What Can I Do To Help Adjust To My Body Changes?

Question: What can I do that will help me adjust to my body changes?

Answer: You're going to experience several body changes as you journey through your breast cancer treatment. The first one usually is surgery, because that's, most of the time, the most common part of treatment that is done as your first intervention. If you're having a lumpectomy with axillary node dissection, you will find that you look a little bit different. Your breast may be slightly smaller. And obviously you will have an incision there.

If you're undergoing a mastectomy without reconstruction, you're going to have a dramatic change in your body image. Remember, when you look down, you're not seeing that your breast is gone, you're seeing that the cancer is gone. You've rid your body of the source of this disease and that's a positive thing.

I also encourage you to look at mastectomy surgery as well as lumpectomy surgery as transformation surgery. Your surgeon's mission has been to transform you from a victim into a survivor and push you way up that survival curve. That's a positive thing and a thing that you should celebrate.

You also will go through some body changes during chemotherapy, if that also is part of your treatment -- most commonly hair loss. But remember, your hair will come back. You lose your hair because it's a fast-growing cell and chemotherapy is designed to destroy fast-growing cells, which are cancer cells. But because it does it indiscriminately, it also removes your hair cells. Taking a look at yourself bald is probably even a bigger shock than seeing yourself with only one breast. But admire that head; it's something to be proud of. It's got lots of knowledge in it -- knowledge that has found you this far along your journey.

When you undergo radiation, if that will also be part of your treatment, you may find that you get tired-er more often particularly during the last third of your radiation. That's perfectly normal, and just as your hair will grow back, your energy will also return.

Lillie Shockney, RNPlay

Hormonal therapy is becoming a common addition now after chemotherapy and radiation. If you do undergo hormonal therapy, you may find that you experience more vaginal dryness as well as hot flashes. Take a look at those hot flashes as power surges. Take a look at the vaginal dryness as something you can control. There are excellent over-the-counter offerings to provide you vaginal moisture and don't hesitate to get them; sometimes they're even on sale.

Next: Will my partner still find me attractive/sexually pleasing?

Previous: If I work during my breast cancer (radiation and/or chemotherapy) treatment, will that affect my chances of survival?