Cancer diagnosis and treatment can impact how you view yourself in multiple ways, including physically, emotionally, and socially. These changes can be associated with both positive and negative feelings and your self-image can change throughout the course of treatment and after treatment is completed.\nHere are some changes you may face during your cancer treatment and tips on how to get through them.\nThe Changes and Challenges You May Go Through\nPhysical changes\n\nScars or other lasting changes from surgery\nHair loss and changes to hair (density, texture, color)\nWeight gain or loss\nRash or skin changes\nFatigue or energy loss\nNew openings in the body, such as a stoma, port, or trach\nChanges in bodily functions (infertility, incontinence, swallowing difficulties, lymphedema)\n\nSocial changes\n\nTemporary or permanent functional or employment changes (losing a sense of who you are if you aren’t able to go to work, care for children or home, or engage hobbies)\nDealing with others’ reactions and responses (not as much support as expected or some go above and beyond; help can be appreciated and other times it can feel burdensome).\nLimitations on where you can go (due to infection risk or similar issues)\nThe stress of meeting new people and having to disclose cancer story\n\nEmotional changes\n\nFrustration\nAnxiety or a lack of control\nSadness\nAnger\nGuilt\nGratitude\nHope\n\nCoping with Changes to Your Self Image\nAll of these changes \u2014\u00a0physical, social, and emotional \u2013 can have an effect on your self-image. Here are some tips on how to cope with some challenges you may be having:\n\nAllow time to adjust and acknowledge loss that you are experiencing.\nCancer dramatically (and suddenly) changes your life and it takes time to adapt. Treat yourself with compassion and acknowledge that this isn’t just a health issue, but something that impacts all areas of your life.\nRemember that you are so much more than your disease.\n Between attending appointments, taking medications, undergoing testing, and dealing with treatment side effects, it can be easy to feel like cancer has consumed your life. It is important to remember that there is so much more to you than just your cancer. You are still a spouse, parent, child, sibling, teacher, nurse, etc. You are still the guy who liked to play golf or watch movies or the woman who loved to cook or do yoga. Make sure to take time each week to engage in activities that are unrelated to the medical world, and set a time aside each day or week to engage in conversations about something other than your illness.\nAvoid negative labels.\n Some people feel that they are weak (physically or emotionally) because they cry or feel that they are not coping well. Remember that there is not one right way to cope with this disease. You are doing the best you can in a difficult situation.\nBe nice to your body.\n Whether you know it or not, most people experience anger towards their body after a cancer diagnosis because it “betrayed” you and you can’t trust it anymore. Some people feel that they can’t recognize themselves in the mirror, or that it is hard to look at pre-cancer photographs because it reminds you how much has changed. Take time to be nice to your body \u2014\u00a0put on make-up, shave, get dressed up, or treat yourself to a manicure or massage.\nGet creative.\nIf you are unable to participate in some of your former activities or sports, try to find new activities that interest you.\nRemember that negative experiences aren’t necessarily all bad.\nYou will not be happy about having been diagnosed with cancer, but that doesn’t mean that at times you won’t experience positive emotions or positive life changes. Some people find that a diagnosis highlights what they value in life. It can become \u00a0the catalyst for living a healthier lifestyle, and teach them a lot about their ability to handle a stressful event. Plus, brings them into contact with new people who they might not have met otherwise. Take time to reflect on the positive as well as the negative.\nTalk about it.\n Don’t try to handle changes to your self-image alone, especially if negative beliefs about yourself persist or worsen. Talk to your health care provider, loved ones, join a support group, or ask about seeing a therapist.\n\nThe Center for Counseling and Cancer Support at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center is a group of psychiatrists that specialize in helping patients and families manage life challenges, including living with cancer. For more information, call 412-623-5888 or visit us online.\nCheck out our article featuring tips from cancer survivors for more inspiration to help you cope!