The Skin I’m In
I have a vivid memory as a six-year-old sitting on the floor in Miss Christie’s classroom listening intently as she read the class a story. I glanced down at my knees as I sat cross-legged on the mat and stared in disgust at how ‘fat’ they appeared. Embarrassed, I adjusted my dress to cover them.
At 13, my mother dictated my hairstyles. I had the shortest hair and no breasts. People often mistook me for a boy which broke my heart. Who would ever love me if I looked like a boy?
Objectively, I never had to worry about weight, but irrespective I spent the majority of my life loathing my body. I resented the cellulite and stretch marks on my thighs despite them being barely visible to the naked eye. I was mortified at having no breasts and then overnight having DD cups that could never go braless. My skin was not tanned enough. Not clear enough. I hated that my thighs touched and I had a pot belly.
Long, baggy t-shirts covered my swimwear as I checked and double-checked no-one could see more of me than I wanted them to. It made enjoyment and pleasure impossible. Too many worries and irrational thoughts. Negative self-talk.
Then one day, at 37 and newly separated from my husband, a doctor told me I had breast cancer. Everything changed. I found myself yet again with short hair, bald in fact, and without breasts. The scars of my childhood re-opened and matched perfectly with the fresh scars on my chest.
But you see breast cancer became a blessing. It ignited a love affair with my body. No longer a cross to bear, my body became my biggest ally. I marvelled at its ability to take the constant poisoning of chemotherapy. Yes, my body became tired for a while, but it was also strong and resilient, bouncing back after every cycle of treatment, recovering and able to take more. My body showed up for the fight and it won. The relationship with my cellulite and my pot belly changed. I embraced them for the first time, as a part of me.
Red, thick lines cross my chest and stomach. Battle scars remind me daily of my body’s tenacity and fortitude. I have learned that there is much more to me than my hair, breasts and thighs. I now know that my body is my most amazing possession. I no longer cover it up with baggy clothes to hide my bumps and imperfections. Instead, I worship it.
I nourish my cells with nutritious food without depriving myself of the pleasure of treats. I run and run because I can, because although I am not the fittest person, I am healthy and I want to express that health.
I am free now of the criticisms my mind once made about my body, in their place, a union.
How I wish I could bottle that and share it with everyone...