Losses : breast cancer “survivors”
One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer by the age of 85. More than two in three (69%) are diagnosed in women aged 40-69. Vivienne has known many women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Following the shock of such a diagnosis may come great uncertainty, anxiety, fear, a feeling of loss of control and also a grieving process. Some women subsequently endure numerous losses, both transient and permanent. These may involve:
- numerous medical tests such as scans and blood tests
- a lumpectomy or mastectomy
- reconstructive surgery
- loss of hair, during chemotherapy
- tissue damage due to radiation treatment
- early menopause
- removal of their ovaries or loss of ovarian function, loss of fertility ability to bear children
- endocrine drug therapy for many years
- development of osteoporosis and necessity to have drug treatment
- numerous sexual losses including sexual functioning problems
- loss of job; change sin family role(s) and losses associated with role(s) in the community
- financial losses due to medical bills and loss of income
- loss of security about health and loss of confidence about the future
Immediately following a mastectomy a women experiences many losses associated with losing a breast (or breasts). Choosing an outfit to wear on an outing now means finding a top that her tender chest and restricted arm can tolerate, as well as finding a way to fill in the missing breasts. So, she has lost the freedom to wear a variety of clothes and has lost some of her sexuality. Years down the track this can still impact a woman. The grief can be triggered by many things e.g walking along a beach with one’s partner, with topless women sunbathing and women frolicking carefree in the sea, their full and real breasts spilling out of their bikini tops. Issues with body image are ongoing for many.
The many losses associated with the series of events that can follow mastectomy are multidimensional. Some women may feel a losses of femininity, self-esteem and identity. Loss of fertility is a significant loss for younger women. Others struggle with the uncertainty that comes with having a cancer diagnosis. Some have a great anxiety around their fear of dying. Breast cancer “survivors” often have to have follow-up medical tests and procedures done for many years, even decades later. They live with uncertainty. Every one of us lives with uncertainty about how and when we will die, but breast cancer survivors are reminded of their mortality constantly. If a woman has had a mastectomy then every time she undresses or dresses the physical scarring and missing breast(s) are reminders as are the prosthetic breasts.
Read about the sexual losses of breast cancer survivors and their “disenfranchised grief” at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14681994.2014.934340
Whether you have just recently been diagnosed or now think of yourself as a “cancer survivor”, if you would like to be supported in coping with your losses and your grief seek professional counselling.
Family members and friends who take the role of carers also suffer and experience loss and grief.
IF CANCER IS AFFECTING YOUR LIFE AS A VICTIM OR A CARER AND YOU WOULD LIKE SOMEONE TO TALK TO CALL ME FOR A FREE 10 MINUTE CONSULTATION OR MAKE AN APPOINTMENT TO SEE ME AT WAHROONGA OR CASTLE HILL
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Tel 9943 2400