October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual campaign to increase the awareness of this potentially deadly disease. According to John Hopkins Medicine, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer within their lifetime. And while we continuously stress the importance of prevention and raising awareness, we sometimes fail to realize the mental toll this disease can take on women. Research shows 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. Many women experience a negative body image and feelings of being unattractive as part of the side effects of treatment, ultimately impacting their emotional state.
How does breast cancer impact body image?
Body image for some women centers around their femininity, and they may see breast surgery or side effects of chemotherapy as a form of disfigurement. Surgery can cause scars, treatment can cause increased body swelling or weight gain, and some women may experience changes due to early menopause. For those who already had a negative body image or low self-esteem, breast cancer and treatment can only intensify it. While body image may not be the most important concern during breast cancer treatment, it can have a dramatic effect on the quality of life.
How can I address body image?
Overcoming a negative body image is not easy, and requires patience, time, and most importantly support. You might want to compare yourself to other people or yourself before you had cancer, but this only results in negative feelings. Look at how far you have come. It is vital to recognize your strengths beyond your physical appearance.
One of the most helpful ways to address body image and improve overall self-esteem is to talk about your feelings. Finding a safe environment of support that makes you feel comfortable is the key to sharing exactly how you feel about your body. You may not be at a point where you wish to talk to others, but you may want to write your feelings in a journal and share them later. In this exercise, record three things that you appreciate about your body. A few examples could include: “I am grateful for these stretch marks, they prove I gave life.” “I appreciate my arms, for their ability to give hugs.” “I value my feet, as they have carried me on my journey.”
Additionally, allow yourself time to adjust, so treat yourself with compassion and kindness. Practicing body acceptance and being kinder to yourself does not mean you have to be satisfied with every aspect. It means that you appreciate your body as it is and care for it properly. A part of self-compassion is an understanding that your journey has been a struggle and you don’t need to punish yourself.
Lastly, make time for yourself. Make you a priority. So often we neglect ourselves and do not spend enough time doing what we love or that makes us feel good. Take some “me time” each day without feeling guilty. Taking the time to enjoy yourself will make you feel better about yourself. After all, you deserve it.
Renew Your Hope.
Magnolia Creek is here to offer hope to those who struggle with body image. We understand that regardless of the circumstances, feeling negative about one’s body can lead to eating disordered behavior. Our professional team helps women develop coping skills they need to develop a healthy relationship with their body and food. If you would like more information on our evidence-based program, we encourage you to call us today at 866-318-2329 or complete our contact form.