Young women with breast cancer

Being a woman in today’s world is not easy. The media tell us how we should look and feel, providing photoshopped images of woman with impossibly perfect bodies as comparison. Many women feel that their bodies are wrong – with their hips being different, their legs being the wrong shape, their arms not looking taut all the time … it’s no wonder that the young women of today have difficulties with their body image.

What is body image?

Body image is how you feel about your body, whether you feel your body is attractive to look at and feel comfortable in it. For example, recent weight loss (or gain) may – or may not – make you think that you look better or worse! After breast cancer it is normal for your body image to change. Whether you have had a lumpectomy, a mastectomy or a double mastectomy; you are likely to feel differently about your body, mainly because your body now feels different.

Acceptance of your new body is important, not only for your day-to-day functioning, but especially for you to be able to enjoy sexual activity to its fullest. Studies have shown that body satisfaction is directly linked to healthy sexuality.

Here are some ideas to try to improve your level of body acceptance:

Feel good about yourself

Depending on your situation, you may have opted for a breast reconstruction or external, prosthetic breasts. Whichever option you chose, it is important that you feel like a “real woman” again. Yes, that part of you has changed, but you are still a beautiful, sexy woman and it is essential to become acquainted with your new body.

One method of becoming acquainted with your new body is to look at it – often! Dress up in your favourite underwear, do your hair and put on your make-up. Now that you are looking your best, look at yourself in a full length mirror.

If a bra and panties feels like too little too soon, there is a wide variety of lovely lingerie which you can wear. Not only does lingerie provide more cover than your average bra and panties, but the idea of lingerie often makes women feel sexy before they even put it on. Find a part of your body which you find beautiful, for example your calves, arms or neck. Look for the beauty in your body. The female body has been a source of inspiration for artists throughout history. Find the beauty and inspiration in your own body.

Exercise

Regular exercise is a great way to increase endorphins – the feel good chemicals in your brain. Exercise helps you to get to know your body again and become acquainted with your physical strengths and weaknesses. It is vital to find a form of exercise that you can enjoy, if you enjoy the treadmill, then go for it! If not, there are a wide variety of exercise classes available at your local gym, including dance, yoga, pilates, etc. and they are all great ways to build muscle and tone up.

Keep in mind that your body has gone through trauma and may not be as fit as it was before. Be kind to yourself and your body, and take it slowly. Start off by walking up the stairs with your tummy muscles tight, or walking around the house or garden a few times each day. If a gym session seems daunting, there are a variety of exercise and fitness DVDs on the market, to assist you in building up your stamina in the comfort of your own home. ALWAYS ask your doctors if there are any movements that you should avoid with regard to your recovery and reconstruction.

Exercise increases your stamina for sexual activity too. After surgery, you may find that your body is not as strong as it used to be, and sexual activity can be quite exhausting. Your perseverance with exercise, will result in you finding more enjoyment in your Sexercise.

Written by Casey Wolfson

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