Help Navigating Changes to Your Body Emotionally
- TV reporter Leslie Horton experienced changes to her body after battling endometrial cancer and losing her uterus amid treatment. She’s received praise for responding to a heckler regarding changes to her body after treatment.
- Endometrial cancer begins when cancerous cells form in the tissues of the endometrium or lining of the uterus. Symptoms typically associated with this type of cancer include vaginal bleeding and pelvic pain.
- A major health challenge can impact your body physically and emotionally, causing noticeable changes to your appearance.
- Dr. Marianna Strongin encourages cancer warriors to take ownership of the part (or parts) of their bodies impacted mainly by cancer treatment. She says although they may represent “fear and pain,” they may also represent “strength and courage.”
A news reporter who is also a cancer survivor is getting praise for standing up to cyberbullies after experiencing changes to her body because of cancer treatment. Leslie Horton, 59, had undergone treatment for endometrial cancer, a type of cancer of the uterus. Her journey to recovery took nearly two years before she returned before television cameras to deliver the news and inspire other cancer warriors.
— Global Calgary (@GlobalCalgary) December 5, 2023
Horton added that the email continued, “If you’re gonna wear old bus driver pants, then you have to expect emails like this.” Her public response corrected the rude emailer.
“Um, no, I’m not pregnant. I actually just lost my uterus to cancer last year. And, um, that is what women of my age look like. So, if it is offensive to you, that is unfortunate. Think about the emails you send,” Horton said during the newscast.
Horton added the toll cancer takes on the body is an emotional one. “You have to figure out who you are going forward,” she said.
She adds words of encouragement for other people battling cancer who may have experienced changes to their bodies.
“Your body is no one’s business. You get to decide how you feel about your body. And if you are unhappy with it, there are lots of things that you can do to feel better. But you are going to look like who you are. And you don’t need to apologize for that. And you don’t need to accept people lashing out and saying mean things on purpose to bring you down because no one has the power to bring you down except yourself,” she said passionately.
“Figure out who you are on the inside, and then build it out from there,” Horton continued.
Expert Advice for Coping With Cancer
How Cancer Can Change Your Body
While battling cancer, your body may experience changes. It’s important to note that not all changes are visible to the eye. Hair loss and changes to your weight are noticeable, while treatment side effects like infertility are not.
One way you can prepare yourself for possible body changes during cancer treatment is to understand changes are possible but also temporary. It also helps to build up your self-confidence. Your support group filled with loved ones can help you during this stage of your journey.
WATCH: Dealing with body image during cancer treatment.
Other treatments that may spur more subtle or nonvisible changes may include “endocrine or hormone therapy.” Hormone therapy “slows or stops the growth of hormone-sensitive tumors by blocking the body’s ability to produce hormones,” according to the National Cancer Institute.
While specific side effects depend on the drug you take, general symptoms related to hormone therapy can include low sex drive, hot flashes, weight gain, weakening of the bones, fatigue, and others, according to Cancer.net.
“If you have visible changes to your appearance, you may find that some people look at you for longer. Usually, this is because they are curious and not because they want to upset you,” MacMillan Cancer Support explains.
“Learning how to cope in advance with social situations will build up your confidence. This will help you gradually get back to things you did before, such as work, sports, or hobbies.”
How to Cope with Your New Body After Cancer
Psychologist Dr. Marianna Strongin shares with SurvivorNet some additional tips cancer warriors can explore to help manage the emotional toll body changes can have during treatment.
Dr. Strongin encourages cancer warriors to take ownership of the part (or parts) of their body impacted mainly by cancer treatment. She says although they may represent “fear and pain,” they also represent “strength and courage.”
“Research has found that when looking in the mirror, we are more likely to focus on the parts of our body we are dissatisfied with, which causes us to have a negative self-view and lower self-esteem. Therefore, I would like for you to first spend time gazing at the parts of your body you love, give them time, honor them, and then thank them,” Dr. Strongin said.
Dr. Strongin then suggests looking at the part or parts of your body impacted by the cancer or cancer treatment. She recommends creating a regular practice of accepting your body image because it helps you accept your cancer journey emotionally and physically.
“As you allow yourself to spend more time looking at all of you, you will begin having a new relationship with your body. It may not happen immediately, but with time, you can begin honoring and thanking your new body.
Understanding Endometrial Cancer
According to the National Cancer Institute, endometrial cancer begins when cancerous cells form in the tissues of the endometrium or lining of the uterus.
After a woman has been diagnosed with endometrial cancer, her doctor will stage the cancer based on its spread within the body. A pelvic exam and imaging tests help your doctor learn if the cancer has spread or metastasized.
Some common risk factors for endometrial cancer include:
- Taking estrogen-only hormone replacement therapy after menopause
- Having never given birth or starting menstruation at an early age
- Having a family history of endometrial cancer
In her blog post, Quinn highlighted some of the important signs and symptoms women may experience with endometrial cancer. These include:
- Vaginal bleeding
- Finding it difficult or painful to urinate
- Experiencing pain during sexual intercourse
- Experiencing pain in the pelvic area
Treatment for endometrial cancer includes surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy. Surgery is the most common treatment method.
During radiation therapy, high-energy beams such as X-rays are aimed at cancer cells to kill them. Chemotherapy kills cancer cells by using drugs designed to stop the cancer cells from growing. Chemo drugs are usually taken orally or intravenously.
Treating endometrial cancer with hormone therapy involves removing hormones or blocking their ability to help cancer cells grow. Targeted therapy treatment uses drugs designed to target specific cancer cells.
Each of these treatment methods can come with side effects. Depending on the treatment type, the impact on the body may differ. If you are moving toward treating endometrial cancer, talking with your doctor about potential side effects and how to minimize their impact is important.
Treatment Advancements for Endometrial Cancer
Advancements in treatment for endometrial cancer are also giving patients more hope.
A combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy could help slow disease progression compared to chemo alone, new studies support, opening the door for a possible new treatment path for women with later stages of the disease.
WATCH: Advanced or Recurrent Endometrial Cancer Treatment Options
Immunotherapy is a common cancer treatment method that uses the body’s immune system to target cancer cells.
Two recent studies, both published in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Gynecologic Oncology, showed a significant increase in progression-free survival in certain people with advanced or recurrent endometrial cancer when they were given immunotherapy and chemotherapy at the same time, instead of just chemotherapy.
Immunotherapy is currently only approved to treat endometrial cancer after chemo as a second-line treatment.
One study combined the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab (known by its brand name Keytruda) with chemotherapies paclitaxel (Abraxane) and carboplatin injections. The chemotherapy combination is the current standard of care.
The second study combined the immunotherapy drug dostarlimab (brand name Jemperli) with the standard chemo treatment and found similar “significantly increased progression-free survival among patients with primary advanced or recurrent endometrial cancer, with a substantial benefit” for certain patients.