortunately, there are plenty of stores that sell lingerie and clothing for women who have had breast cancer. You can read about a few of them here.
Granted, you are still free to shop wherever you want. If possible, think about hiring a personal stylist to help you get new clothes for your new body. You can also follow style bloggers online who have a similar body shape to you. These individuals help you find styles that flatter your body. And you can interact with their communities to get even more ideas.
As you shop, try keeping an open mind. Focusing on a few stores limits your style options. This may prevent you from dressing how you want. Instead, shop everywhere. Take your new body measurements so you can shop online, too. And, in case you find the perfect garment that doesn’t quite fit, get a good seamstress.
Having a different body doesn’t mean you should avoid intimacy. In fact, being intimate may even help your embrace your new body.
The same things you did before to spark intimacy with your partner should still work. This may include a sense of touch or candle-lit dinner. Relax with your partner and remember that they still love you. You body may look a bit different, but you are still you.
When you first start being intimate again, feel free to take things slow. Do things that make you feel attractive. And don’t worry if you need to stop because you feel uncomfortable. Like everything else, rediscovering your intimacy will take time.
Treat Yourself Like the Beauty You Are
The most important part of embracing your body again is just loving it. Nourish it with healthy food so that it feels good. Book a regular massage or facial to ensure it stays well-pampered. If you need to, learn about new makeup tricks that may boost your self-esteem.
Also, speak well about your body every day and turn around any negative thoughts. Instead of thinking about what your body “can’t do,” congratulate it on what it has done. It may have given birth to your children. Maybe it let you run a marathon or triathlon. Or it just gets you through your daily tasks. At the very least, it got you through breast cancer and that is commendable.