Body Image and the “C” word

Every woman experiences changes to her body as she ages, that’s natural.  But how do you handle radical body changes when faced with breast cancer?  My ‘very nearly’ Sister-in-Law, Tania, shared with me how she handled the unthinkable, a double mastectomy.

On February 16, 2016, Tania received her diagnosis of breast cancer. Her story of what she did next and what she learned along the way is an inspiration. Here are a few of the life lessons she wanted to share with you.

 

Accept support in all of its forms.  

Allowing people in and accepting their support helps both of you grow.  Everyone has challenges and when you let them into your life and let them see your challenges, you help them find their own strength when they lend it to you. Remember, support comes in many forms and ways. If someone says they want to help, let them do it in their own way. This is how Tania found her Oncologist and Anesthesiologist. She told people about what was happening to her and the suggestions came flying in. She shared her experience and reconnected with high school friends facing the same fight at the same time. Through them, she found out that the Mother of her high school best friend was going to be starting chemo on the same day and the same place as she was!

“What a journey, from sitting with their family on a Lake at Pine Mountain to 30 years later sharing a chemo room fighting this disease together.”

 

Don’t be a woman of mystery.  

Even when you don’t feel well, spend quality time with your family and friends. Open yourself up, let yourself be vulnerable and share your heart as life moves around you. Tania, a self-proclaimed ‘woman of mystery’, had to work hard to let go of her inhibitions and expand her comfort zone to share herself with others. One way she managed to open up, even when it was hard, was to share something small she was going through and then encouraging the other person to share something of herself with her.

“It’s those small blessings each day along the journey that remind you that you can make it because you’re not alone.”

 dsc02355Live your life the best you can.

Tania told me that even when she didn’t feel good, it was important to her to go to work and have some normalcy in her life. She learned to approach stress in a whole new way. And her family, coworkers, and clients became astonishing pillars of strength for her.  

“Their outpouring of love and support left me amazed, grateful, and completely humbled.”   

 

 

Find your Faith and let it carry you.

Tania’s personal faith gave her a sense of calm in this chaotic time.  Little daily practices, prayers and blessings helped to feel safe in letting go.  And brought her to know that she was not in control of the plan that was ahead of her.  

“My spirituality grew immensely. I began to not sweat the small stuff, I began to enjoy the now more, and how each moment is so precious. I will never take for granted jumping out of bed in the morning feeling good ever again!“

Open to the miracles.

Tania came to understand that there are no coincidences in life. She became less stressed, more present, and an all around fuller person.

“People come into our lives for a reason, and I truly believe in the power of prayer more than ever since this strong fight for life. This has been such a blessing in so many ways! I look forward to helping others who have to conquer this “C” battle and I believe you can’t do it alone! No one should ever FIGHT ALONE!”

Give your body everything it needs to heal.

It takes a lot more than you realize to fight the effects of the chemotherapy.  Although Tania ate well and took care of herself, she was a lot like anyone else you might now.  She sometimes ate random, not so healthy things. She lived with work stress as the norm instead of an occasional push.  And she made the most of her days by letting her body get less than 8 hours a night. That all changed when she heard the diagnosis. She got serious about taking care of herself at a whole new level. Sleep became a priority and green organic whole foods the first choice.  She shifted her stress levels by learning to let go and trust – and saying “no” a little more often than she had in the past.  It all paid off when it came time to knuckle down and fight with chemo.  

“It made my body stronger and helped me to love and honor it as it prepared to change. “

 

Honor your body in ways that feel good and scary.

I was surprised when I took T up on her offer of a body honoring boudoir photo shoot.  We were talking one day before surgery and I said,

“Remember when I did that photo shoot before?”  

“Yes, you should do it again”, I told her, “just a few photos, nothing big”

It might sound strange that someone would want to take ‘sexy’ photos a few days before breast cancer surgery, but if you stop to think about it, it’s really not.  The kind of photos Tania and I did were not your run of the mill sexy boudoir shots. We focused on honoring Tania’s body through sensual photography. I worked to create an easy and fun photo shoot that got her excited and inspired to play and enjoy herself and her body in front of the camera.

“T gave me the confidence to let go and just show off for the camera.  She created the safe space for me to enjoy my body and honor how it felt to be the girl with the hair and breasts. I learned to let go in front of the camera and trust the experts around me including my doctors.”

Remember you are more than your body.

I gave Tania the book of her photos not long after her surgery.  She was so happy to have them.  She told me she still looks at them when she wants to remember who she was.

“Because the surgery changed more than my body, it changed my outlook on life. It changed what is important to me.  It helped me to come to the ultimate understanding that I am more than just my looks, my hair, and my breasts.  I am a living expression of ultimate love and I am worthy of being loved for whom I am more than the image of how I look. It has been a process to accept what comes my way and to allow myself to love and be loved! And most importantly, to love me in any form and to love the souls of each person that surrounds me. Just like all of you!!”

 

Xoxox – Tania and T 

 

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