This guest blog has been written by Clare Reed, Cognitive Behavioural Therapist who specialises in working with cancer patients.
What is self-esteem and why does it go missing during cancer treatment?
I work with so many clients, in my Cognitive Behavioural Therapy practice, who are suffering from low self-esteem during cancer. Often, it is the shock to the system that this has happened to them. We all like to think of ourselves as invincible, until the world cruelly shows us we are not. When we find out we are as susceptible as the next person and that cancer can affect us too, that really knocks the confidence.
Self-esteem is made up of inner confidence, a sense that we hold ourselves in high esteem – or in regard. Fairly old-fashioned language! It really is just thinking highly of ourselves and when we think highly of ourselves we look after ourselves, respect our actions, our own opinions and desires and we love ourselves in a healthy way. When we don’t have self-esteem we don’t take pride in ourselves and we don’t trust our opinions or facilitate our desires.
Lying on my own hospital bed, in 2017 after my quadrantectomy to remove a stage 3 breast cancer tumour, really brought it all home to me. I had my operation first, before chemo and radiotherapy. Until that point, I think I had been a bit dismissive of the serious situation I was in. But lying there with drain tubes coming out of my sides and not being able to move my shoulder and chest for the pain and being extremely uncomfortable, I really realised what had happened to me. I cried some self-pitying tears for a whole afternoon, and why not.
But later that evening my surgeon visited me and asked me to put my bra on, as the wounds needed compression and the bra was going to enable that. I really didn’t want to do it. At first, I was like, ‘don’t even touch me, I just want to lay here and not move’. But I sat up and he helped put my bra on. And you know what? As soon as it was on, and I rested back on the pillow, I felt great! I really did. This amazing feeling of protection washed over me. Suddenly there was this comfy barrier protecting my breasts, it was a shield! I didn’t take that bra off for 2 months! I even showered in it and did the bare minimum of a wet wipe wash when I had to. It was the equivalent of a comfort blanket!
When the world feels like it is against you and you can’t take any more pain all you need is comfort and self-love. Self-esteem comes from treating yourself well and being able to do what you can to comfort yourself. Making sure you have the best bra at your fingertips after your breast operation is essential and a self-loving action. Don’t make do with some old regular bra that is not fit for purpose. Get a bamboo bra made especially for post breast operations. It will make you feel good knowing you are prepared, even better, it will give you some decision control and it will help your body heal faster and your scars heal quicker. What more do you need in that moment to know you are looking after you and your self-esteem.
If you are looking for further help with cancer related self-esteem, anxiety or other issues, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Clare and book a free pre-therapy call to talk to her. You can book in online at www.cbtforcancer.com