Tuesday, April 26, 2016

So How's Your Self Esteem?

A cancer diagnosis takes a lot out of you emotionally, as well as physically. You feel like you look like crap during treatment. First comes that stressed/shocked look of someone just hit with the word 'cancer' that has crept slammed into their life. Then comes the chemo pallor which wipes out all color in your skin. This is heightened by the nausea and and the face of someone trying to keep food in your stomach. You may not be eating much but you get fat from the steroids. Finally, your hair, followed by eye lashes and eye brows all disappear.

You do not want to look at yourself in the mirror so you can see the fat, pale, nauseous, bald version of you. Is this your new normal? You really hope not. But your self esteem has taken a nose dive in terms of how you look.

You work hard to get some color back, get some energy back, and lose some weight. The weight loss is harder than before because you are older now and your body is not quite what it was before chemo. And you cross your fingers your hair will return and look something like it did before.

Finally, you begin to somewhat resemble your former self. But how is your self esteem? Can you erase your cancer image from your mind? I think this is the hardest part of the 'new normal' for many patients. The memories of your younger healthier self from your pre-cancer days lurks in your mind reminding you of what you used to be like. Before cancer.

I know several people who drastically changed their looks after cancer. They stopped coloring their hair or they never went back to a long hair style. I know I used to have long hair before cancer and had been considering cutting it off. I never went back to long hair. I also spend a lot more care on my nails than I used to.

There are no pictures of me during treatment because I wouldn't look at myself in the mirror much less allow my image to be captured. My self esteem took a huge hit during treatment. I'm not sure if it will ever come back. But I am working on it. I never had that much self assurance before cancer #2. However I have decided I need to work on that. Losing some weight will help as will therapy. Being perpetually unhealthy on a medical roller coaster doesn't help either.

1 comment:

Nancy's Point said...

Hi Caroline,
I think my self-esteem is mostly fine. My body image, now that's another story. I like to separate the two as I don't think they're the same, though of course, they are intertwined. Before cancer I felt pretty good about my physical self. Since cancer, not so much. Let's just say I avoid cameras as much as possible. Important topic. Thank you for addressing it.