After being told she had breast cancer in 2006, Ella, a 42-year-old mother of two went into survival mode. Once the initial shock of her cancer diagnosis wore off, Ella knew surviving her cancer was everything, no matter what it took.
One week later, she was in the hospital being prepped for a double mastectomy.
In the weeks following her surgery, Ella, who also went through a round of chemotherapy, began to suffer depression and body image issues. Outwardly, the loss of her breasts and hair, along with changes to her skin and fingernails and “grotesque” physical scars left Ella feeling “like a mess.”
“My reaction was less than stellar,” Ella said, “but I’d reached my low. My chest was lopsided, I had fake boobs with expanders and purple looking scars and no nipples—lovely! My weight gain was out of control and my clothes no longer fit. My body was puffy and bloated, my face looked like a balloon, my cheeks are nearly always red, my skin hurt, I felt horrible and couldn’t sleep; I felt like crying all the time. Having cancer sucks!”
There’s no denying it, cancer and its treatment take their toll on a person’s body. While some physical changes may be short-term, others can be permanent and can affect how a woman feels about herself.
A diminished self-image, as well as other emotional, social and sexual issues are side effects of cancer treatment that, until relatively recently, weren’t talked about.
For many women, losing their breasts signify the loss of their femininity. For others, therapy-induced hair loss is devastating. For some women, it’s both. Coping with the grief of loss can be difficult to overcome, but there are things you can do to help ease the transition.
Social values and femininity