Tuesday, 10 March 2020

BRiC's Collective Voice: How to look feminine during treatment, March 2020

A recent Sunday discussion focused on how our members manage to look and feel feminine during treatment, we shared tips on what works for us and discussed whether it is important to feel feminine during treatment.

For many of our members the first hit to their femininity is hair loss through chemotherapy. A sudden and complete hair-loss affects the way we view ourselves and how we perceive that others see us. Add to that, the probability that surgery will leave us disfigured to a greater or lesser extent, then it is not surprising that we feel less feminine, less attractive and less confident.

Many members said they feel glamorous in their wigs, wearing styles that they would not have contemplated before, others hate their wigs and prefer hats, scarves and buffs, others choose the bald-and-beautiful look, embracing the liberating feeling it brings. But for every member who finds joy and confidence in their wig or hat, there are many more who feel the loss of hair affects them deeply and their confidence has taken a huge hit.

Lots of our members shared tips around using make-up, bright colours, lovely lipsticks and jewellery to boost confidence during treatment. Those who had attended a Look Good Feel Better course, or similar events, said they enjoyed the tips, such as how to draw on eyebrows. Others suggested using positive affirmations, looking in the mirror and seeing your own beauty; remembering to smile was a popular tip. One member said her method was to simply put her head down and power through, there is time enough to worry about our femininity after treatment.

Our private group has members with both primary and secondary breast cancer and for those with a secondary diagnosis the effects of ongoing treatment can mean their sense of femininity is hit even harder. They may be facing a constant battle with side effects: hair loss or thinning, weight gain, pain and bloating, were just some of those mentioned. For all our members the general tiredness adds to the struggle. Lots of us want to feel “normal” more than to feel feminine; something made difficult by the side effects of the drugs. Weight gain, premature menopause, loss of libido and loss of confidence affect almost all of us to some degree. For those of us in a relationship, having a supportive partner can be a boost to our confidence, although some members confessed to a feeling of disbelief when their partner tells them they are beautiful. Those who are single often worry about how potential partners might see us in our new, less feminine state.

Some of us who weren’t “girly girls” before cancer found the urge to enjoy what was left of their femininity, things that weren’t important before became a high priority, our hairdresser often became our new best friend. Keeping up with our routine helped many members, having a manicure, wearing make-up, buying nice clothes and getting dressed up helped to maintain that sense of self. For others it was a relief to be able to let those things slide and enjoy just being ourselves with no concern about how we looked.

We wondered if the pressure to feel feminine could be counterproductive. Side effects can be a long-term thing, is it feasible to keep on putting that pressure on ourselves to look and feel feminine when we are exhausted from the effort? One solution might be to find a way to be kind to ourselves rather than concentrating on how feminine we feel. Others thought that focusing on our femininity helps us to tolerate the treatment and its effects.

If you are a woman in the UK with a breast cancer diagnosis and would like to join our private group, please add your name into the comments or send us a private message and we will get in touch with you.

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