In 2010 I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and then breast cancer in 2011. I went through chemotherapy and multiple surgeries, as well as holistic and integrative treatments. The lymphoma quickly healed, but breast cancer continued to haunt me. I experienced several recurrences which resulted in excessive surgeries, treatments and cosmetic procedures.
I was a self-proclaimed vanity queen before cancer. I wouldn’t dare leave the house without makeup and I loved to dress provocatively. Turning heads fueled me. After cancer I was desperate to have some semblance of the body I once had, the one that turned heads and made me feel desirable. But every surgery led to more complications and a more mutilated appearance. Eventually, I decided to have my breast implants removed and opt for a fat grafting cosmetic procedure. I had the good sense to remove the foreign objects that I believed were causing complications, but again I was so desperate for an acceptable physique that I was willing to go under the knife once more for what I thought was a healthier option.
Removing my implants was a very difficult decision, but one that I felt was necessary. I was supposed to have multiple fat grafting procedures but after the second one, the unthinkable happened. I had complications and another cancer recurrence. This brought new meaning to the term ‘drop dead gorgeous’. Up to that point I was so desperate for a beautiful body at any cost, but finally I came to the conclusion my vanity might end up killing me.
Until this turning point I had been primarily focused on the esthetics of my physical self and I wasn’t giving my precious body the time and space to heal. In addition, I wasn’t considering the mental and emotional toll it was taking. When I had the recurrence after the fat grafting procedure, I became depressed because not only did my body look worse than ever, but I was fighting for my life once more. I started to give up hope that I would ever fully heal or ever feel comfortable in my body again.
It quickly became evident that I needed to redirect my focus from wanting a sexy body to fully healing my body and accepting it for the miraculous machine that it is. In addition to healing on a physical level I made a commitment to heal myself emotionally so that I could finally live a fulfilling life of self-worth and self-love. I started looking into natural methods to support my process, which included deep inner work and meditation. This opened the door to emotional and spiritual healing. From that moment I set out on a soul-searching journey. Deep down I knew that my breasts (or lack thereof) didn’t define me, but when I looked in the mirror, I felt like less than a woman. I longed for the body I once knew, the one that got attention. And so, the grieving process began.
Mourning who I used to be was so important. I needed to grieve the person I once was to accept the person I had become. I experienced all of the emotions: anger, sorrow, depression, resentment, shame and I allowed myself to mourn what was. I knew that if I wanted move forward and find happiness and fulfillment, I would need to find a way to accept my new body.
Day by day I dug a little deeper, practicing self-love and acceptance. I spent a lot of time alone, caring for myself and really getting to know who I truly am. I took time to disconnect from the outer world to go inward. I adopted intimate self-care rituals to get reacquainted with my body. It wasn’t easy but I was committed. I began realizing that there is so much more to me than I ever knew. I learned that my body is just my vehicle that I drive in this life. It is the physical part of me that I need to take care of so I can enjoy all that life has to offer, but the mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of myself need attention too. I soon acknowledged that those aspects of my health had been sadly overlooked.
As I continued soul searching, I concluded that there is much more to me than meets the eye and the real me is something greater than I ever could have imagined. The more I did this inner work and connected with my true essence, the more I realized that the way I look on the surface does not matter in the big picture. I didn’t need anything outside of me to make me feel worthy or valued. It was always within me. I became empowered to redefine sexy on my own terms and this led me to fully accept and unconditionally love all parts of me. I proudly declared that I am eternally sexy. Cancer unexpectedly guided me through this awakening and made me into the best version of myself. I never truly loved and appreciated myself before cancer and I can say wholeheartedly that I do now. The search for my true sexiness cracked me wide open to reveal my soul, the non-material essence of who I truly am. And this is what really matters.
From this powerful awakening, Sexy Soul Search was born, a spiritual journey of self-discovery. It is my honor and privilege to share this process with my fellow thrivers. To help them discover that they are so much more than their body. That their true sexiness radiates from their soul.
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://www.elephantsandtea.com/contact/submissions/.