3 Simple Steps to Loving Your Body After Cancer

Rose - quote by Geneen Roth

Creative wellbeing coach and artful storycatcher, Callie Carling, shares 3 simple steps to help you embrace and love your body after Cancer treatment.

Living through a Cancer diagnosis and treatment can be tough. Physically demanding, emotionally exhausting, mentally mind-blowing. Dependent on the type of Cancer, some clinical treatments may see us losing our hair, our eyebrows, our eyelashes; radiotherapy or surgery may leave burns or scarring that may, or may not, be visible to others.

Most of these physical side-effects are temporary or will lessen over time as our body's innate healing process kicks in.  Although these effects are unwelcome, we discover that any lingering unpleasantness gradually moves from centre stage in our mind's eye to a much more manageable supporting-actor role, as we move to life's next phase.

Over the last few years, during my own personal Cancer experience, I have become more aware of how the media constantly feeds us messages of how we should present ourselves to the world. How we choose to dress, the shoes we choose to walk in, what we choose to (not) eat, whether we choose to colour our hair to hide any silver sparkles, how loud we choose to laugh. All these things we believe we consciously choose. Yet the reality is that years upon years of subliminal programming by advertisers and media, such as newspapers, wildly impact on our choices at an unconscious level. I have yet to meet one person who is truly happy in their own skin; most of us do, quite naturally, judge ourselves against our learned behaviours, attitudes and views.

How we deal with physical effects of Cancer treatment is one thing, and there is a plethora of information available out there to help us get back on track. Yet how we deal with the emotional effects is not so easy.

I remember going through cycles of anger, sheer hostility at my body, fear of touching my breasts - in case I hurt them, or discovered more lumps. I felt uneasy when I saw myself in the mirror, clothed, as all I could see was one very large boob and one pert, smaller boob; most of my tops and dresses had V-necks and they drooped to one side. Yuk. I felt deflated, then angry with myself for being so ungrateful. Other women were not doing so well, so who was I to complain?

All of these feelings were entirely irrational to my logical mind. I should have been super-ecstatic, hugging my body tight and loving her because somehow we'd got through Cancer treatment relatively unscathed. Yet festering within me, since my maternal grandmother had died of breast cancer (when I was 10), was a deep fear. I had fed my fear with food; an emotional eating disorder had ruled my life since I was a young teenager. As soon as clinical treatment stopped and I was left to my own devices, the binge-eating came back with a vengeance.

Three years on, I have finally come to accept and embrace my beautiful body. I am super-proud of my scars, and although a long way from my goal weight and bilateral mastectomy surgery, I know that loving my body is key to my returning to full, glorious, vibrant health - physically, emotionally and mentally. I learned - slowly, but surely - to love my body after Cancer by practicing these 3 simple steps each day.

Step 1: Practice kindness

To you. Practice kindness to yourself; use gentle, loving words when you talk to yourself. Blow yourself a kiss in the mirror whenever you pass one by. If you feel tired, stop and rest awhile until your body tells you she's good to go again. Gift yourself little presents - go on, wrap them up, too! If you make a mistake, give yourself a little hug rather than berating yourself.

Kindness + compassion are soul-sisters; let them take care of you, your beloved body and allow them into your life each day. Treat yourself with kindness, as you would a precious newborn baby. You deserve it.

Step 2: Practice self-nurture

With you. Practice self-nurture with yourself; simple things like taking a catnap on a summer's day, rather than standing indoors doing a pile of ironing. Gift yourself new experiences - perhaps take yourself on a date to the local theatre or pop into that exhibition down the road. Learn something new, or treat yourself to some delicious essential oils and anoint yourself after a mid-morning luxurious soak. Treat yourself to a healthy retreat in a destination that excites you. Find a local Laughter Yoga class and take your playful self off to have some fun; wrap yourself in a fleece blanket when you feel tender, and put yourself first.

But most importantly, focus on physical self-nurturing activities that celebrate, stimulate and help you to love your body. Treat yourself with self-nurturing practices, as you would nurture a growing toddler with her huge appetite for new experiences. You deserve it.

Step 3: Practice gratitude

For you. Practice gratitude for yourself; look at how your amazing body has got you so far. She may be gloriously imperfect but look at her, truly see her, and all her gifts. Make time each day just to jot down 3 things you are grateful for today, it only takes a moment. Some days your gratitude practice may be as simple as getting up out of bed. Other days you may feel grateful the baker ran out of your favourite cake (that's one for an emotional overeater!). You may feel grateful for a friend visiting; you may feel grateful for your hands and quick responses, that helped you save a vintage teacup when it slipped in the sink. You may feel grateful that you came across a free meditation course on Twitter.

There has been some amazing research carried out on gratitude and how it's a great healer, energiser and powerful transformation tool. Treat yourself with a daily gratitude practice and gift yourself an awareness of how incredible your body is, as you would encourage a teenager to discover her unique strengths. You deserve it.

Its time we changed herstory and rewrite it with love, kindness, compassion, nurturing empowerment and gratitude. Let's do it ... together xx

"I want to join the movement & agree to love my body more and more each day, to use kind words towards myself and towards other women, to be a role-model for future generations of mothers, and to choose to be empowered knowing that I am not alone, and that by coming together, we can reshape body image in mass-media, build self-esteem, and explore vulnerability as a collective"

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Cancer Goddess
Cancer Goddess writes about whole-self wellness, creativity and beauty for women whose lives have been touched, in some way, by Cancer. You are warmly invited to 
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  1. Love your very powerful blog Callie and would agree with how we get lots of stories and messages that do not actually fit for us and I think this is where the disconnect comes from. Our bodies are amazing and road maps of our journey! Thank you for sharing such an inspiring journey! xx

  2. What an impactful post. First, I want to thank you for your honesty. These tips are great for everyone and worthy of being showcased. I believe I will start blowing myself a kiss after my daily affirmations.