Q. I'm trying to prepare myself mentally about having a mastectomy. I don't think I would ever want to look at my body again, much less expect my significant other to ever find me attractive. Not sure what to do...

A.

A surgery that removes part of you is a loss and must be honored with mourning and grief. A loss changes you but also can make you more aware of what you still have. Most people need time to get used to the scars on their body. With patience and caring, couples do enjoy being intimate again. The following suggestions may help:

  • Keep a journal in which you can freely express your thoughts and write down all of your feelings, both good and bad.
  • Reach out to your loved ones. Let them know what kind of physical affection and comforting you need.
  • Give yourself credit. Practice praising yourself about any of the things you like about yourself, such as your intelligence, your faith, your laugh, your kindness and other positive qualities.
  • Be generous to yourself. Give yourself little gifts that give you pleasure such as a new book of poems, a massage, or a spa product.
  • Take relaxing baths. Use music, candles, or flowers to enhance the experience.
  • Adorn the new you. Get new make-up that complements your best features. Choose clothing colors that match your current skin tone. Seek out programs such as Look Good, Feel Better to learn helpful tips.
  • Join a support group of women who have similar concerns. CancerCare offers online and telephone support groups and our oncology social workers can help you locate face-to-face groups in your area.
  • Share information with your partner. Communicating your feelings (and having your partner do the same) is very important as you go forward together.