The body image battle: Post-mastectomy

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Dominique Mitchell explains how she transitioned from healing physically to healing emotionally following her double mastectomy procedure, and her methods for finding comfort and security now.

Mitchell was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer shortly after her 26th birthday.

After giving birth to her firstborn, Mitchell consulted her family physician about what was believed to be a complication with breast-feeding. However, she was advised to get a precautionary mammogram.

Mitchell’s world was flipped after the unexpected diagnosis; the following steps required aggressive chemotherapy and a double mastectomy.

‘The doctors told me that I would definitely have to get rid of the left-side,” Mitchell said. “But they also said, since I was so young, it would be smart to get rid of the right-side as well.”

Mitchell had her double mastectomy in one of the youngest patient-percentiles to undergo the procedure. The mastectomy is necessary for patients to remove breast cancer cells from the site. She then faced six rounds of chemotherapy as part of her treatment plan.

“I don’t wish that on anybody,” Mitchell explained of her experience with chemo.

In her treatment process, Mitchell had lost her hair, complexion, and both her left and right breasts.

These losses sparked a battle to recovery emotionally when coping with losing these physical features during the treatment.

For Mitchell, the concept of transitioning back into day-to-day living gave an uneasy feeling.

“After that, it’s like you’re just back out in the world,” said Mitchell. “It feels like you’re not doing anything to get better; it just hurts but there is nothing there anymore.”

Mitchell returned home after the long and grueling surgery. Upon her return, she felt a different sense of self than she had before.

“I did not look in a mirror,” Mitchell said. “I was dating somebody at the time who didn’t want to touch me, he said it was too much. And that was the first time, intimately, that I realized I had cancer.”

Mitchell’s physical changes after the mastectomy took a toll on her personal image of herself and her identity security.

“I remember thinking, I should have gotten married before this,” said Mitchell. “How am I ever going to find a husband now if I don’t have something that makes me a woman?”

The timeline for Mitchell to win her battle with insecurities and to regain self-confidence and positive body-image took approximately two years after her procedure.

“I looked at myself and said, ‘you know what, I have to like this,’” Mitchell said. “I can’t make anyone else accept it if I don’t accept it myself.”

Mitchell began using social media to reach-out to other survivors, and was inspired to begin her own blog that highlighted her journey and help others who are facing similar hardships.

Mitchell explained what keeps her positive. “I have to remind myself that I didn’t make this happen, it wasn’t my fault, but this is me.”

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