Judgement Part 2 (Body Edition)
Yesterday I went to yet another oncology visit. This one, however, was different. It started out with labs that had to be taken from my arm! This was exciting because my chemo port which had been utilized for this for the past 2 and a half years is GONE!! Hooray! For a Cancer survivor, that's a pretty big victory. A bone density scan followed and then it was off to see Dr. J. I feel like I haven't given this man enough credit. He has seriously saved my life...well, we did it together...but it was under his badass leadership. I am forever grateful for his straight forward, you can do this, we are partners in this, we're going to cure this, honest approach. The second time I met him I gifted him a book that I had previously read. When I read it, it resonated with me to the very core of my being and I wanted him to know how I was going to handle this thing called cancer. The book was written by Ryan Holiday and it's called "The Obstacle is the Way". It was kismet (my new fancy word for fate thanks to my dear friend) that I read this prior to my diagnosis. If you've been reading my blog you know that it's quite literally been one crazy obstacle after another. Anyway, Dr. J and I have just had this sort of understanding with how we were going to defeat my cancer and today's visit was a celebration of sorts! I am now finished with active treatment. I was presented with my "Life After Cancer Treatment" conference and I am now spacing my oncology visits out further than they have ever been. I will receive the green light for my next surgery because my white cells are recovering from my clinical trial and everything is just on track....it's amazing to me that this is where I find myself and really kind of a foreign feeling for me! Regardless, I will take it. As I was talking with Dr. J about concerns I presently have, the number one thing I'm really struggling with right now is my body post cancer. Even as I type this, it just seems so incredibly stupid, but it's also so incredibly honest. I'm frustrated with weight gain, annoyed at muscle loss and just really wanting to look "different" than I do right now. I want to look and feel more like myself. Dr. J acknowledged my feelings but he also provided me with a really important reminder...."Mia" he said, "I pumped poison throughout your body...a lot of it! Your body has been through so much and you are still here...give it time and be proud of what it's done for you". He's so right...how come my instinct is to shame myself and not celebrate myself? I'm kind of disappointed in myself that my judgement of me seems so shallow and my lack of compassion and gratitude for my body's strength, capability and resilience hasn't been more celebrated by the one looking at herself in the mirror. Harsh reality to face, but I've always held true to giving it to you straight.
In my last blog post I opened up about judgement and I spoke about how we judge others and how others judge us...what I didn't discuss is how we judge OURSELVES. If I'm really being honest, I've spent my whole life being the most critical of my own self, especially when it comes to my body. Now, as a cancer survivor...my self judgement is off the freakin' charts. Reading articles about breast cancer and sitting in survivor groups, the expectation is that I am self conscious about my body post surgery, meaning...ma tatas. For me that's really not the case. I view my new assets as an upgrade actually! (insert shoulder shrug) And I"m seriously not ashamed to admit that. I mean, silver lining, right?? BUT, treatment, medications, stress and well, everything else has seriously impacted my weight, my hair and just how I look at and see myself in the mirror in general. I'm far from the woman I once was. This has made me sad, angry and a little hopeless at times. I say and believe that I need to allow myself some grace and some credit for everything I've been through, but the harsh reality is what I say and what I do....not equal. Not even close. When I was diagnosed with cancer I was seriously in the best shape of my life. I was fit, strong, running fast and I was quite happy with what the scale read and what the size of my jeans were hanging in my closet. I vowed, at that time, to physically maintain where I was at all costs, which is one of the reasons I sluggishly trained for and ran a half marathon and kept lifting weights during my chemo treatments. In part, this drive was my soul food, so in retrospect I would do it all again. This drive to demand so much from myself though, could have existed with a little less harshness. What I didn't expect and couldn't really plan for, however, was the reality that chemo would throw my body into menopause and what that would do to my physique and overall psyche. I mean, I was 40 years old, what the hell is menopause?? Complicated. That's what it is. Most people gradually fall into this weird transition of life. I plunged head first into dark waters with no life raft in sight. I somehow managed to swim to shore and I've been really trying to figure it all out, but when I look in the mirror, I feel...disappointed. How the hell can that be? I had poison running through my veins, radiation that killed cell after cell, surgery that removed part of my body and built it back up again, an infection that resulted in major organs shutting down and then coming back to life, not to mention more drugs than I've ever had to take that have resulted in joint pain, bone pain, hair loss, mouth sores, neuropathy in my fingers and with all of this and so much more...I survived. My body fought. She fought so hard! I feel like such an ass that I haven't truly given her the credit that she so desperately deserves.
With all of the good things that are happening for me right now with my health, it's time that I make amends with this aspect of my healing. Am I the same as before? No. I'm better. Do I look different? Yes, but there's nothing wrong with it. It's time I look in the mirror and feel nothing but gratitude. I need to stop judging my shortcomings and start celebrating my accomplishments...even the ones that have nothing to do with muscle tone and a number on a scale. Maybe, just maybe, if I start honoring this amazing vessel that has withstood the strongest, craziest of storms, I might experience something far greater than I could ever imagine. Perhaps, loving myself and my body for what it is NOW, will lead to something quite extraordinary as I'm beginning this new chapter of my life. Somehow I've been able to spin many things I've had to tolerate these past two and a half years into gold, or at least, my version of gold. I'm feeling pretty optimistic that this is just another trial that I will overcome and learn some valuable lessons in the process. Realizing that the judgment I'm placing upon myself isn't really warranted or remotely kind, I think is the first step. It really is true that happiness is an inside job. I'm working on that. The thing of it is, I know I'm not alone. I can think of twenty people, easily, that I've had this negative body image conversation with...most of whom have not had cancer. We are wired to want perfection and not be tolerable of anything that falls short. What a tragedy.So here's the thing...it's time we revolt. Let's take this damn judgement and throw it out the window! I've always loved humans with a stubborn heart and a feisty spirit...you're my people. If we all band together and vow to stop feeling so broken and start being more grateful about what our bodies have done for us, perhaps we can break the chains of what feels like imperfection all together?! I for one, am tired of feeling not worthy of being celebrated for everything my body has accomplished.....babies, half marathons, surgeries, scars and most recently, cancer. Reflecting back on that version of me that had the gumption to take a book to her new oncologist that suggested the obstacles she was about to face were the way to greatness...Boss move if I do say so myself. Deep down, she still is in me and I believe there is a version of her in all of you, too. Embrace her, love her, thank her and let her guide you to whatever is meant for you. Your kismet awaits. If you honor YOU in the process of finding it...well, then what a beautiful journey and awakening it will be. Let's do this.-XO-M
"She wasn't born her, she found her, over a long and treacherous road and the more treacherous the road became the more of her she became." -Atticus