Ask Dr. Christina: How Do We Define Being a Woman?

Dear Dr. Christina,

I am 36 years old and I just found out I have breast cancer.  I am devastated that I will lose my breast and I’m afraid that I will no longer be attractive to my husband.   I just got married and I am concerned that my husband will never want to touch me.  I am horrified of the scar that I will have and the thought that I will no longer be a woman but just a freak.  These feelings are so bad already that I do not want him to see me naked or touch me.  What have I done to deserve this?  Why me?


Dear Tra…C,

I know that the feelings you experiencing are horrific.  I also know how scared you are.  It is not about what you have done to deserve this, nor is there an explanation as to why it has happened to you, or anyone else for that matter. It can happen to any of us.

The idea of seeing yourself in the mirror right now is hard.

The idea of feeling sexy is probably unrealistic.

The idea of feeling like a woman is hard to conceptualize.

All of these feelings become so controversial or incomprehensible because we never realize this can happen to every one of us.  The very idea of what we believe about being a true woman is sometimes based on what we see on television, in movies and magazines, and even on dolls and in cartoons. What a typical woman is supposed to look like confuses everyone.  It is not only the size or shape of our breasts, but it also relates to our weight, height, lips and more.

All of the above has no bearing on who you are, or for that matter how beautiful you are.  The very fact that you are alive right now and fighting against an invisible threat of cancer can cloud your concept of what makes you…You.  It is not only your physical body that makes you a woman; it is more than that. It is your laugh, your mind, and your spirit. It is the whole you. People love you because of your presence on this earth. It is not about a particular body part you do or don’t have.

Right now, it is important not to allow your mind to go to everything that is negative.  All of those around you want you to not only survive, but to allow your beauty and strength to start from your belief in yourself.  It is this strength inside you that you possess that will empower you to fight for your life.

You can make the difference in your outcome by trying your very best to realize that you will be whole and not a freak. Give your family a chance to actually prove to you how much they care.

At a time like this, it’s natural to worry about what others may say or what their opinions may be of you, but the reality is that it is only what your opinion or belief is that matters.  No one can take away your will to live or your desire to share your life with others. This is up to you.

Try to speak openly with your husband and family about your fears.  You do not have to take this on alone.  Try not to think about what others may be feeling, but instead look at their actions.  You may be surprised that you all have something in common. Let them comfort you, for you deserve so much at a time like this.  Sometimes when you go through a life crisis, you stand to gain insights into who will be at your side through thick and thin, during the good times as well as the bad.

Being a practicing physician, I have seen and examined many women who have had cancer. It is amazing to them that many feel that they are not only survivors, but that their scar is hardly noticeable.  I have even heard some women say that at the time of their surgeries they were able to make plans for their reconstruction and they were able to pick out the size of their implants.

When you go to your doctor, do not go alone. Go with your husband or whomever you feel will comfort you the most so that all your questions can be answered. Write them all down in advance of your appointment when you feel that you are thinking more clearly. This way you’ll have them to refer to. Ask your husband or whomever goes with you to bring a notepad of their own so he or she can take notes as the doctor answers each of your questions. That way, you can listen more closely while someone else takes down what the doctor is saying.

Please do not try to think of the worst case scenario until you know all the facts, such as what stage your tumor or cancer is in and whether it involves any lymph nodes or not. Once all is known, then you can plan and be part of your own team to decide and do what is best for you.

Believe me, it is not the breast that is being threatened; it is your belief of how powerful you are.  You and everyone around you needs you to focus on the fight of your life so you can help yourself through these times of stress.  You need to help your immune system to help you fight back, and so much more.

I know this is a lot to try to comprehend all at once, but you are more than welcome to write me again.

Being a woman…is being you!

My thoughts and prayers will always be with you,

Dr. Christina

  • Posted By: doctorc
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