Renegotiating body image and sexuality after surviving breast cancer : narratives of young Black African women.
Nzuza, Nokwanda Yoliswa.
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This study provides a contemporary contextualisation of the challenges that young Black African women face once they are diagnosed with breast cancer. It focuses particularly on 15 young Black African women in the age category of 24 and 40 living in Durban, South Africa. Using the interpretative paradigm, social identity theory as well as social construction theory, this study analyses young women’s understanding of their bodies as ‘African assets’ before and after breast surgery. This study used data collection methods such as focus groups, open-ended interviews, and observations to collect thick descriptions of the challenges that have been faced by young women, as well as stories of how the women have renegotiated their body image and sexuality. The findings of this study indicated that sociocultural expectations play a vital role in how young Black women understand themselves as individuals, partners, and family members. The findings also reveal that women are led to believe that ‘real’ African women can be seen through their appearance and physical attributes. The young women shared a common understanding of how Black African men prioritised when choosing potential partners. This construction of a women’s body was understood to be challenged once young Black African women started cancer treatment as this affected their physical and emotional well-being through medical challenges such as breast reconstruction, hair loss, depression and infertility. In an attempt to preserve their African assets and fertility, this study reports on the traditional and spiritual measures that young women engaged in with the help of traditional healers and spiritualists, to renegotiate their body image and sexuality.