Cancer and the treatment of cancer affects a person’s physical and emotional well-being. And for many individuals, cancer brings about unwanted physical changes. With this in mind, PASYKAF Psychosocial Services have developed the ‘I’m Still Me’ program, an information and support service for individuals coping with physical changes that result from cancer and the treatment of cancer.
I’m Still ME
I sat opposite Maria. I listened. And with her every word I could visibly see and feel her pain. A routine check-up at her gynecologist was not so routine after all. Stage 3 Ovarian Cancer.
Emotional and shaken, she shared her diagnosis and tried to comprehend and find meaning in all the new information she had received over the past 3 weeks.
As she shared her treatment options, it was at that moment that she broke down in tears. It was all too much! The ramifications of the treatment and specifically the fact that she would lose her hair was inconceivable. ‘Everyone will know’, she said. ‘I don’t want to be treated differently’, “How will I go to my children’s school play next month?’, ‘How do I tell my children and how will they feel when they see me with no hair?’, “I don’t want my husband to look at me differently!’, “My hair is such a big part of who I am, I go to the hairdresser every week, everyone comments on how beautiful my hair is, I can’t even imagine myself with no hair’.
In the midst of the turmoil of a life threatening diagnosis, Maria, like so many people, was dealing with the extra burden of hair loss and struggling to understand and accept the physical changes that were an inevitable part of the treatment she was to have.
Cancer and the treatment of cancer affects a person’s physical and emotional well-being. And for many individuals, cancer brings about unwanted physical changes, some visible, some not, some permanent and some not. Hair loss due to chemotherapy or radiotherapy, skin changes such as redness, itching, more sensitivity, or pain in the area that was treated, surgical modification of body parts, weight gain/loss, loss of muscle mass or muscle weakness, lymphedema, ostomy surgery, head and neck surgery and changes in sexual functioning are all physical changes that can negatively affect a person’s body image and reinforce a sense of loss, severe distress and diminished quality of life.
With this in mind, PASYKAF Psychosocial Services have developed the ‘I’m Still Me’ program, an information and support service for individuals coping with physical changes that result from cancer and the treatment of cancer. The Social Work Clinicians are at the heart of the program and provide relevant information and practical support that can help an individual understand, manage, adapt to, and in many cases, gradually heal through varying processes of change.
The Social Work Clinicians collaborate with a network of professionals, such as, Clinical and Counselling Psychologists, Oncology nurses, Clinical Dieticians, Physiotherapists, as well as patient support groups and they are able to refer individuals for specialized support and according to their particular needs.
Specifically for hair loss, the ‘I’m Still Me’ program offers a wide range of styles of wigs that individuals can loan for as long as they need, as well as modern head coverings which are practical solutions that for many can provide comfort and a sense of normalcy through cancer treatments.
Cancer is undoubtedly a life altering and a uniquely individual experience. Despite changes in physical appearance and adjustments in every-day activities, family responsibilities and recreation, a person is not their diagnosis!
Maintaining one’s body image and sense of self may be challenging and each person needs time to adjust to the changes and space to cope with these changes in a way that works best for them. The ‘I’m Still Me’ program provides the guidance and professional care that many may need and ensures that each person is well supported throughout their cancer experience.
The Cyprus Association of Cancer Patients and Friends (PASYKAF) is a non-profit patient organization dedicated to fighting cancer through education and awareness and improving the quality of life of cancer patients and their families through advocacy and home based health care services offered. PASYKAF through its active role as a member of International and European cancer organizations and with its extensive experience in EU projects has the key competencies to contribute as a partner to projects for health and social matters and provide pilot studies data from patients, HCPs and volunteers all over Cyprus.