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How To Deal With Self Esteem Issues After Breast Cancer

By Howdini
 
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More Videos from Howdini 30 videos in this series

For many women with breast cancer, the two biggest concerns are: "Will I survive?" and "What toll will the treatment take on my body?" Women also wonder what toll breast cancer treatments will take on their physical appearance and sex appeal. Dr. Mary Jane Massie, Attending Psychiatrist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, offers some advice regarding self-esteem issues that often arise during breast cancer treatment.

I'm Lisa Birnbach. For many women with breast cancer, the two biggest concerns are, will I survive? And what kind of toll will treatment take on my body? Or simply put, will I ever feel attractive again?

Joining me to provide some advice on self-esteem issues is Dr. Mary Jane Massie, the psychiatrist who specializes in breast cancer issues at Memorial Sloane-Kettering in New York.

What is the key to accepting your body post breast cancer? Will a woman ever feel sexy again?

Oh, women do feel sexy again. We have a whole group of physicians right now who specialize in sexual issues related to cancer treatments. Gynecologists are increasingly interested in this issue, informed about this issue.

So we have lots of people who are happy to talk through with women their worries about changes in their body, their worries about their sexual performance or functioning.

These issues are pretty well known. And women have opportunities to learn how other women have adjusted and how they can make very useful adaptations with sometimes medication, sometimes thinking through their clothing, that let them live pretty much the lives they were living before.

Now, in terms of a positive outlook, it's sometimes hard to maintain a positive outlook when you're sick. Giving into a sort of crummy day, I feel lousy cancer day-- can that hurt your progress? Can that hurt your healing?

You know, most women ask about that. There's a lot of misunderstanding about mood, bad mood, low mood, and survival in cancer. And what we do know about that is that if we are so discouraged that we can't be compliant with treatment recommendations, that may affect our outcome. But low mood in itself is not going to change our cancer survival.

People often ask, did stress give me cancer? And what we can reassure people is that we do not have evidence that sad mood, low mood, or stress is what causes cancer.

Well, I think it's good that you said that. Because so many women I know who've been through it believe that the stress of their lives caused it.

All of us have stress in our lives. Stress is stress. Stress is not good. And the management of stress is important. So I think for women who are being treated for breast cancer, sometimes people ask for help with, how do my best manage stress in general? But that's a different issue then stress causing cancer. And for the latter, we have no evidence.

Right. Now some people feel, OK, I have this horrible breast cancer. I'm going to get through it. And then I'm going to do what the doctor I choose recommends. And I have my six weeks of radiation. And then I'm done. Or then I go into Moxifen. And then five years from now, I'm done. And then I'm done. And cancer has ended its reign of terror in my life. But that's not exactly true, is it?

No. Unfortunately, it isn't true. What is true is that women who have been treated for cancer will have periodic checkups, periodic testing. And oncologists will tell women what we understand about the appropriate schedule for testing for the rest of their lives.

So indeed, having to return to see the cancer expert, returning to the cancer center, returning to the doctor's office, for most women is a reminder of what I really have been through and how potentially very serious this could have been.

It's very common for women to have insomnia, difficulty sleeping, the night before their followup visits. It's very common for women to become anxious prior to followup visits and while they're waiting for the results of diagnostic tests that their doctor may have ordered. So I think it's good to know those kinds of mood changes and anxiety. Those are expected reactions.

What has been very helpful for a lot of women is to have a chance to speak with other women who have gone through this process. So when a woman has a chance to see a beautiful, competent, productive woman who says, I know exactly what you went through. Look at me. That type of role modeling is very important for women.

Thank you so much, Dr. Massie.

For more information, please go to Susan G. Komen for the Cure at www.komen.org, or call the Komen for the Cure helpline 1-800-IM AWARE. I'm Lisa Birnbach.

Howdini is life’s little instruction manual, in HD. We’re all about bringing together the top, most respected experts in their fields to help us be the best we can be at all of the little and not-so-little challenges of our complicated lives. Howdini is the place to be for the know-how you want, when you need it. Or maybe it’s the know-how you need, when you want it. Whatever. We’re here to help. So come in and look around, won’t you?

We think you’ll love finding everything you want to learn about in one convenient place, and as we grow and add more categories and more Howdinis, you’ll be doing less surfing and more learning right here. And unlike television, Howdinis aren’t limited by time—we don’t have to break for commercials, and we’re always on.

Who is Howdini?

People often ask us, is there an actual person who is Howdini? And the answer is, it’s kind of like Lassie. Just as there were many Lassies, there are many individuals who are called Howdini. In fact, each of our experts is a Howdini, and, like all those Lassies, they really know their tricks. (Although so far there is no ‘How to tell your master that Timmy is trapped in the old abandoned mine’ segment)

Our gurus are people you know and trust because you’ve been getting advice from them for years, at places like Good Morning America, The Today Show, Money, Prevention, and Food and Wine (to name just a few). Many are best-selling authors. Others, like our medical experts, are respected leaders in their fields.

Howdini History

The first Howdini was Joanna Breen, who left a comfortable career at ABC’s 20/20 to create a how to video website after one too many frustrating experiences with handymen who weren’t that handy. Joanna had traveled the world reporting with Barbara Walters and others on injustice, outrage, and tragedy, but now it was time to turn her talents to dealing with crises closer to home, like what do you do if you drop your diamond ring down the drain. Joanna is the quintessential can-do girl, so she didn’t find the prospect of launching a gigantic website the least bit daunting. (Ok, that last part isn’t entirely true.)

Joanna convinced an old ABC News buddy, Shelley Lewis, to join her. Shelley had supervised roughly 9.7 million helpful how to segments during a long career executive producing television shows like Good Morning America and CNN’s American Morning. A self-described “info-pig” who loves all kinds of information programming, she is never happier than when she’s learning an amazing new tip that she can annoy share with everyone she knows. Needless to say, Howdini was a dream gig for her. A career woman, a wife, a mother, and author of two books, Shelley considers herself equally challenged by all the facets of her life.

Joanna and Shelley were introduced to marketing executive Alison Provost by a mutual friend who knew that Alison had what they needed - entrepreneurial experience, patience, and a checkbook that still had checks in it. Joanna and Shelley could see right away that Alison should join Howdini. They figured that they would take care of the programming, and Alison would bring trustworthy sponsors to help pay the bills. It took Alison significantly longer to be convinced, maybe because she was crazy busy running a marketing firm called PowerPact, which she continues to oversee while serving as the biggest of big cheeses at Howdini. But whether it’s playing Suduko or launching a new business in a field she knows little about, Alison loves the challenge of a good puzzle, It wasn’t long before she began dropping obscure internet terms like “user-interface” and “googlebot” into casual conversation.

What’s Next for Howdini?

Our goals are modest. Complete and total domination of the internet, crushing Google, Microsoft, and any other punks who get in our way. (Hey, it’s a just a goal.) But until then, we will content ourselves making the best, most professional, most credible how to videos you can find anywhere. We want to help you solve your career issues, your parenting problems, your money troubles. We want you to be more glamorous, healthier, and less stressed out. We want you to check Howdini every day for fun, interesting, useful advice from experts you know and trust.

We want to make Howdini the community you love to be part of every day, To do that, we need to hear from you. Please share your suggestions, rate and comment on the Howdini videos, and the blog, (The Howdini blog). Tell us what you’d like us to create for you.

And then, when we’ve achieved that, it’s back to working on complete and total domination of the internet.

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