After a mastectomy, there are a lot of feelings and phenomenons a patient must cope with. From emotional distress, feeling unfamiliar with your physical self, and generally dealing with your diagnosis and its aftermath, each element of the post-op process brings with it new challenges and emotions. Everyone will deal with this period differently, but a few methods of coping with the stress and change can be beneficial to just about everyone.
Know that your feelings are valid.
Following your mastectomy, you may find yourself facing feelings such as anxiety and anger. Know that this is completely normal. Whatever the reason for this procedure, and despite the reasons behind deciding to undergo it, it can still feel as though your body is no longer your own. If you’re struggling with these emotions or suffer from a mental health condition like an anxiety disorder that exacerbates them, consider seeking therapy or other mental health treatment to help you get through these feelings and regain a sense of joy despite what you’ve been through. Alongside immunotherapy and other treatment-focused activities, mental health treatments can make a world of difference.
Understand your treatment plan.
Through cancer immunotherapy, clinical trials, and other sorts of cancer treatment, you have a lot to take in both physically and mentally, and the same is true of any other condition. Talk to your doctor and seek additional resources that describe your treatment plan, side effects that might occur, and the intricacies of your diagnosis and potential treatments or cures. Resources like the National Cancer Institute and its United States National Cancer Program can offer critical insights into cancer types, treatments, and related topics. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll feel more in control of your health once more, even amidst the uncertainty that comes from the first notice of cancer cells in your body. With information from your doctor or independent research, you’ll know what to expect from the treatment process and maintaining your immune system throughout chemotherapy and other treatments.
Focus on what you can control.
Knowledge will give you a certain kind of power over your treatment process, but it can’t return the autonomy you may have lost. To cope with these emotional side effects, turn your attention to what factors of your life you do have control over still. For instance, you may find that your clothes no longer feel right since choosing implants after your procedure. In particular, your bra may no longer be the right cup size or band size, or the straps may no longer fit comfortably over your new body. Seek out a bra sizing guide and use a tape measure to find a bra option that helps you feel more confident and comfortable. Something as basic as finding a bra in the right size may seem like a small, insignificant factor in such a serious situation, but it’s these small details that can transform your mindset and help you to better deal with both physical and emotional distress.
Connect with others.
This piece of advice can go two ways. On the one hand, having a support system around you, like friends, family, or even medical professionals, can help you to contend with feelings and the roller coaster that is treatment options and their aftermath. On the other hand, you might find that you gain more comfort by connecting with those who have been where you are (be that with the same diagnosis or another type of cancer or condition), through support groups or other resources. In either case, it is important to ensure that you have someone by your side throughout this process, whether they’ve loved you through sickness and health, or they’re simply someone who’s been where you are and understands what you’re going through.
Relearn how to love your body.
after a procedure as significant as a mastectomy, many people find that their body no longer feels like their own. Instead, they’re a stranger trapped in the shell that’s been overcome by a tumor, chemotherapy, and other treatments that have left your body looking and feeling differently. It may take time and purposeful effort, but you can learn to love your body once again. Find ways to feel more confident, whether that’s wearing the right bra size, or finding an outfit you love the way you look in. Over time, that confidence can compound into a genuine feeling of self-love, even if that seems impossible at the moment.
Make and reach unrelated goals.
Whether you’ve been dealing with cancer or another illness, it can feel as though your life has been put on pause. Whatever dreams and plans you’d made were likely stalled in the wake of treatment plans and concerns over your body’s immune response and other reactions. However, post-mastectomy, you have the freedom to focus, at least in part, on other aspects of your life. By setting goals beyond your treatment and reaching these unrelated milestones, you can remind yourself of your strength and capability while restoring the life you fed plan to be leading.
Whatever your reason for choosing a mastectomy, and whatever treatments that have surrounded it, it’s normal to feel anxious, confused, or even angry about what lot you’ve been handed. Nevertheless, you can come through this with renewed strength, confidence, and well-being, regaining control of your body and your life, coping with the aftermath of your mastectomy and all that comes after.