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Vol. 4.2 - It's My Body, Boobs

Body image and breast cancer… many things that define women as sexual beings are affected with breast cancer. Whether a lumpectomy or mastectomy, your body is altered, scarred, and changed. My last blog post focused on hair and self-image… and how hair is tied to our perception of beauty. Hair is MINOR compared to breasts. Boobs are everywhere.

Think about what things our culture contributes to female sexiness. A great set of boobs is seen as one of the essential parts of female beauty in our society. There were countless images I found, both pornographic and satirical, when I googled breasts. No wonder we have so many issues with our boobs!

Unfortunately, women have worry about their physical appearance constantly. Breast cancer affects all or almost all of the things that make women feel like women… it takes what socially defines us as attractive… and it is hard. These repercussions of breast cancer can make you question your own self-image of beauty, as well as make you question if your partner finds you desirable too.


Just over one-third of the women who had a lumpectomy and 60 percent of the women who underwent mastectomy reported feeling different about their body image. Reconstructive breast surgery was not associated with an improved body image among the women who had one or both breasts removed. 

If you think about it, it makes sense sexual issues are linked to mastectomies and lumpectomies A part of your body is being removed. Normally, we call that an amputation. In reality, mastectomy/lumpectomy procedures are amputations. It is not a limb, arm or leg, but it is part of your body. It is a loss.

There is the reality of waking up after your procedure to a Frankenstein-feeling body. And sadly, these changes are usually linked to feeling less attractive.

Plus, there are things people do not even realize. The removal of breasts and/or nipples can take away a pleasure zone. Some women opt for reconstruction so they can have the size or shape they did prior to surgery. If reconstruction has taken place, then it the sensations in the breasts may decrease or not return. If you go through radiation, the tissue can change. You can have nerve damage from the surgery itself. Sensations change too.

Basically, for many women prior to breast cancer just touching the breast is stimulating, arousing, or even orgasmic. And now because of breast cancer surgeries and procedures, the sexual sensations have been interfered with. After treatment, some women still find arousal, but many have pain or nerve damage from the procedures. Some feel self-conscious and some do not. No woman's response is the same, and many women face new sexual struggles.

Of course, they say sex and sexual desire is not directly linked to these surgeries… however, I and most women I have talked to actually living with this know it is indirectly related to a number of women's lack of sexual desire and pleasure. How can it not be?

The image in the mirror may not be what you were expecting. You may not feel like you. You may actually be upset and be unable to find positives about your body. It may take some work to re-frame your thinking.

There are a number of things women do to address these body image concerns. Some women get tattoos and cover their scars with something beautiful. They become a master of disguise, by wearing things that cover what bothers them during sex: inserts, wigs, nightgowns, camisoles, and bras. They avoid sexual positions which put weight on your chest or arm. Or use pillows for support. And in general, they need to take it slow, working with their partner on finding new positive touching. Heck, be creative, find new ways to reach arousal!

But there are things you can do to work on it… like working on liking yourself…

Finding ways to re-address how you feel about your appearance. Sexual pleasure is connected to how you feel about your partner and yourself. So, you should like you.

Journal Your Thoughts

Sometimes you just need to deal with your issues head on. Write the negative thoughts down in a journal, a sheet of paper, on anything. What are things that you tell yourself that limit your sex life? Do you think you are attractive? Do you question your partners ability to find you attractive? Are you worried about how you look since treatment? (It can be cancer or pre-cancer issues.)

You probably have a list of different things that worry you or that you reinforce with negative thoughts.

Time to change your thinking. Now you need to re-address each issue, and counter each negative with a positive. You will now have something to say to yourself when you start to doubt and think these negative thoughts. If you get stuck and cannot think of a positive… in the end… if someone can't love or accept you with that issue then they are not right for you!

Negative thoughts can really invade your life and your sex life.

Sometimes it takes more than just knowing finding the counter to each bad thought… sometimes we have to really work on what we see and how we see our self.

Mirror Exercises

What do you see when you look in the mirror? If you're like me, I can easily list the things I don't like. Often we overlook the good things or fail to see our own beauty. Here are a few exercise you should be working on when you look in the mirror. You may have to do each step multiple times before you can move on. If you are really brave… journal your thoughts!

Step 1: Dressed version… when you're at your best.

You're looking good, you're in a great outfit, your make-up is spot on. Take 10-15 minutes to study yourself in the mirror. Yep, one of those long mirrors if you can. What do you see? What area do you focus on? What are you overlooking? Are you thinking negative things? And if so, at what part of your body? What is different since treatment? How does that make you feel about yourself? What do you like about yourself?

Do this mirror exercises until you can find at least 3 positive thoughts you have about your overall appearance.

Step 2: Dressed version… when you're just you.

Repeat the same process when you are wearing your normal outfit. No make-up or things that may disguise your cancer treatment or general things you try to mask. Ask yourself the same questions. When you are negative, try to refocus your thoughts on things you find positive about yourself.

Do this mirror exercises until you can find at least 3 positive thoughts you have about your overall appearance.

Step 3: Sexy version… when you're dressed to get undressed.

Time for the adult version, when you are in your let's-get-freaky attire. Either your teddy, nightgown, panties, t-shirt, or bathrobe… whatever you wear to seduce your partner. You need to repeat the 10-15 minutes of mirror exercise. Finding what you find most attractive about yourself. What makes you sexy?

Do this mirror exercises until you can find at least 3 positive thoughts you have about your physical appearance.

Step 5: Naked version… yes, naked!

Time to look at yourself in the nude, just your natural self. Time to really face the changes made by cancer. The scars, the side-effects… really looking at all the parts of you that have changed. At first, you may find scars or things unattractive. Take a deep breath. Once you really look at them, you will see they are not ugly or what you first saw. Remember, realize when and what body part you are thinking negative things about and work on changing that to something positive. Remember you worked hard for every scar, roll, or issue you see... acknowledge it as a positive! Really try to work on complimenting your body.

In this exercise, you shouldn't stop until you have either 3 positive things about your naked body or you have at remembered 3 previous compliments you have given yourself in the past mirror exercise. It is hard to face yourself totally naked, and it may take a few attempts before you can refocus your negative thoughts into positive ones.

Do this mirror exercises as many times as you need to until you can find at least 3 positive thoughts you have about your physical appearance.

These mirror exercises are not just for you, they are to help improve your sex life too. The more relaxed you are during sex, the more enjoyable sex will be. The more you like yourself, the more open and willing you will be in bed.

Focus on the Positives

If you are only focused on negative things about your body or sex, then it is likely that sex is going to be less than what you want it to be. If you are thinking and saying negative things to yourself, then you are really setting yourself up… to fail. It does not mean that you are always going to be thinking you are sexy and amazing, but it is important to not put yourself down and focus on things that make you feel insecure.

Self-image and how you see yourself is important. If you are really struggling with your body remember you can always go to a counselor or therapist to discuss how you feel alone or with your partner.


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