How to Boost Your Body Image After Cancer

By Jane Smith

We don’t bounce back after cancer, we bounce around … for some time. For us survivors, staging a comeback isn’t easy or fast.

When I lost my breast, it rocked my world. My pain was more than skin deep. I felt  a dramatic shift in what I knew to be real and true about me. Inner chaos ensued. I felt vulnerable, invisible, and aloof. Time stood still.

The vibrant woman I had been before my mastectomy was missing in action.  Recapturing her felt impossible. I had to renew and to re-launch her, and I had to dig deep to do so.

At first it was scary and lonely. I’d never been in an emotional space like this before, and felt lost and isolated. But I was determined to make some important changes, so on a small budget and with limited energy, I started watching TED talks, attending local events, reading fashion blogs, and buying fun art. Expressive writing, nature walks, and rock-and-roll classics helped me stay positive as I began each day. Taking bubble baths, walking my dogs, and cooking for loved-ones calmed and soothed me at night. I took note of what felt good and I repeated and repeated and repeated it!

I also noticed how my inner thoughts were impacted by my actions. I focused on the parts of me that I liked. I chose to act lively and spirited, even when I didn’t feel that way. Over time, as these new ways took root, I became more centered and gradually felt more alive … and authentic.

If you are feeling stuck, pink ribbon sisters, consider these tips:

  • Remember that your body is your instrument. Use it to tell your story. Your words, your gestures, and your non-verbal language are powerful!

How I applied this in my own life: I wanted to inspire others, so I stepped into the shoes of a coach. I urged my clients  to take control of what they could by asking them about their priorities. I asked, “Do you want more action, more fun, more nurturing, more luxury, or more wisdom in your life? What archetype represents this feeling, and how can you model it?”  I reminded them that faking it until you make it really works.

  • Remember that your body is your canvas. Use it to display your style. Your attitude and your intentions can be expressed through your hairstyle, accessories, and wardrobe.

How I applied this in my own life: I wanted to radiate a healthful look, so I chose an athletic and classic appearance for myself. If you desire more romance, creativity, comforting, or excellence, how can your fashion choices communicate these goals? Color, line, pattern, and texture can be enhanced to manifest them!

  • Remember that your body is your engine. Use it to convey your strength. Your values and your productivity begin with movement.

How I applied this in my own life: For me, taking water aerobics classes was the answer to increasing my flexibility, endurance, and strength with a group of fun-loving people. Gardening, dancing, walking, biking, or yoga may be more to your liking, but be sure to find and embrace some kind of movement. As you lose yourself in the flow of moving your body, you will feel playful and…happy!

Depression, weight-gain, and exhaustion often take hold after cancer. They are hard to tackle and, if left unchecked, they can do great damage. The key is to honor our bodies so that our spirits can soar.

Although much may feel beyond your control, your “new normal” life can be designed around your unique needs and priorities. Experiment. Withhold judgment.  Attend to what brings you energy and joy. Let go of what isn’t working anymore.

As you enhance your story, style, and strength you will lighten your load. You will boost your body image, your self image, and your public image.

As you delight in you, magic happens. Bounce well, my friends. Be sassy!