As a cancer survivor, how can I improve my body image?

Whether or not your cancer treatment has left visible physical changes, it's normal to have issues with your body image, says palliative medicine specialist Dr. Stewart Fleishman. Watch this video to learn how you can deal with body image problems as a cancer survivor.

First off, my blessings to you for winning your battle against cancer, you are a champion in your own right by beating the odds and that in itself is reason to celebrate. When it comes to body image we all struggle from a number of different reasons, how we view ourselves from the inside is how the world inevitably sees us. Perhaps you are struggling with hair loss or you had a mastectomy? Whatever your experience with cancer was the important part is not to focus on how it left you but more on the fact that you are still here, battle wounds and all.

Some of us will never experience the great strength that is necessary to fight a terminal disease. I have always told my clients that regardless of how they look I’m am the most proud of them when I see them succeed at especially challenging exercises or nutritional goals I set for them. The same is true here with you.

Remember that you are in a re-building stage you have been given a second chance and you can use this time build a better, stronger, more beautiful you. No one can be a better “you” but you can do and be better everyday. Start rebuilding that confidence from the inside out, and the rest will catch up.

A great way to build that body image back up is to first acknowledge that it was this amazing, powerful, unique body that beat the odds. Be good to yourself, be kind to your body, it just went through war and it needs some time to heal. Take a moment every day and listen to your body’s needs. Today it may need rest; tomorrow it may want a walk, the next day a favorite treat. Improving your body image is more than going to the gym or eating right, it’s looking at what was given to you and appreciating every hair, freckle, curve or imperfection as perfectly yours. Every time you look in the mirror focus on all your favorite and most positive details and promise yourself to work on the ones you can fix. You cannot change your body type but you can improve it.

You cannot compare oranges to apples and the same is true for our bodies. Remember that no one has been given the title of perfection, everyone has flaws, it all comes down to what you consider a flaw or unique. In my eyes we live in a world with a lot of unique individuals floating around waiting for mass approval and in reality the only approval that matters most is our own. Love yourself, love who you are and know that regardless of the challenges set before you, there is always a solution, there is always YOU. No one can do YOU better, and that alone should be your motto.    

All cancer survivors deal with changes in body image in their own way. It is a personal experience. However, there are some general approaches that may help you improve your body image and begin to better understand your body after cancer.

Here are a few suggestions:
  • Talk to other survivors who have had similar struggles with their body
  • Gain confidence in your appearance.
  • Seek out professional counseling, either for yourself or with a
  • Include a healthy balance of exercise and good nutrition to improve
           how you feel after cancer.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.