The psychosocial effects of cancer can have a negative impact on a women’s sense of self, body acceptance, and self-esteem, according to a new survey conducted by Cancer Be Glammed and Sterling Heights-based Wrapped in Love.
There are more than 8 million women in the U.S. who have received cancer diagnoses and are undergoing treatment or in survivorship, according to the American Cancer Society. The survey studies the impact of emotional and lifestyle changes women face from surgery and treatment.
The Recovery Life and Style Survey included 876 women ages 18 and up with various types of cancer. About 50 percent of women rated support for body image issues and improved self-esteem as extremely important to overall recovery, ranking it a 10 on a scale from one-10. About 82 percent ranked this type of support as an eight or higher.
“We lose part of our existing identity when undergoing cancer treatment and have to redefine ourselves physically and emotionally,” one survey respondent said. “Being able to be somewhat fashionable in the middle of that helps us feel less isolated and more included in the world’s beauty.”
The most common form of treatment the participants received was surgery, followed by chemotherapy and radiation. Often women said they had multiple forms of treatment.
The top five post-operative difficulties women ranked as significant, from most to least, were limited arm and leg mobility, showering, getting dressed (a need for easy-access clothing), dealing with surgical site drains, and scar coverage.
Of the nearly 700 women who underwent chemotherapy, 89 percent ranked hair loss, including lashes and eyebrows, as the most devastating visible sign of cancer. Following that, women identified nail problems, skin issues, and weight loss or gain as their most common struggles.
“I was totally unprepared for the appearance-related side effects of surgery and treatment,” says Lisa Lurie, a breast cancer survivor and co-founder of Cancer Be Glammed. “I underwent a double mastectomy without reconstruction and chemotherapy. I became bald, breastless, bloated from steroids. It was soul destroying for me and my family. I felt like a cancer-created Humpty Dumpty. I didn’t know how to put myself back together again.”
Karen MacDonald, founder of Wrapped in Love, witnessed the physical toll cancer took on her mother when she was in the hospital with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and pulmonary fibrosis.
“A fashionable wrap to cover her hospital gown and a little makeup transformed my mom’s last Christmas from a day she felt sick and run down into one where her pride was restored,” she says. “It was in that moment that I realized how impactful it can be to feel like yourself and not like a patient whose appearance is defined by their disease. I knew I had to find a way to uplift more women through fashionable healing products that were functional yet fashionable.”
Most respondents expressed how cancer stripped them of their identities and made their bodies unrecognizable. Many women faced challenges after their treatments ended, and many respondents expressed a desire to feel comfortable with their appearance again. They also shared how having access to practical, fashionable recovery products tailored to their needs improved their outlook and made them feel empowered.
The top five recovery and lifestyle products women used or wanted were hair loss solutions such as headscarves, hats, and wigs, post-operative recovery wear such as mastectomy bras and wraps for ostomy coverage, fashionable clothing with easy access to chemotherapy ports, comfortable clothing that manages and disguises surgical drains, and adaptive, easy to wear apparel including adjustable pants and front-opening wraps, bras, and shirts. Others listed fashionable compression wear.
Women also said they needed more sources and information on lifestyle and recovery support.
Lurie and MacDonald plan to use the survey results to reinforce their efforts to provide relevant lifestyle information, survivor-inspired recovery solutions, and products. They plan to share the survey results with cancer hospitals, oncology professionals, and support organizations, and advocate for the beauty, fashion, and health and wellness industries to create an inclusive culture by creating fashionable and functional recovery products for women dealing with cancer.
Cancer Be Glammed is a lifestyle brand educating and empowering women to take charge of their recovery.
Wrapped in Love is a clothing and accessories line in designed to provide comfort, dignity, and style for women coping with cancer.