This topic could easily be (and is) the subject of an entire book. None of us emerge from breast cancer treatment looking and feeling exactly the same as we did before it began. The changes may be less extreme (for example in women who have a lumpectomy and radiation without further treatment needed) or very extreme (for example in women who have one or two mastectomies, with or without reconstruction, and chemotherapy). Even the small group of women who say that they prefer their reconstructed "perky breasts" to what they had before would likely have preferred to skip the whole process. Most of us make a gradual adaptation to what we have become and are mostly grateful to resume our energy and health and to be alive.
The harder leap, I think, is from acceptance of the changed self to again feeling sexy and beautiful. Granted, this is close to impossible in the early weeks when one is bald and sickish, but even with new hair and more energy, this is a challenging process. I remember thinking that I must have entered the Witness Protection Program; there was no possible way that the woman looking back at me in the mirror, with her very short and very curly hair, was anyone whom I knew. If I looked closely at the image (and I didn't very often), there was also a change in my eyes and my expression. As an old friend said to me soon after the first cancer in 1993: "What happened to your laughing eyes?". They, alas, were gone forever.
The more positive news is that we do, mostly make the leap, or at least make a step, and adapt and accept and learn to make the best out of what we have. Yes, our eyes may no longer laugh, and our hair is probably different, and our breasts/chests may look very different, but we are resilient and we choose life. It is also good to choose feeling beautiful, inside and out, and this long introduction to an upcoming Living Beyond Breast Cancer webinar is all about that:
Body Image: You are so Beautiful! How to Know and Believe This!
When: Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Noon - 1:00 p.m.
During our free May webinar on body image, Barbara Musser, will help you
learn strategies for healing your body image after breast cancer.
explore how body image can impact your intimate life and how you can boost your interest in and energy for intimacy. Awaken self-love through exercises that help you feel whole, integrated and comfortable in your own skin.