Body Image And Cancer
Body Image And Cancer
Carly Schwartz (Co-Founder) gives expert video advice on: Does having cancer affect a person's 'body image'?; Does your hair grow back identical to the way it was?; Should I get a wig during chemotherapy? and more...
Does having cancer affect a person's 'body image'?
Yes, having cancer does affect a person's body image. Absolutely because it's a real shock that you've got cancer. You've been told you have cancer and that your body has let you down like this. You've always been invincible, or I had. And then there's dealing with the physical. How you look can be very different when you have cancer, especially if you lose your hair or have surgery. Absolutely.
In what ways can someone's appearance be affected by cancer?
Everything really can be affected if you have cancer. You can lose your hair, you can lose weight, you can gain weight, your skin can break out. I felt like I looked like an alien when I had cancer, because you lose your eyebrows, your hair, and I had had surgery. It's dramatic.
What's a good attitude to adopt when my appearance changes during cancer treatment?
A good attitude to adopt when your appearance changes through cancer treatment, is if you look at the side effects of going through cancer treatment as you being successful at fighting the cancer. You're losing your hair because the chemicals that you are taking to fight the cancer are working and maybe you've had surgery because you want to cut out the cancer. It's all positive, and you should focus on that, if you think that the drugs are working, the surgery is working so you're getting rid of the cancer. The cancer is gone because of surgery, the cancer is going because of the Chemo, because of the radiation. It's a positive take on it and you have to look at that. You want to be cancer free, and what you are doing is making you cancer free. It's a badge of courage. It's a good thing!
Does chemotherapy cause hair loss?
Certain drugs used in chemotherapy to fight cancer does absolutely cause hair loss. There's like a 99 percent chance with some cancer drugs that you will lose your hair. But you can hold out hope that you will be that one percent.
When will I lose my hair?
Depending on the drug you use to fight the cancer, the doctor would probably be able to tell you when you will lose your hair. But, for breast cancer, you usually lose it by, or around the second treatment. It's pretty predictable. Then I personally took charge, I felt that I was not going to let this happen to me, and I buzzed my hair, so that when it was falling out, it was not handfuls of hair.
What are some good ways to cope with the loss of my hair?
Some good ways to cope with the loss of your hair when fighting cancer, I would say first of all, is to be prepared. You know you're going to lose it. I would go wig shopping right away. Some people have wigs made while you still have your own hair so you'd be able to have someone make a wig like your own hair. I personally had my hair buzzed when fighting the cancer but I know people that cut it in stages. Every few days it's a little shorter, or they let their children do a Mohawk on them, or they have friends over for wine and everybody takes a little of the hair off. It's totally individual, however you want to deal with your hair loss when fighting cancer.
How long will it take for my hair to start growing back?
With your hair growing back after fighting cancer, I only know from my own experience with the drug I was taking and I was taking that particular drug every twenty-one days. So when I did not have my next treatment my hair started growing again.
Does your hair grow back identical to the way it was?
No, my hair didn't grow back the way it was after fighting cancer. I have straight hair, and my hair came in curly. What happens is eventually my hair grew back the way it normally was, but it was curly for several inches, just curly. And women with curly hair, their hair will often grow in straight.
Should I get a wig during chemotherapy?
Absolutely get a wig during chemotherapy to fight cancer. I would say whatever feels right to you. If you're comfortable being bald, or wearing scarves or hats, fine. I personally felt like I wanted to look as much like I normally did whilst I was fighting the cancer, and I bought wigs. In fact, I got wigs in all different colours and styles and tried to make it fun.
What can I do to improve my appearance during cancer treatment?
To improve your appearance during your cancer treatment, if you're taking a drug where you lose your eyebrows, I would definitely suggest, before you lose all your eyebrows, to observe the shape and hopefully learn how to put them in so that they look normal. That's a big thing throughout your cancer treatment. Losing your eyebrows is huge. And in my case, I wore makeup, and I wore jewellery, and I tried to look as good as I could, because it was a real power thing with me. I was not going to let cancer do this to me. I was going to take control. So I made every effort to dress nice and look as good as I could.
How have some remained positive in spite of an appearance altered by cancer?
Well I think you have to focus on the fact that what you're doing is giving you life and giving you health and you're getting rid of the cancer. And to get rid of the cancer you need to take these drugs, and these are merely temporary side effects. Focus on the future, and take control of it, realise it's just a season in your life and make yourself as attractive as you can under the circumstances.
What can I do about persistent negative feelings towards an appearance affected by cancer?
With persistent negative feelings towards your appearance after cancer, I would talk to your doctor. Maybe you're suffering some depression or maybe you need to be with other patients who have gone through the same thing and hear how they've dealt with it and how they've overcome their fight against cancer. You need to realise that what you've been subjected to, the drugs, and turning your world upside down, it's perfectly natural for you to be going through a difficult time, and realise it's just a season, it's going to pass and it's not permanent.