Like many people, I was never a huge fan of what I saw when I looked in the mirror. I’d excercise daily, watch what I ate and still I wasn’t happy – despite the fact I was a healthy, and muscly, size 10 I always found ‘faults’ with my frame. The thought of leaving the house without makeup terrified me and my hair had to be styled ‘perfectly’ before I was happy to go on a night out…
That is, until I was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer in January 2016 when I was just 30 years old…
Suddenly everything I identified as me slipped through my fingers.
In a matter of weeks I was skin and bone; unable to weight train or run like I had before. I cut my long blonde hair and donated it to be made into a wig for a child with cancer; the hair that remained was soon falling out in clumps as chemotherapy took affect.
Then, less than 4 months after my diagnosis I had a massive operation, during which I had several of my abdominal organs removed. In fact, I had one of the largest operations performed on a stage four cancer patient having my womb, tubes, ovaries, cervix, spleen, appendix and omentum completely removed, as well as part of my liver, diaphram, pancreas and bowel. The result was an 18 inch scar, a colostomy bag and a body I had to relearn how to use.
Standing in front of the mirror a few weeks after my surgery, I didn’t recognise the woman in front of me. Her skin was grey, her eyes were sunken, her face was creased with pain. She had no hair, she weighed just 42kg, her tummy was lined with scars, her back hunched over and she had a colostomy bag stuck to her tummy. I recall turning to my nurse and declaring “I look just like a cancer patient.” She laughed gently and took my hand as she said with kindness “that’s because you are one.”
It was in that moment, and each moment since that I realised how incredible my body is. It doesn’t need to look a certain way to be awesome. The fact that it is keeping me alive is pretty, freaking amazing in itself, don’t you think?!
Moving forward I began to appreciate how blessed I am that my body keeps me alive despite the fact it is missing so many parts. With time and patience I learnt how to use my body again and I even trained as yoga teacher so that I can help others to learn to love and respect their bodies too. However, something was missing…
While I had learned how incredible my body is, it seemed that society was still lagging behind…
All around me were people ashamed of their scars, stretch marks and curves. I began to question why we had this view of what ‘perfect’ and ‘sexy’ should look like. As I pondered this I realised that society is sadly lacking models, actors and other role models that can lead the way and show us that you don’t have to look a certain way in order to be ‘perfect’. I even wrote a whole blog post asking why we don’t see more actors, actresses, models (and so on) with scars, colostomy bags and other ‘imperfect’ marks left by life.
Much to my suprise, just a few months later I was invited by Molke to model some of their underwear in a photo shoot…
Two years ago, if I had been asked to pose for photos in underwear I would have freaked out. Thoughts like ‘I’m too fat…I’m not good enough…I’m not attractive enough…I’m not toned enough…etc etc’ would have filled my mind and I would have either said a resounding ‘NO’ or spent all my time in the gym.
Not now though!
Instead, I squealed with delight at the opportunity to show off the scars that line my tummy. A tummy that will never be toned because its wonderful muscles have been cut through during life saving surgery. I thought of being alongside women gifted in the breast department as I thought of my own non existent chest and instead of feeling inadequate I embraced it with laughter and joy.
For those of you that don’t know, Molke specialise in funky (and super practical) undies for breastfeeding mums…so it was an absolute pleasure to take part in the modelling as I certainly don’t fit into the ‘ideal’ category…not only am I not a breastfeeding mum but I am not a mum of any kind and, because of my surgery for stage four ovarian cancer and an ectopic pregnancy, I never will be….and that’s ok….the universe obviously had different plans for me.
HOWEVER!….what I am is a fierce and confident woman with surgical scars that line my tummy, a colostomy bag that saved my life and a passion for encouraging people to love and embrace their bodies.
It is WONDERFUL that there are businesses out there that support all of this…In fact, it was especially wonderful when I asked the owner and founder if she minded that she could see my colostomy bag during the photo shoot to which she replied confidently with “No! I love it!” How awesome and lovely is that!
A massive thank you and congratulations to Molke for embracing women of all shapes, sizes and needs and encouraging us to love our bodies. Perhaps other clothing brands will learn to do the same and, with time, more people with learn to love their bodies just as they are.
It took stage four ovarian cancer, chemotherapy and massive surgery before I appreciated my body…I want YOU to realise that your body is already incredible, sexy and wonderful just as it is. After all, the word ‘imperfect’ really just means “I’M PERFECT” so go out into the world loving your body and valuing it for all it enables you to do.
Love and light, Fi xxx
Health Blogger of the Year 2017