Having lymphoedema can affect how you feel about yourself in a range of ways, including:
- body image – you may be self-conscious about the swelling and how you look; or you may have trouble finding suitable clothes and footwear, which can impact on how you feel about your appearance
- sexuality and intimacy – you may lose interest in sex, or you may feel that any visible changes make you less attractive and worry others will reject you
- depression – the chronic nature of lymphoedema can be overwhelming; you may feel burdened by the ongoing nature of treatment and by the permanent reminder of having had cancer
- social isolation – you may avoid work and social activities because of anxiety about how you look or because you find it difficult to move around.
It is natural to focus on the part of your body that has changed. Give yourself time to get used to any physical changes. Intimacy is expressed in different ways and most people need some kind of physical connection to others. If you feel uncomfortable about a part of your body, remember that sexual attraction is not based on a single body part. See Sexuality, intimacy and cancer for more information.
It is normal to experience a wide variety of emotions, including anger, anxiety and resentment. Everyone has their own way of coping with their emotions. Some people find it helpful to talk with family and friends, while others seek professional help from a counsellor. You may find it helpful to talk with other people who are dealing with lymphoedema. Call Cancer Council 13 11 20 to find out what support services and groups are available in your area.
If you have continued feelings of sadness, have trouble getting up in the morning or no longer do things that previously gave you pleasure, you may be experiencing depression. Talk to your GP as counselling or medicines may help. The organisation beyondblue has information about coping with depression and anxiety.
- Australasian Lymphology Association
- International Lymphoedema Framework
- Lymphoedema Action Alliance
- Lymphoedema Support Group of NSW