Living with an amputation
Unfortunately, some people with a sarcoma need to have a limb amputated to treat the cancer. Amputation is very distressing and it can take a long time to come to terms with it. Here we discuss some of the feelings and issues you may face, and where to get support.
Losing an arm or a leg can feel like a bereavement. You will need time to grieve for your loss and to start to cope with the emotional and practical difficulties this type of surgery can bring. Our section on the emotional effects of cancer discusses some of the emotions and feelings that a diagnosis of cancer can cause, and includes organisations available to help you to cope with them. We can also give you details of support groups in your area or you could visit our online community.
Even if you thought you had a good idea of what to expect before surgery, you may still feel shocked and distressed after the operation, when the full realisation of having lost an arm or leg hits you. You will be used to what your body looks like and it can be very difficult to come to terms with a major change such as an amputation.
Feeling like you look different from other people can affect your self-confidence. You may feel afraid of being rejected - both socially and sexually. You may, at times, even wish that you’d never agreed to the operation.
At first, you may find it difficult to see people after your amputation. But as you and the people close to you become used to the way you look, you will become more confident about dealing with the reactions of people you don’t know. Some people find it helpful to get out and about as soon as possible after their operation. However, it’s important to take the time you need to get used to your amputation and to do things in your own time. You may want to take someone with you at first to give you emotional support. You may find that other people don’t even notice your amputation, especially if you’re wearing an artificial limb.
You may find it useful to read our section on coping with body changes.
Your partner, family and friends may also find it hard to come to terms with their feelings about your amputation. You may be anxious about what they will say or think, and whether you will be able to cope with their reactions. This worry can feel very real, but most people find that their families and friends want to do as much as possible to support them. It can help to be open about your feelings and any fear of rejection.
Our section on talking about your cancer can help you find ways of talking to family and friends.
You may feel unattractive and embarrassed about your body, and worry that no one will find you sexually attractive again. Meeting a new partner may seem particularly daunting. If you have a partner, you may be concerned that they will not find you attractive any more.
Our section on sexuality and cancer discusses these issues.
You will need time and help to come to terms with your emotions, which are likely to be very strong. The hospital staff will know this and will try to help you all they can. Often, there are counsellors or psychologists in the hospital, and the staff can arrange for you to see them.
Many people find it helpful to discuss their feelings in depth with a close friend or someone who is removed from their situation, such as a counsellor. Our cancer support specialists can give you information about counsellors in your area.
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