Body Image

Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work

OCTOBER 05, 2017

This is really a topic for a book, not a short blog. Let's start with the "patient/illness" part of our body images. Prior to a cancer diagnosis, most of us thought of ourselves as healthy and strong. We may have thought that taking good care of ourselves with attention to diet, exercise, and sleep gave us a health advantage. We may not even have thought about our health at all, just taken it for granted that all was well. Once cancer has happened, it is pretty impossible to ever return to that blissful innocence.

Other parts of body image include our appearance, our sexuality, our strength and general sense of self. No one feels her most attractive or desirable while going through cancer treatment. Hair loss, fatigue, nausea, a generalized sense of malaise--these do not add hot to feeling "hot". Or interested. Or interesting. The feelings often persist into the weeks and months post treatment and become more distressing then.

How we look is an obvious consideration. We may have lost a body part or had it altered. Our hair, post chemo, is different. We may have lost or gained weight and find it tough to return to our pre-cancer clothes. None of us look in the mirror and think we see an improvement.

From Living Beyond Breast Cancer comes this excellent article on Breast Cancer and Body Image Issues.