We have another fabulous guest blogger for you today.
Sarah was 31, with a six-week old daughter, when she was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. Over the last four years she has had countless scans, multiple surgeries, radiotherapy and immunotherapy... Oh and a divorce. Sarah says that it was when things felt darkest, just prior to being confirmed stage 4, that she realised she needed help. She explains that, with the help of coaching, she had a fundamental shift in her perspective which allowed her to feel better than ever before.
Sarah says that she began to understand that she wasn't defined by her situation: "I finally felt positive and connected to my body and able to love life again; a gift I now work to share with others. Not to help physically but to have a less stress experience of cancer. I am also working to change the way we talk about cancer moving away from language that infers personal responsibility; its not a fight to be won or lost. It's a shitty process, that more often than not feels like a roller coaster with no end in sight."
Sarah has written a wonderful blog for us today on the subject of body image and trust. Take it away, Sarah!
"What do we think of our bodies and does it even matter?
Once upon a time and not that long ago I had a real rant about the toxic positivity messages around body image. I felt like the rhetoric was to force positivity onto how we feel about ourselves regardless of what we think.
Now I am going to be very honest. I have never struggled with my weight; neither have I ever cared particularly who sees my body. I was blessed to feel powerful with my pregnancy thighs rather than ashamed. In some ways I feel I am not qualified to write about this; being a ‘skinny bitch’, but then maybe I am…
From gawky teenager into adult hood, I have mostly ignored my body. Occasionally, or rather frequently if I am honest, used it to gain attention or approval, especially from older men. Using it to get things done. Please people.
However, my whole life I have struggled with my skin, and this is before it tried to kill me!
I have the sort of skin that is so white that I sometimes look blue, but not that smooth alabaster type of white skin, oh no, I have freckles moles and scars (even before cancer) and dark hairs that are still visible after shaving. It’s also so sensitive that certain cosmetics give me rashes and spots. My mum even had to bin any soaps I was given as a kid.
Then it tried to kill me. A rogue mole grew and itched, I had it cut out, but it snuck into my bloodstream and made multiple homes around my body. At first these were cut out and then I undertook a systemic drug treatment to help my body fight the cancer. Immunotherapy is amazing, it doesn’t kill the cancer cells for you like chemo or radio, it confuses your body into attacking them itself. I found this fascinating. I, by which I mean my immune system, had always had the power to destroy the tumours and heal, it just needed that kick in the butt.
Beforehand I felt indifferent and a little critical of my body, then in the space of two years, I had my first child and three surgeries, one in particular leaving a very ugly scar down my arm. As a result, you’d think my opinion of my body would be lower, but no, I am able to revel in my body in a way I had never before felt possible, I could not care less what my skin looks or feels like, because it’s mine. And I want to tell the story of how this happened.
I had just been discharged from hospital having been given a walloping dose of steroids for side effects. I was covered from head to toe in a rash that was itching like dozens of mosquito bites, it started out red then developed deeper purple patches below the redness.
Standing in the shower staring down and my thighs and feet I gave way to the fear that had been slowly building in me; that my skin might not heal, and I’d always be blotchy.
As I looked down, I wanted nothing more than to see the skin I had always loathed. In that moment in the absence of it, I got to see the truth about my skin. That it was beautiful in its own right. I saw all the joy and closeness to my mum I had felt as a child from our shared skin type. I saw all times it had healed and repaired itself. I felt every hateful thought I had ever had about my skin well in my eyes. And as I cried, I saw how beautiful it still was, all red and sore but whole. Whole and healing.
I saw that my body is mine. It’s filled with my memories, my joys and pains, my desires and criticisms. But it is mine. And it’s the only one I have. Or am every going to have. So I loved it. Tumours and all.
But rest reassured I am never going to ever tell anyone else to love their body, because I know how that sounds.
What I want you to know is that love is a thing that comes in spite of judgment, or with it or because of it. Love is just there underneath whatever you think about yourself, its resounding and quiet, completely invisible but you may catch a glimpse.
So, this is my advice; trust that. Trust the love that rattles around inside your body no matter how it feels. Trust that the love you see pouring out of others, pours out of you too. And think a little less about everything else."