Body image gets a lot of attention these days and that’s good- really good. Our bodies are so important. They are a precious vessel for our intellect, our creativity, our hearts and souls. Our bodies move us around this world and form connections with other people. Our bodies are a huge part of our identity. And sometimes our bodies are battle armour.
I am a two-time breast cancer survivor. I have had a lumpectomy, a mastectomy, a DIEP flap reconstruction and two revision surgeries (so far). I have scars. Lots of big scars. My body is hardly recognizable from what it was two years ago. It tells my story.
My body used to say “I had 2 c-sections that have grown into beautiful boys. I had a lumpectomy that left me a big scar but spared my life. I earned my Black Belt at 48 years old.” Now my body has other stories to share: “I went through a year and a half of cancer treatment. I had a ton of chemo. I have been through radiation- twice. I have been taken apart like a quilt and put back together in an entirely different way.”
I am not just my body. I get that. But it’s impossible to ignore that my body is a huge part of who I am. My body has been through lots of changes: puberty; 3 pregnancies; nursing; gaining and losing weight; training in yoga, ballet, and martial arts; and of course, cancer. Cancer changes are different than all the others. The changes have been fraught with difficulty and pain. And often, the changes happen immediately. It’s pretty freakin’ weird to go to sleep in one body and wake up in a different one. There’s no getting used to that.
I used to have all the usual insecurities about my figure. I was overly perfectionistic in my teens and twenties when I was ironically, pretty perfect. I got past all that and became grateful for all my body had given me. I was at peace with my body. There have been moments I felt it was really unfair that I had to get cancer again and gain 20 pounds during chemo and lose a breast and, and, and…Everyone throws themselves a little Pity Party once in a while.
But I’m back. I’m almost recovered from my latest surgery and I will resume my martial arts training tonight. I am in a body I am still struggling to recognize as my own, but I am adjusting. I will love this body too. It’s still a good body and I am proud of all it has withstood. I am resilient and my body shows that. I will soldier on in my new armour.