F*ckin' Franken-Body Positive

For the first time in my life, I have been walking through the streets with my "midriff" showing. And it feels AMAZING. Why did it take having my body cut open, stitched back together and then radiated for me to feel great about showing it off?

I grew up with a father who was non-religious and politically liberal, but a conservative Puritan when it came to bodies in public. We couldn't leave the house with our belly buttons showing and he referred to both piercings and tattoos as ritual scarification (half jokingly). I rebelled, lightly, but some part of that stuck.

While in India, where I lived for 4+ years, I was amazed at how showing my belly while wearing a sari was considered completely acceptable, but showing my knees or my collarbones was comparatively quite racy. I loved the feeling of a light breeze on my abdomen and this cultural difference around what parts of our bodies were off limits in public.

I thought that I had come to love my body in any iteration during the past ten years of many lifestyle changes. For example, the change of biking 20 miles every day in New York vs. driving everywhere in Virginia vs. walking 12 miles a day in Madrid, and eating only fresh produce from the fruiteria in Madrid vs. Virginia's incredible donuts and ice cream. In Madrid, I was as fit as I had ever been, and the fitter I got, the more I started to compare myself to people in my gym. I was never going to be as fit as those other women. Unless I...

I reached out to a friend who works on colleges around educating young people that they can be "Healthy at Any Size." She offered me these words of wisdom. "However you feel right now. In this very moment. Remember this. Because while you may feel better than this, the only guarantee in life is that you will definitely feel worse."

I laughed in that moment, acknowledging and hearing that truth, but not yet feeling it. Two years later, a yoyo of chemo and menopausal weight gain, and many more scars later, I understand it. When I catch myself looking at my thighs touching, I remember, the only guarantee is that in the future I'm going to feel worse. I wore a sports bra in public for the first time to the DC Pride Parade, and I did indeed feel proud.

I felt fuckin' franken-body positive!

The Small Beauties

There are definitely moments where I don't appreciate any of the small pleasures bullshit. Some days, the fact that I'm breathing, but in pain, or walking, but slowly, just feel overwhelmingly shitty. And on those days, when someone reminds me to "appreciate the small pleasures," I tend to either spiral down into self-hatred of being ashamed that I'm not more grateful to be alive or spiral up into rage at this person as it feels like they're negating my discomfort.

Not surprisingly, if someone told me to be grateful for what I experienced today, I'd be pretty pissed off. But, since I'm telling you about my own feelings, I get to be pretty happy about the fact that I swum 10 laps today without being stopped by my muscles and tendons. A little context: I love swimming and it is the best exercise for my mental health. But, over this cancer year+ I have been prevented from swimming by my doctors, my treatment, and my own body. Post-surgery and then radiation, I have been experiencing a year of muscle tightness, pain and scar tissue all throughout my pecs, my shoulder, my armpit and my collar bones. So, swimming's been tough.

But, today, while I could feel those tight muscles and I could feel the tingling in my chest, but the pain wasn't enough to stop me and the tightness wasn't enough to hinder me. So, today, I'm celebrating that small beauty. (And you can celebrate with me, but you best not celebrate at me!)