I never thought I’d be that girl that would pose topless for photos…..
But, I also never thought I’d need to have a lumpectomy 4 months after my 20th birthday.
Or another in my opposite breast when I was 23.
And I certainly never thought cancer would take both of my breasts completely one month after my 28th birthday.
I never thought I’d need to have a partial hysterectomy by the age of 27.
Or need injections of Lupron to suppress my hormones to keep the lesions that were growing in my pelvis from growing more.
I never thought that I’d exhaust all treatment options and need to have my cervix, my fallopian tubes, ovaries, the top of my vagina, and a portion of my abdomen surgically removed at the age of 33.
I never thought I’d have to put my body through surgery after surgery only to end up with mounds on my chest to ‘replace’ what was taken from me. Mounds that had no feeling, were cold to the touch, and made it impossible for me to lay on my stomach.
I never thought I’d spend 7 of my ‘youthful’ years unable to truly look at myself in the mirror because what was on my chest was foreign, uncomfortable, and not me at all.
I never thought my body would try to reject my reconstruction…setting off a firestorm inside of my body that would severely impact my health for years.
I never thought – growing up with D breasts – that I’d be sitting here today, in my 30’s, with a completely flat chest, no nipples, and a partially concave chest.
And I sure as hell never thought I’d have to advocate so fiercely to have my needs heard by a surgeon to remove the implants. Implants that were covered in scar tissue from my body trying to reject them. Implants that were releasing toxins into my system and making me so sick that I didn’t know if I was going to be around to see my girls grow. I didn’t know I’d have to fight so hard to get well.
And I never thought I’d be sitting here today, more comfortable in my own skin than I’ve ever been.
But here I am.
A few weeks back, I participated in a photo-shoot.
And I posed topless.
I’d be lying if I tried to deny that I was scared shitless in the days leading up to it.
But let me tell you what happened to my heart during that photo-shoot…
I let go of shame that I had carried for years.
Shame that said to me, “NO ONE will ever think your body is beautiful because it’s covered in scars, so HIDE it.”
I let go of fear that had been hindering my healing and growth.
I breathed in the air and let myself think about the gratitude I felt for still being here, for my support team, and for knowing that that defining moment in my life was something that will teach my girls the value of self-love.
I stood in a park where people I didn’t know could see me, and after Charise draped beautiful white fabric around me, I took my top off and I owned my body.
I let my external scars tell the story of my internal scars.
Years of hurt, and grief, and loss, and pain and fear.
Baring my scars was healing.
A powerful exercise on my road to self-love.
Of acceptance of the hard road I’ve traveled in this life.
That I’m still traveling.
And in that moment, I was proud of all that I have overcome to get to where I am today.
Being a mom to my 3 daughters.
Knowing very well that this may be a reality for one or all of them one day.
And knowing that I have a choice: I can let fear control me, hinder my growth, and silence me…OR….I can use my voice to scream about the unjust narrative women walking through breast cancer face every.single.day.
The one where a woman hears the words, “You have cancer”….and then is thrust into appointment after appointment with surgeons, oncologists, plastic surgeons – getting so much information thrown their way that they can’t possibly truly process in that short period of time. Right after receiving the gut punch of all gut punches.
So they trust that their care team has their best interest at heart. I mean…it’s your care team….they deal with these situations every single day so they know the next right move. They will help you make the best, informed decisions, right?!
Except what happens when your care team doesn’t give you all the options? Or tell you all the statistics for reconstruction failure? Or even that these surgeries can go on for years? That reconstruction will likely permanently damage your pectoral muscles? That the pressure of the implants can cause damage to your rib cage? What if they don’t know they haven’t been given ALL of the options?
If a women knew all of these things, would it change the decisions they make?
If our culture wasn’t so mired down with the paradigm that a woman needs breasts to be beautiful, would that affect women’s decisions? Would they understand that their healing will not come in the form of two saline or silicone implants? Would they further risk their health for the sake of trying to replace what was stolen from them? Or would they spend their time and energy on healing?
Friends…this is where we’re at.
In the knowing.
Knowing that it’s time to stand up and tell our stories so that the sisters who have to walk this road after us know that they don’t have to live in shame. So they know they have choices. So they know they aren’t alone. So they know that one day – in the midst of their pain and heartache – they will rise.
Rise like a mother f*cking Phoenix from the flames of the hell they are walking through like the warriors that they are.
So they will know it’s okay…more than okay…a must really, to create safe spaces for themselves to heal. To give themselves grace. To not rush their healing process because healing happens own its own timeline.