Am I still sexy?

I am 28 and had no problem meeting men before my breast cancer diagnosis. I have started losing my hair! Will any man ever want me again? I feel like a freak.

Starting a new relationship requires confidence which comes from good self-esteem and knowing that you are still worthy to give and receive love. Cancer can have a devastating effect on self-esteem, placing an added burden on any patient to overcome.

Cancer, when it is diagnosed, presents as a series of traumatic events in quick succession. Some forms of treatment unfortunately have very unpleasant side effects. In addition, the psychological aftermath of being diagnosed with cancer often evokes strong emotions of feeling out of control and helpless.

The irony of the stress that comes with living with cancer, is the freedom to choose how you wish to react to it. These are the thoughts you need to take responsibility for. Only you can decide if you want to be a victim or a survivor. If you choose to be a victim, people will have no choice but to follow your ques and act in pity of you. However, if you choose to be a survivor, it will reflect in people treating you with respect and admiration.

If you had the privilege of going through comprehensive multidisciplinary rehabilitation, you will know that you are still capable of sexual expression and intimacy. These are self-empowering tools that can assist you in reassessing your self-image.

What you think about yourself becomes your reality and that determines your mood, which in turn predicts your behaviour and the way people will respond to you.

I know a number of women living with cancer who have chosen to be survivors. They are always impeccably dressed and they have a glint in their eye that says, “Here I am – talk to me.” Most of the time, you can’t tell who has cancer and who does not because they do not allow it to affect their general appeal and attractiveness. Some people are lucky enough to be equipped with skills such as hardiness and resilience before their diagnosis and this makes the adjustment slightly easier.

However, others say that their diagnosis forced them to acquire new coping skills and tenacity.

The general public often has little or no knowledge of the implications of cancer, therefore, it is important that you spend time with significant people in your life to tell them about the effects of your diagnosis. People will begin to understand how you live and operate differently and that this is no reason for them to feel sorry for you now, but rather to accept you as a unique individual. If you want people to take an interest in you, you need to take an interest in yourself first. This can be daunting or an exciting challenge, depending on how you choose to think about yourself.

Good luck on your journey of discovery!

Written by Willem Stiglingh