how cancer can effect your self-image

As I approach the halfway point of my course of chemothearapy, I thought I would post about the effect on self image and confidence. I dread each time but at the same time want to get each one over with. I have a cycle every 3 weeks and it does seem to come round quickly, just when I have a good week and start to feel myself again the chemo is ready to knock me down again.

The physical side effects can also have a huge effect on not only your mental state but the way you see yourself physically. I know it's different for everybody as not everyone with breast cancer has the same treatment, some people have a combination of different chemotherapy drugs and some have surgery after chemo it really is individual and everyone has their own experience of side effects. I can only comment on my own experience.

For me just before the second cycle my hair began to fall out, it came out in the shower and in handfuls if I ran my hands through it, so I wanted to take control and shave it off, which I did. I was so nervous at the time as who knows what they're going to look like with a shaved head, but actaully it was quite liberating as well as a relief! The kids got involved so we made it a positive experience. My hair is coming out still in patches and I can't stand to look at it so I keep it covered up. Although chemo makes you feel sick the steriods I take to combat the nausea increase my appetite and I'm pretty sure I'm putting on weight as a result of this as well as dealing with an underactive thyroid. When I look in the mirror I hardly recognise myself and feel as though my self confidence has been knocked. This has made me quite self-conscious going out and about, I guess it's a fear of feeling I have to explain myself to people who may not know or getting pitty looks from strangers.

When I'm in the thick of the chemo side effects I'm just trying to get through the days so I don't think too much about my physical apperance. It's the days when I feel better in myself and I'm getting ready I find quite tricky, you'd think losing my hair would make getting ready a quick process!

I have to say getting a lovely wig has really helped feel more like me, so I find it easier to style myself once I have the hair on! With make-up on and an outfit I'm comfortable in I feel so much better and being with friends and family helps me forget about what I'm going through for a little while. Then when I take it all off and look in the mirror I'm reminded of the reality of cancer. Don't get me wrong I'm thankful the cancer has been removed and I have to remember that chemo is the good guy that's going to help me have the best possible chance of a prolonged life. So I tell myself this is just temporary and I need to accept myself for me right now sometimes it's hard to find the mental strength to feel ok about how I look but taking it each day is the best approach and remember this whole thing is a process.

I find it's so important to do things that bring me joy during this time, and planning things with friends and family in between each treatment makes the time go quicker so I would recommend this to anyone going through chemo. Also I’m putting away clothes are not quite right for me now, I love clothes and putting outfits together so I want to take enjoyment from this when I do have my good days! This time is temporary.

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