[MOL] Dealing with a mastectomy... [03421] Medicine On Line


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[MOL] Dealing with a mastectomy...



I had a mastectomy last year. I know the operation was necessary, and the doctor assures me my prognosis is excellent. My friends tell me they can't tell the difference when I'm dressed, but there's a selfish part of me that just can't deal with the fact that my body is now so dreadfully flawed. My husband says he's happy to have me safe and he loves me more than ever, but I don't even want him to touch me because I know look so repulsive. I don't even feel like a woman anymore. I used to swim twice a week, and now I don't want to get anywhere near a bathing suit. What can I do to get past this?

Ari


Your body may have recovered from the surgery, but the wounds in your psyche are still raw. It's the latter that need your attention and caring now. I can't say for sure what your healing journey should be -- the exact path differs for each individual. But the emotional aftermath of a devastating diagnosis and treatment needs addressing as much as the physical. When the treatment results in permanent changes to the body, such as in a mastectomy, the individual often needs to mourn what she has lost. She may need time to accept the changes in her body -- and how they came about. Sometimes individual counseling can help; other times a support group is the best fit. Body image work can be done in either setting.

Sometimes it helps to examine how we're viewing and treating ourselves. Women often think things about themselves and their bodies that they would never say -- or usually even think -- about someone else. The vicious criticism we direct against our bodies can shred the soul even if never voiced aloud. One of the kindest things we can do for ourselves is to stop such negative self-talk, and show ourselves the same kind of love and acceptance we offer others. In your case, perhaps it would help to imagine what you might say and feel about a friend's or sister's or daughter's mastectomy. I suspect you'd understand their grief, but gently encourage them to re-enter life and resume once-enjoyable activities as soon as they are physically able. (Including swimming.)

I'm glad your medical treatment has been successful, and that your husband and friends have rallied to support you. Please consider asking your physician, or someone else you trust, for a referral to an appropriate support group or counselor so you can continue your healing. Good luck.




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