Cancer Fighters Thrive is a quarterly print and online magazine bringing readers practical, innovative and inspirational information about cancer treatment and survivorship.
Issue link: http://cancerfightersthrive.epubxp.com/i/348248
fall 2014 | cancer fighters thrive 29 cancerfghtersthrive.com F or many patients, their frst question upon learn- ing they have cancer is "Will I lose my hair?" Hair loss is one of a variety of image-related changes that can have a profound emotional im- pact as patients proceed through treatment and recovery; other potential challenges may include surgical scars, weight fuctuations and skin rashes from radiation. All of these changes can alter patients' self-image. While these changes may come as an initial shock, many patients have learned to embrace the image-related transformation that treatment brings, ultimately becoming empowered by showing the world their creative, stylish personalities. Learning to Love Myself When Dawn Jones received a diagnosis of stage III infamma- tory breast cancer in 2000, the doctors told her she would lose all of her hair from the yearlong chemotherapy regimen as well as her left breast due to a mastectomy. "The hard thing was knowing I was going to lose my breast and my hair," Dawn recalls. "Emotionally and mentally, that really took its toll. I was going to feel like less of a woman, look like less of a woman. That was a very hard pill to swallow." She says that the impending changes to her appearance forced her to take some time to contemplate and pray about why they were upsetting her so much. "I had to ask myself, Am I upset because of what other people are going to see, or because of what I'm going to see when I look in the mirror? " she says. "I prayed a lot about it. And I think I was really truly blessed to fnd the spirit inside to say, I don't care what other people think of me. I'm here. I'm alive. I'm breathing. Through the spirit and loving myself, I was able to say, It is what it is, but I'm going to survive it." As an important step toward taking control of her appear- ance, Dawn decided to shave her head as a preemptive strike. When she saw her freshly shorn head in the mirror for the frst time, she says, she found unexpected power in that moment: "Surprisingly, it felt like a piece of me came back." Feeling newly empowered, Dawn took additional steps to- ward embracing her changing appearance. She started wear- ing high heels again, something she found also helped with the peripheral neuropathy she was experiencing in her feet as a side effect of treatment, and she also created her own natural skin care products to nourish her skin. She had fun with wigs, try- ing out everything from what she calls the "Catholic school Photos by Amanda Stevenson SPECIAL FEATURE