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Coping with a New Image

Cancer is a life-changing journey. From diagnosis through survivorship, survivors are faced with physical and emotional changes – some temporary and others that stay with you. This may include scars from surgery that removed cancer, radiation that changed the color of your skin, or chemotherapy, which made you lose their hair. After completing cancer treatment, scars or surgical changes can make transitioning back to normal life challenging. It’s important for survivors to focus on embracing a new normal.

As a survivor, you have probably heard terms throughout your journey like “strong,” “proud,” “fighter,” and “winner.” While these descriptors are true, it is important to recognize that you might not always feel strong or proud as you face many different emotions throughout your journey. Cancer patients experience a full spectrum of emotions, and it is normal to have difficulty adjusting to a changed body.

Embracing changes to your appearance after cancer

After you are finished with treatment, you should try to re-learn your body and grow to like and love the ‘new you.’ Remember that as a cancer patient, you have fought tirelessly for your health – scars or discolored skin do not define you.

The support of loved ones can significantly help with embracing a new image after cancer. The cancer journey can affect the entire support system surrounding a patient. It is a journey for the whole family, especially children and spouses. Communication and education are crucial to help families know the best way to support you during and after treatment.

Relationships and physical intimacy

Doctors and nurses say that it is normal for physical interactions to be challenging for patients after treatment as they work through changes in their appearance. You might experience decreased sexual desire, which may be caused by emotional fatigue or medications such as anti-hormone therapy.

As a survivor, try to focus on becoming comfortable with your partner again. The best thing to do is to start slow by hugging, kissing, holding hands, or going on a date. Opening up some honest lines of communication will also help you and your partner navigate the transition and rekindle your physical relationship.

Throughout your survivorship journey, the compassionate caregivers at Rapides Regional Medical Center are here to support you.

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