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Self-love during cancer treatment

Self-love is something many of us don’t consider, especially as we care for our family and friends. It may even sound selfish. However, knowing how to practice self-love can make a huge difference in your cancer treatment journey. 

“A strong foundation of self-love enhances our ability to heal, accept love and support, and love other people well,” says Lauren Garvey, MS, CRC, NCC, a counselor and facilitator at Cancer Wellness at Piedmont. “By loving yourself, you are not taking love away from others. Self-love and self-care can be difficult if you are used to putting others first, but it is so crucial to healing after cancer treatment.”

Many cancer survivors are used to being caregivers for their children, spouse, family and friends. For many, a cancer diagnosis marks the first time they are on the receiving end of care.

“In difficult circumstances, we often need to call on the love of others in our lives,” explains Garvey. “If we are going to embrace love from others, self-love is an essential place to start. We really need to know how to best love ourselves so we can show someone else how to do it.”

For example, when people find out a loved one has cancer, they often say, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do.”

“That’s powerful, but sometimes they don’t know how to help,” she says. “We have to tell people how they can best show up for us. Maybe you don’t need another casserole for dinner, but you do need someone to sit with you during chemotherapy infusions. If we don’t practice self-love, we may not know what to ask for.”

What is self-love?

While self-care — such as meditation, exercise or taking a bubble bath — is a form of self-love, it’s important to examine your relationship with yourself.

Self-love encompasses:

  • How you view yourself

  • How you talk to yourself

  • How you feel being by yourself

“Going through cancer treatment is an act of self-love because you are trying to do what is best for yourself,” says Garvey. “It’s important to be appreciative of the effort you are making to take care of yourself, such as getting up to go to a doctor’s appointment or attending another radiation session. You can think, ‘I’m determined to go through all of this because I love myself and want to get better.’”

We can start to practice self-love by asking:

  • What are my needs at this time?

  • How can I accept the love I deserve and ask for it from the people who love me?

  • How would the person who loves me the most describe me?

Self-love isn’t selfish

By filling your cup with rest, healthy meals, time to yourself and support from loved ones, you will have so much more love to give.

“In our society, loving yourself is a rebellious act,” says Garvey. “There are so many messages telling us otherwise.”

It’s important to realize that practicing self-love doesn’t mean you believe you are superior to others. It’s simply recognizing and enjoying you who you are.

“Self-love does not take our love away from other people,” she says. “Wanting good things for yourself doesn’t mean you don’t care about others. It’s important to have an abundance mentality and realize there is enough love to go around. Self-love isn’t selfish because it gives others permission to do the same thing.”

There is no one who benefits from you viewing yourself negatively.

“Self-love sets the tone for our lives,” says Garvey. “When we love ourselves, we can attract other loving people to our lives and accept their love.”

Learn more about self-love during cancer treatment.

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