My biggest question throughout the past year was, “How do I love my body when its the thing putting me through this?” And then the medicine that is supposed to fix it seems to destroy it even further, morphing my body into some unrecognizable, chemical filled blob. How do I love my body (and myself) when it’s putting me through all this hurt?
So much of our body is tied to our identity, more than we realize. There were days when I woke up and cancer had just taken over: I didn’t recognize the person in the mirror or carrying me around all day. More than my physical appearance: my hair, my eyelashes, my skin, it took my physical ability. Not only did I not look like myself, but I couldn’t do many of the things that made me feel like myself. After all, it’s really hard to do yoga or go swimming if you can’t walk or bend your knee.
When I couldn’t love my body for keeping me healthy, I learned to love my body for much smaller things. I began to love its resilience, doing its best to protect me, even when it failed. I learned to love my body for where it’s been: my feet for the wonderful adventures they’ve taken me on, my eyes for the beauty they have seen, my belly for the laughter it’s had. With no hair, I could only see my freckles, and the color of my eyes. You learn to appreciate those things, to love them in a new way, when they are all you have. But. As I heal and I recover, I am growing and learning to look where the light pours in.
I can take all of these past statements that helped me make peace with my body and be gentle with her during cancer, and change them to the future tense. I love my feet for the adventures they will soon take me on, my eyes for the beauty they have yet to see, and my belly for the jokes it has yet to laugh at.
If mainstream messages of self-love and body positivity leave you feeling left out: do not fret. You still are, and always will be, worthy of self-compassion, grace, and hope.
Don’t let anyone else tell you how to love yourself.
All of the posts written for Elephants and Tea are contributed by patients, survivors, caregivers and loved ones dealing with cancer. If you have a story or experience you would like to share with the cancer community we would love to hear from you! Please submit your idea at https://elephantsandtea.cdn-pi.com/contact/submissions/.