“What do you see when you look in the mirror?” A few days after surgery, most women answer, “Scars!” However, two years later, the responses are “A pretty lady,” “A woman who know what she wants.”
A Positive Body Image
How can you continue to maintain a positive body image after you’ve had a lumpectomy/mastectomy and/or reconstructive surgery? The women in my research study talked about it beginning with persistence through: surgeries, medical interventions, depression, and neuropathy. This movement toward a positive body image after breast cancer includes cognitive and emotional aspects, as well, such as, how your family and friends treat you, your faith, and how you feel about yourself.
Ways to work on it
Many of us started and continue to use adjunctive therapies: Yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong, Tapping, Prayer and Meditation to keep us on track. We continue to struggle with cutting out sugar, eating primarily a plant-based diet, with occasional forays into meat and chicken, all the while making sure it is grass-fed or pasture-raised. To add to our arsenal, we experiment with a little intermittent fasting thrown in for good measure. We’ve got to keep our weight down since obesity is one of the risk factors for cancer. You see, we have learned that nutrition is a large part of what we must do to stay healthy. It is about balance – reducing stress, eating right and staying active. (More on the active part later.)
The truth is, we have survived cancer or are living with it, so “Let me get some strength back, so I can go and kick some butt!” Like anyone who has gone through a traumatic event, such as war, cancer, rape, Hurricane Katrina, there are things that can trigger episodes of PTSD. After the PTSD experience of breast cancer, Callhoun & Tedeschi (2006) found breast cancer survivors moving into what the North Carolina researchers called Post Traumatic Growth (PTG). So, what does that look like? My research likewise indicates the breast cancer survivor after about 2 years is more assured of who she is and is definitely moving forward, one giant step at a time! Okay, let’s be real, sometimes there is an occasional backward step or two or a sideways step. But, you get the idea. My question to you is, even rhetorically, “Didn’t your breast cancer experience lead you to think you could do more?”
Calhoun, L. G., & Tedeschi, R. (2006). The foundations of post traumatic growth: An expanded framework. In L.G. Calhoun, & R.G. Tedeschi (Eds), Handbook of Post traumatic Growth: Research and Practice, pp. 1-23. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.