After cancer, is it okay to be sexy? I sure hope so, and I am now helping fellow survivors to embrace their bodies the way we are. Being a woman, and a licensed mental health professional, I have spent most of my life hearing women refer to their bodies and what they don’t like and what they think could be better. Cancer, from my experience, has amplified these feelings of dissatisfaction with their body for some of my peers but I am all about embracing our bodies pre- and post-cancer.
I can still admit I was once comparing my own body to those in magazines or trying particular workouts to look like someone or something else, but at some point, I turned my energy inward. I accepted spending time on exercise to maintain health as a goal and not to necessarily change or alter my body to look any other way. Cancer can challenge this concept of self-esteem and body image. For the majority of breast cancer survivors, like myself, there is scarring due to treatments or medical procedures where the breast tissue is removed, and our bodies may look or appear foreign to us afterward. I have felt I had two or three different sets of breasts in my lifetime thus far, but I have tried to love each one of them. The first was before cancer, the second during reconstruction with expanders, while mainly flat and the third set following reconstruction with implants.
While I healed and began to accept my cancer diagnosis is when I inadvertently began yoga teacher training. I was two weeks into training when I was told I had breast cancer. I used my time and energy to work on mind-body healing. I spent time eating healthy, getting rest, breathing for meditation and caring for my body which included using affirmations and supportive self-talk. I also did not think to myself, if only my body looked different so I embraced my body and did not hold back from experiencing feelings or acts of intimacy during my surgeries or reconstruction.
So, how am I now helping other women? I have developed a workshop in which I help women examine their self-talk and how they speak about or relate to their bodies. We explore any benefits to changing the dialogue they have with and about their body along with exploring expectations. Part of the workshop will also include exploring how and when certain feelings about their body surfaced and for some negative dialogue may have begun before cancer. I believe following a breast cancer diagnosis, we may become more aware of messages we have about our body during the cancer journey.
The agenda of the workshop includes learning about self-talk, affirmations, cognitive reframing, exploring the role of self-care and setting healthy and supportive goals that may rely upon using a treatment team for further support. Individuals may set goals to further address sexual function and healthy or supportive diet and exercise for the benefits of improving their general health. The workshop will also touch on learning how to have a healthy dialogue about sex and intimacy with oneself and feelings and goals about communicating needs. It is important to understand what is important in feeling sexy and the specific types of intimacy women are looking for in life or a relationship. The goal will be to begin by having a supportive relationship with oneself and the body we reside in to then help improve upon any other relationships we might have or be in with regard to ways those relationships impact personal intimacy.
There is nothing more empowering as a woman than to feel my own sense of self-worth and that feeling sexy for example begins with me. I am Sexy!