This Infernal Racket | my life, after cancer

A Toronto-based lifestyle blog by a 2x cancer survivor

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Tips For Loving Your Body After Cancer

What is self-love? How do we define it? How do we encourage it? Maybe it's the words we speak to ourselves. Maybe it's the expectations we hold ourselves to. Maybe it's the food we do or do not put into our bodies or the clothing we wear. Maybe it's the time we take for ourselves. Maybe it's all those things, an understanding of your self-worth and happiness. Now throw cancer into the mix. 

Cancer can change the way you look. Chemotherapy can cause your hair to fall out and your body to swell. Radiation can burn your skin. Surgery leaves scars. These are just a few of the changes that can affect your personal self-esteem and how you view yourself and your body. I know that I went through all these things and it really took a toll on my mental health. I lost all my confidence and my sense of self. I was supposed to be starting my life as a young adult, but instead, I had to deal with cancer and its path of destruction.

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2019 has been the year of working on self-awareness; being aware of what I want and need, and learning to love the after-cancer me. I do pretty well but I have my moments of despair. Last month I found a photo of myself that someone else has taken, I noticed my thinner hair, my damaged arm, my dryer skin and some extra weight. It sucked, I'm not going to lie. I felt defeated in that one photo like it somehow captured all my flaws and shared them with the world.

I expressed my struggle with self-love on social media and met with support and thoughtful messages. Some of you reminded me that I am more than a moment captured on camera. My life and story are shaped by who I am and who I want to be. Something I am still trying to work on is being kind to myself. It's okay to fall as long as you get back up and keep moving forward. Acknowledge the feeling, and then move on from it. 

Tips for Loving Yourself After Cancer
During my recovery, I've gone through many stages of love and hate with myself. A huge part of that struggle came with adjusting to my body and dealing with my wardrobe, weight gain and of course having had cancer, twice! I found ways to cope over the years and so, here are some of my tips for adjusting to a new body and a new life after cancer.

1. Go through your closet. Try everything on and separate them into things that are too small/big, things that almost fit, and things that do fit. Consider the pieces that almost fit. Can they be adjusted or do you just need a belt to hold up the pants? If there are some pieces you absolutely love then find ways to reincorporate them into your outfits.

2. For the clothing that no longer fits, allow yourself to remember the memories from the pieces. I remember keeping my pre-cancer clothing for 2 years after I was cancer free. Finally, I took them out, basically said thanks for the good times, and put them into a bag for donations. I realized I'd probably never wear these clothes again, and I was holding onto an old version of myself that no longer served me in this new life.

3. Cut yourself some slack and allow yourself some personal space to be sad and then make peace with your body, your scars and your future - scars do not define you, but they do tell your story of heroism. One of my biggest insecurities is my left arm due to an infection and permanent skin and vein damage. Over time, I learned that these scars are not to be ashamed of, I didn't need to hide under big sweaters and t-shirts, and now I can wear tank tops and dresses without constantly looking in the mirror. 

4. Find an activity, exercise or program that inspires you and interests you. Swimming, yoga and lifting light weights help me feel stronger and more confident. It's also a good distraction from my own mind. I also love blogging and vlogging, sharing my experiences and outlook in life with others.

5. Get a makeover! After 25 years I finally decided to dye my hair, get a new cut and pamper myself. The new hair and fresh skin really boosted my confidence. Maybe for you, it's buying a new pair of jeans, going on a weekend getaway or having a fun photoshoot. Do something that makes you feel refreshed. Dedicate time throughout your life for yourself; decide what you need and then go do it.

These are a few things that have helped me cope with my changing body after cancer. I still struggle with self-image, worth and feeling confident in the body that cancer left me. On my good and bad days, I remember that this body has beat cancer, twice, and that itself is amazing.

What are some things that you do for your new body after cancer? Let me know in the comments below!


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