To an outsider, a mastectomy is simply a life-saving surgery and that everyone who goes through it should be “grateful” for the chance to live longer because of it. While there is truth to the aspect of mastectomy being vital, what other people don’t understand is the impact it has mentally and emotionally on the one who is left with the permanent physical changes after the mastectomy. For a lot of women, their breasts are a part of them that is beautiful and feminine. What if that part gets taken away from them? There is a lot that might be going on for someone who has gone through a mastectomy and this guide will help bring back the confidence of anyone who has gone through a major physical change.
Understanding the Emotional Impact
Before we go about providing the solutions for confidence-building, we need to start with the root cause of that loss of confidence. By understanding the “why” of the issue, you can start acknowledging what aspects of the change affects you. Validating your feelings and not feeling guilty for feeling them is a crucial part of the healing process. If you do a lot of “self-blaming” it will get in the way of returning to a state of loving yourself.
It is also important to give yourself the time and permission to mourn the loss of a big part of your body. There’s nothing wrong with feeling sad. Don’t let those shallow words of “cheer up” or “it could have been worse” get in the way of your valid feelings of pain and loss. You lost something important to you and you need time.
Don’t Go Through This Alone
When one feels sad and hurt it is a common thing for some to seek isolation and close off from the world. There’s something comforting about isolation and not having to deal with people and their questions. We get it. We don’t want words of pity. Words of encouragement don’t feel right either from the people who can’t empathize (especially worse from people who assume they know what you’re going through).
It is actually helpful to join a community or forum so you can connect with actual people who experienced the same challenges you did. If you fear for your identity, you may also have anonymity. Reddit has a breast cancer thread that has thousands of women conversing and sharing their own experiences. By writing and sharing your own mastectomy journey it can be cathartic and also opportune for seeking advice from those who already know how it feels.
Beauty Is Not Singularly Defined
Truth be told this does sound like a cliche but you need to understand it at its essence so you can redefine the meaning of beauty beyond impossibly high standards social media images may have set.
A mastectomy does not diminish your worth or your femininity. Embracing the truth of your unique beauty can be empowering. Focus on qualities that you love about yourself that are not limited by physical attributes. You are beyond the temporary aspects of your body. Everyone’s body will be at the mercy of time. Your unique identity and inner beauty will transcend time and overshadow all those physical changes.
It’s Okay To Get Prosthetics or Breast Reconstruction Surgery
Even as you embrace your body’s new form, that does not mean you should not be open to any help from modern technology especially if you are inclined towards it. Surgery and prosthetics can help regain a sense of normalcy. However, the key important part of this decision is that this must come from you and not from an idea of how you think people want you to look like.
Consult with a medical professional so you can understand your options and make an informed choice that aligns with your comfort and desires.
Dress To Impress… Yourself!
Empowering yourself through a delightful wardrobe change can be fun. Shopping is therapy for a lot of people (don’t we just love any excuse to get a whole new set of clothes). Clothing can play a significant role in boosting one’s confidence. Post-mastectomy fashion, including specialized mastectomy bras and swimsuits, can provide comfort and enhance your sense of style. Experiment with different styles and outfits that make you feel comfortable and confident.
Nurturing Your Body and Mind
Beyond what goes on the outside, what is inside matters too. During the healing process you need to engage in activities that make you feel good. Movement is key! No need to get into intense activities (and your doctor would advise against it too), instead focus on activities that get you in a flow.
Whether it is gardening, yoga, light walks, or spending time with your companion animal, immersing yourself in something that makes you move and feel good can be healing. Confidence is founded on the sense of purpose one has. To look forward to something, to find something that you are excited about can make your body active and your mind healthy. Aside from movement, some activities will also give you the opportunity to socialize and connect with new people if you are not yet ready to reconnect with people who are in your old circles.
Heal At Your Own Pace
Confidence is not something you can instantly fix with a sudden shift of mindset. While that may work for a very few people, the truth is, it is a process and just like any process it involves work. You have got to do the work to get to that point where you can say with absolute certainty, “I love who I am and everything that makes me, me.” We can’t tell you when that will happen but at least we know with thousands of breast cancer survivors who have shared their story, it WILL happen.