Being diagnosed with breast cancer – no matter the stage – it will change your life to a great extent. There will be challenges which you couldn’t have anticipated – phases of frustration, constantly feeling tired, complaining of unknown pain, medications which make you feel sour, and so on. But, there will be positive changes as well. A survey conducted by one of the leading breast cancer study center proves that women who go through the tough breast cancer treatment also experience what’s today termed as “post-traumatic growth.” In other words, it means cancer completely chances the way you live your life – in both, bad and good ways.
While every woman’s experience is different from the other, there are certain changes which are nearly universal. Knowing the kind of changes you and your body will go through can significantly help you in coping with the disease just a bit more easily.
Emotional Adjustments and Stages
One of the most common phases of breast cancer is going through emotional adjustments, especially after it’s diagnosed. Most women start to adopt a new physical sense of themselves and their emotional vulnerability increase manifold. They usually feel betrayed by their own body and lose themselves in the sense that they won’t survive for long.
Here, physicians and oncologists suggest that women diagnosed with breast cancer must give themselves some time to process the prognosis, move towards acceptance, and get ready to fight the battle. Being optimistic is the key to surviving through the treatment and winning the battle. However, those carrying a pessimistic attitude lose themselves to the disease, even before it’s too late.
Changes in Your Appearance
Your appearance changes during a breast cancer treatment. Your breasts are definitely an important part of your identity. However, a surgery can affect their appearance and also result in some scars, change in their shape, or even loss of one or both breasts, depending upon the severity of your condition
A study conducted on a lumpectomy patient at one of the renowned universities of the United States of America, it was found that a significant loss of symmetry typically increases the fear of its recurrence and hence, triggers depression amid patients. However, the fact is that you can get your breast reconstructed, or even get a breast prosthesis done.
If you go through a chemotherapy, there are possibilities that you’ll experience severe hair and weight loss. Wigs, scarves, and hats can smartly help you in hiding hair loss. Some women can also try a preventive scalp cooling cap.
A breast cancer treatment causes certain temporary physical changes. For instance, if you’re going through radiation, you can expect some changes in the appearance of your skin exposed to the radiation rays, feel more tired than often and even witness swelling in the treated area. Some over-the-counter medications and ointments can help you to cope up with such symptoms.
Chemotherapy, on the other hand, leaves an impact on the entire body and causes a multitude of side effects to kick in. These include, loss of appetite, nausea, chemobrain, skin and nail changes, fatigue, sleep disturbances, changes in smell and taste senses, and menopausal symptoms.
Young fertile women can experience certain special challenges from their breast cancer treatment. Chemotherapies along with follow-up hormonal therapies can greatly impact your fertility and pregnancy plans. This is because, most chemo drugs lower down estrogen levels in the body causing medical menopause at a young age. You may or may not get pregnant.
If you’ve been planning to have kids and suddenly diagnosed with breast cancer, talk to your oncologist about your possible options. Ask them about ways to preserve your fertility. Usually, women with mastectomy, can breastfeed with one breast.
Changing Roles in Relationships
If you’ve always been the one in-charge of your family and relationship, then your role is most likely to change during and after a breast cancer treatment. As you go through some really emotional and physical changes, you’ll have to learn to seek and accept support and care from your friends and family members.
Likewise, your near and dear ones must also step up to support you through your time of difficulty and help you fight the war. Celebrate your strong relationships and let go of people who fade away during your time of low length.
Sexuality and Intimacy
Breast cancer typically affects every aspect of your life – including sexuality and intimacy. Your treatment can take a toll on your health even when you’re in the recovery stage. It may become difficult for you to indulge into any kind of sexual acts or even commit to a long-term intimate relationship during your phase of war.
A satisfactory sexual intercourse requires energy, libido, and enough moisture to prevent pain. All of these, during and after your treatment, may be in short supply. Although you may want to indulge into intimacy and sexual activities, but your chemically induced mood swings, low libido, vaginal dryness, and fatigue, may make it difficult for you to accomplish. Consult for gynecologist for help.
As an alternative solution, communicate with your partner, talk about a variety of interesting topics and make sure to keep things honest and real between the two of you.
Heading Into Recovery
Once your treatment is over, you may want to get back into your old life. However, things will be a bit different now and a full recovery takes time. Individuals who specialize in cancer rehabilitation state that it typically takes around 5 years for a woman to stabilize her condition and get back to her normal life. Most women use this time to reassess their life, capabilities, self-identity and examining their priorities.
Most women like journaling their cancer journey to be a blessing – a second chance to live a happy, long life. It’s a great way to make a note of the things which can affect their health and cause the condition to relapse. If you’re feeling discouraged, read about women who have gallantly fought this fatal disease and emerged victorious. Their stories can encourage and inspire you to keep your hopes high, survive the treatment and bid a goodbye to the disease forever.