Do You See What I See?
Breast cancer can amplify and distort our view of ourselves when we look in the mirror. We can become the worst judge of ourselves when self-esteem shatters and the mirror seems to be our enemy. But is that how everyone sees you or are we judging ourselves too hard?
I have been battling with the mirror for a while. Everyone knows what I mean, we see ourselves through this harsh image that is distorted and judgmental. I've been talking to several friends and its funny because none of us are listening to our own advice. Accepting ourselves, our bodies, our lives and embracing it all. I have been struggling all week with these new boobs. Yes, they "feel" better than the expanders, but they are not me. No way. I feel scared and tired and changed. I did not enjoy dress shopping the other day and how different I look in clothes; it was very difficult for me. I'm glad I had cookies and milk with me! I feel like a hot ass mess, a HAM, as my good friend Duke would say.
I hate the way I've gained weight and I cannot wait to work out. I am disgusted with this scarred, ripped, fake, nipple-less boobs! But I am alive and sitting here with my family, listening to my phone go off with messages from friends and other family members, worrying about how my day went. I am a breast cancer survivor and those breasts did not define or make me who I was. Yet, I know that is not what others see when they see me. I tell people all the time to look deep in that mirror and see what the world sees.I want to do that.
When I look at this photo, this is what I see...
First, I want to state that when the photographer, my friend Genevieve, showed me the photo to the right, I cried. Hard.
The symbolism of the blurred chest was profound. The picture as a breast cancer survivor speaks volumes and I know my warrior sisters will agree. I am a woman who is tired and scared. I am a woman who is stressed and worried that my health could get worse at any moment. At any doctor's appointment, tests could come back with more bad news. I'm dreading another surgery but know that there is no other option. I am battling the beast and don't want to give in. I don't think "Why me?" but "This is me". The crazy thing is this chest is not me anymore-- it is fake and has no feeling, yet when I look at it I feel so much. I have no feeling about how they look or what they are because they are so foreign to me. I feel pain and stress. I feel overwhelming guilt that I survived, yet power that I beat it at the same time. I see me, the same woman I was, but a woman who now looks at the world in a different light.
When my husband looks at this photo, this is what he sees...
"AM, you asked me to add something here in part, I think, because you thought I would be uncomfortable with you posting this picture. I'm way past that at this point. One thing I can say about this whole experience is that I've fallen in love with you in a way that seems more awake and urgent than ever before. When you showed me this photo, I told you it was beautiful. Yes, I see the pain and the stress. But I can also see past it and see someone that is so strong and so brave. I see someone whose beauty was not diminished by adversity, but was increased by it. It's a strange thought, but I think the sense of purpose you now have about your life was a gift that cancer never meant to give you. You will struggle through the physical changes and I believe you will arrive in a place that you can feel comfortable with yourself. It's hard for you to look in the mirror now, but it's just as hard for me to stop looking at you. Xo"
I see the real side to breast cancer; I see my side of the journey. I am a woman who was not defined by cancer but refined by this battle.
Have you had experience with reconstruction surgery? How did you come to accept your new body image? Let us know in the comments and feel free to join in the discussion questions below.
AnnMarie Giannino-Otis took Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer on through sarcasm, photos and just being herself. She wants to take the scary out for women and give them the real uncensored side to this emotional, physical changing journey. Check out AnnMarie's page, Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer and connect with her on IHC under the username annmarieg.