Written by Leisse Wilcox
A year ago, when I got a diagnosis of aggressive breast cancer that would require equally aggressive chemo, and two surgeries that included going flat after a double mastectomy, I felt FEAR. And a lot of it.
I wasn’t really afraid of the cancer itself; there was a deep part of me that knew we would remove it, and it would be just a chapter in the story of my life; the fear came from the knowledge that I would lose my hair and my breasts.
That fear told me that loss was synonymous with losing my femininity, and when I allowed myself to get very real about where that fear came from? I realized there was a dark and icky part of me whispering “you couldn’t even manage to find a man when you had long blonde waves and double D boobs; how the HELL are you going to find a man now, when you’re bald and flat?”
This was totally irrational, and I felt ashamed of even having those feelings. But that’s the thing about fear: it is irrational, and is so deeply rooted in subconscious beliefs that we can’t necessarily see, that it layers on the shame, making everything feel worse.
After I allowed myself to really listen to what I was afraid of, I was able to ask myself “what is the story I am telling myself?” And even more importantly, “Is that story true?” And resoundingly, no - my femininity, my worth, my lovability has literally nothing to do with the length of my hair or the size of my breasts, and literally everything to do with how I feel on the inside, how I choose to show up.
And so I choose to show up entirely, authentically, lovingly as myself.
The process of losing my hair and removing my breasts felt like removing these masks that I didn’t know I was hiding behind. The ability to lead with my light, my confidence, my old-timey dad-joke sense of humour and ability to keenly observe - and make sense of - our wild and wonky human experience, that was what taught me the value of being who I am. That was what taught me the true meaning of not only unconditional self love, but unconditional self acceptance.
Ironically, it was going through the process of confronting my ugliest fears that made me feel the most beautiful.
In my professional speaking and coaching practice, I talk a lot about “emotional alchemy,” which to me is the transformation of moments in our lives that were dark and heavy, to something wonderful and gold. Having this radical transformation of my exterior self was a genuine reflection of this alchemical transformation of my internal self, which now shines out in every aspect of my life, and presents itself as a woman who is fully, completely, confidently and courageously, herself.
And that is what makes me feel gorgeous: knowing that I am loved, loveable, and accepted, exactly as I am.
Look Good Feel Better (@lgfbcanada) is a Canadian charity that's been helping women with cancer feel like themselves again since 1992. To learn more about their complimentary workshops, visit lgfb.ca.
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