Updated: Apr 11, 2020
Body Acceptance… it can be such a tricky thing, and it was something I longed for my whole life, but I never felt good enough. I was so good at finding a “flaw,” and it was so normal for me to think about my “flaws” that I didn’t even realize I was doing it. I spent the first 28 years of my life absolutely hating my body.
But then I was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer in 2013. It was something I never saw coming. No one else in my family had ever been diagnosed with breast cancer, and we really didn’t have a lot of any other cancer either. With cancer comes chemo, radiation, and surgery which means lots of changes with your body.
I lost all my hair, lost a ton of weight, lost both of my breasts, gained lots of scars, and at one point didn’t recognize myself in the mirror. But I was so busy trying to help my body heal that my appearances were no longer at the top of my worry list. And because of that, something magical happened. For the first time in my life, I wanted to support and love my body so I could regain my health and live. I started to see my body as this amazing vessel that was able to carry me through life despite spending the last 28 years taking all sorts of abuse, and was still trying to make it.
I began feeding myself the healthiest food I possibly could. And once chemo was over, I started trying to exercise. I wanted my body to be strong and healthy more than anything. That’s when I truly began to embrace yoga. Yoga helped me find other aspects of healing besides just the physical aspects: healing my mind, heart, and soul. It was an amazing time in my life despite all the difficult things I was also facing.
Once I had my implants put in, I thought I was at some sort of end. Like all the craziness of breast cancer and treatments were coming to a close. Which, as a stage 4 patient, I knew that there was a good chance I would always be in some kind of treatment. Fortunately, I started showing no evidence of disease (NED) in January of 2014. By July of 2014, I had my left breast removed (the right had already been removed in August 2013) and my expanders put in with LAT Flap reconstruction on the right side. In December of 2014, my implants were placed. I was so excited and happy. My body looked “normal,” my hair was growing back in, and besides my scars, you’d never know anything had happened to me!
But, healing just isn’t linear. It is one of the craziest rollercoasters I have ever been on. In 2015, I started experiencing symptoms ranging from fatigue, choking feeling in my neck, and swelling in my face. It took 10 months and a trip to the ER for us to find out I had a massive blood clot in my neck. My port had damaged my aorta which caused scar tissue to grow and basically squeeze it almost shut. The slow blood flow caused the clot to form in my neck. In that 10 months, I had lost my fitness routine, including yoga. I was discouraged and began to eat differently… more junk than normal and even dropped my plant based lifestyle off and on. That old voice started up again. I wasn’t happy with my body. I almost felt betrayed. I had worked so hard and just like that, it all changed again, and for 10 months I couldn’t figure out what the heck was happening.
After my blood clot was discovered and treated, I started to feel better, but I never got back to where I was. I fought the idea that this was just how it was going to be for a long time. I desperately didn’t want that to be true.
And even though I went through phases of routine exercising and phases of clean eating, it was never consistent and it never lasted longer than a couple months. I couldn’t explain it or figure out why things just didn’t feel right. I longed for the way I felt after chemo when I was eating clean, exercising, and just felt healthy. Once I knew that feeling, I’d never forget it, and I’d long for it when it disappeared.
In 2018, I was really hitting a wall. Things were just getting worse, but I was fighting hard to overcome it. Plus I was really distracted with house hunting, moving, and staying busy with my kids. Once we moved in July of that year, I was struggling, but didn’t tell anyone. I hate to make people worry, and I knew my family had just spent the last 5 years really concerned about my health. My body positivity at this point was pretty much nonexistent. I was frustrated, tired, and just losing any hope that I would ever feel that healthy feeling ever again. I was at a loss and just didn’t know what else to do.
When I learned about BII, the lightbulb didn’t immediately come on though. My little intuitive voice was telling me I should look into this more, but I ignored her. I was becoming a little bitter and feeling like something as simple as removing my implants couldn’t possibly make that much of a difference.
It’s funny that I felt that way though. I had spent a pretty good amount of time focusing on what I was putting in and on my body because I wholeheartedly believed that it made a difference in my overall health. But I never made the connection with my implants. I think deep down somewhere, I knew it probably wasn’t the best idea… heavy silicone bags living in my chest 24/7. I think I was just so excited with the possibility of looking and feeling “normal” that I let it completely cloud my judgement in that area.
I’m so thankful for all the info out there on BII though and the brave ass women who put themselves on social media with flat chests. That takes some guts. And they have helped me, and I’m sure, so many other people without even knowing us personally. Without this, I don’t think I ever would’ve thought to get my implants out or find another surgeon who would remove them safely for me. Never. I would’ve continued living with these things and assuming all my troubles were just residual side effects from everything I had already been through.
Once I got those implants out, I immediately felt complete relief. I can’t describe it any other way than flowers and trees waking up after a long, hard winter. I realized all my frustration with my body was misplaced. My poor body was fighting again and trying so hard to keep me alive and healthy, but it could only do so much. It was slowly being poisoned.
So today, I appreciate this body of mine once again. It’s been a long, hard 7 year road, but it has been 100%, totally worth it. I don’t care that I don’t have 2 lumps on my chest resembling breasts anymore. It’s just authentically all me. I’m beginning to feel that alive, healthy feeling again. I wish there was a more beautiful, eloquent way for me to describe this. Maybe someday the words will come to me, but I’m sure if you’ve felt this before, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s worth it to try and find it, babe. Trust me.
Now, it’s less about what I look like and more about what I feel like. None of the superficial things matter as much. Not only am I embracing my body without breasts, but I’m also embracing things I used to feel disgusted at. Man, disgusted is a harsh word, but it accurately describes how I felt about myself at times. And I still have days where I am way too hard on myself. It’s not like I hit the point and suddenly accepting my body is no longer an issue for me. It still happens, but now, it’s different and evolved.
I don’t eat healthy to punish myself for eating something I “shouldn’t.” I eat healthy because I want my body to have all the nourishment it needs to function properly (and sometimes I eat things that aren’t maybe the healthiest, but it’s ok). I don’t exercise because I hate some aspect of my body or to punish myself for choices I made beforehand. I exercise because I want my body to be strong. And if I miss working out one day, it’s ok. My body needs rest too! I don’t look at myself in a dressing room mirror and think “gross” if I don’t like something I tried on. Instead I just think, “Well, this piece isn’t for me, but I know I can find something else that I will love!” It’s all about shifting perspective and self talk. If I catch myself thinking something negative about my body, I try to spin it differently. For instance, I am really critical of my ass sometimes. She’s the largest part of my body and somewhere along the way, I picked up a belief that it is somehow a bad thing to have a larger butt. So I gave her her own name and personality and I’ve made it into something fun, instead of something negative. (If you’re curious, her name is Judy… that’s right, Big Booty Judy. She hates when I choose the elliptical for a workout, but loves when we indulge in chocolate. And she loves the soft hug she gets from a good pair of leggings.) Honestly, this silliness has made me embrace this part of my body. It’s become something fun rather than something I’m embarrassed about.
I feel like my body and I are part of a team rather than my body and I are at war. And I know that there is a real possibility my health could change again, but instead of being resentful to this amazing body when things go wrong, I’m going to remember that she’s trying her best, and the best thing I can do is support her and love her unconditionally.