When you look in the mirror, what do you think? “I need to lose weight.” “I hate my wrinkles” “I’m too skinny.” Or do you smile back at yourself and say, “I love my body.” I hope with all my heart this is your reaction, and these are the words you tell yourself.
I am not a physician, dietician, or psychiatrist. I don’t have any degree or claim to be an expert on body image. But what I can offer is my personal experience and advice.
Your Body is a Precious Gift: You Only Get One
I want to share an experience with you that transformed the relationship I have with my body.
I am fifty-six years old and have been blessed with good health. I rarely get sick; I mean hardly EVER. In fact, I have never had a flu shot and don’t take any medications. The only surgery I’ve ever had was giving birth to my daughter. I take none of this for granted.
I’ve never been obese and try to stay in shape. But as I’ve gotten older, it’s become harder to keep those extra pounds off. No matter what I do, the stubborn pooch in my stomach refuses to go away. I exercise, eat healthy, yet no matter what, it’s still there along with the extra pounds that are just as stubborn.
I’d look at my body and feel chubby and flawed. I was critical of what I saw in the mirror. Even writing these words breaks my heart. I’m in a completely different place today. My relationship with my body is much healthier, and it saddens me to think I used to say or think those things. I verbally abused my body for many years, and now I realize that was cruel and demeaning.
A New Promise To Myself
I promised myself that I would NEVER say or think anything bad about my body again. I treat and speak to my body like a close friend who I love. I am cautious with my words and thoughts.
You may be wondering how I went from mentally abusing my body to loving it with the compassion and respect it deserves. I was healthy, never got sick, and then things changed.
A Single Doctors Visit: Suddenly Everything Changes
At fifty-six, I still hadn't gone into menopause; this is unusual. Everyone I talked to said, "Consider yourself lucky. Menopause sucks." I was having female issues. After a couple of visits to my Gynecologist, she suggested a minor surgery to remove a few fibroids and possibly an ablation procedure to make my periods stop completely. I started the process to schedule the procedure; the girl in the office said she would get the approval from my insurance company and call me to schedule. Weeks passed with no word from the doctor's office; they were having trouble getting ahold of my insurance company. We were approaching the end of the year, and she suggested I put the surgery off until January.
February rolled around, and life was busier than ever. One night I was in so much pain that I considered going to the ER. However, I made it through the night and called my Gynecologist for an emergency appointment the next day. The doctor I normally saw was booked, so they sent me to a different location and a new doctor. At my appointment, he did an ultrasound and a biopsy of my cervix to ensure there weren't any cancer cells. He assured me it was precautionary and not to worry, but it was required before an ablation surgery. A few blood tests and a prescription, twenty-four hours later, I was feeling better.
A few days later, I was back in the swing of my busy, happy, and safe life. I was driving to an appointment to meet with a long-term real estate client, we hadn't seen each other in eight years, and I was looking forward to the meeting. Feeling good, performing a solo concert for my car, a call came through from "Unknown". Everyone knows that's a sure sign of a spam call, but I decided to answer for some reason. It was Dr. G with my test results. I could tell immediately something was wrong. He sounded serious and stressed. I listened with my stomach plummeting while he explained my blood tests came back; my CA125 was 374 and estradiol 425. Then he said the word everyone fears, the big C word. These numbers could indicate ovarian cancer. Each word felt like a punch to the gut. I wanted to stop and curl up in a ball, but I couldn't; I was flying down the highway, no exit in sight, with my life crumbling around me.
Trying to stay positive, hoping for the best, I said, "Well, that doesn't sound good, but I don't have any other symptoms." Dr. G replied, "That's the thing about ovarian cancer. It's the silent killer; when you have symptoms, you are typically at stage 3-4."
The rest of the conversation was a blur; I could barely focus, everything was spinning, and I was still driving. He recommended a surgeon and instructions to call for an appointment as soon as possible.
Reflecting On A Whole Lifetime In Just One Moment
I hung up and finally found a spot to pull off the road. The very first thought I had was I might be out of time. The second thought I had was I wasted so much time. It was a sobering moment and so real. A moment I'll never forget. I'd spent the majority of my adult life as a workaholic, and at this point I had been living a healthy non-workaholic lifestyle for many years. I couldn't help but think about all the years I'd wasted and the moments I missed for work. In that moment, work and money were the farthest things from my mind.
I somehow made it through my listing appointment, got home, and called the specialist—an oncologist. I'd never heard that word and had no idea what it meant, so I googled it. There was that word again: Cancer.
My heart sank, and I dialed the number with shaking hands. They wanted me to come in the next day, only exacerbating my fear. I hung up, and my husband walked around the corner, said hello, and asked about the appointment. He looked so normal and happy, but, in that moment, it felt like nothing would ever be normal or happy again; it was as if life as I knew it was gone. In an instant, our wonderful, safe life was stolen, and the same thought came back, I might be out of time.
Facing My Fears
I burst into tears, all the tears that I'd been holding back in my car, through my appointment, I cracked wide open. In that kitchen with my husband in the place where I could be me, where I could be vulnerable, the walls crumbled, and I sobbed into his shoulder and filled him in. We cried together and cleared our schedules to meet with the specialist the following day. We were in uncharted territory, and things would never be the same, at least not for me.
The next day we sat in the exam room. An attractive man with smart brown eyes walked in and introduced himself as the surgeon. "I'm scared," I said.
He scooted over to me on his stool, we were both wearing our masks (this was all happening during the COVID pandemic), and he looked me directly in the eyes so deep that I felt like he was looking in my soul. "First of all, we are not going to be scared, OK?" I tried to act brave, nodded my head, and quietly said, "OK."
He explained that the elevated CA 125 could be due to several different factors other than cancer. Anything over 200 is a red flag (below 30 is normal). He assured me he didn't believe I had cancer and gave a list of other possible causes, fibroids or inflammation. He recommended a hysterectomy and ended with, "I don't think you have cancer, but it is my job to prove that you don't." Those words would be what gave me hope and kept me moving forward, one foot in front of the other.
Fate brought my surgeon and me together; I truly believe that. All the appointment delays, my usual doctor not available, everything that led me to him was God and fate taking over. Putting me in the place I needed to be. I was in a hospital bed getting ready to be wheeled into surgery two weeks later.
I was a complete mess the two weeks leading up to the surgery. I prayed relentlessly and practiced positive affirmations. I rested and didn't drink any alcohol. I ate whatever I wanted and actually stopped working out; I felt like rest was what my body needed. I had never listened to my body's needs before, but my eyes were opened. I wouldn't be ignoring it any longer.
I woke up from the surgery foggy in the recovery room. Barely coherent, I overheard the surgeon say the two words I'd prayed so hard to hear, "no cancer." I have never been so grateful in my entire life. My prayers were answered, and my body had persevered
The first night in the hospital, they gave me Oxycodone, I despise narcotics, but I needed something for the pain.
A New Beginning Brings New Perspective: Love Your Body
I was lying in my hospital bed in a state of half-sleep, but my mind was more alert than ever. My body felt like a separate being, and we were talking. It was just like talking to a person in real life. We proceed to have an entire conversation about my life and our relationship. My body expressed that I hurt her feelings so many times by saying negative things. She explained how she tried very hard to be healthy and look her best. She reminded me how difficult childbirth was for her and that we both received a beautiful daughter from it. She reminded me that I was so critical of her and the extra weight after childbirth, even though she had just gone through hell to give us a baby. I cried and apologized and thanked my body for everything she had done for me, including this surgery. I promised her I would never say anything negative about her again, ever.
This was one of the most meaningful conversations I've ever had. Imagine having a "heart to heart" conversation with your closest friend or loved one, a conversation where you both let your guards down and cut through all the bullshit. An honest, open, get everything out on the table conversation.
I spent the rest of my time in the hospital complimenting my body. These are some of the things I said:
- You are doing great today.
- Thank you for healing so quickly.
- You're beautiful.
For the record, I wasn't on any drugs at this stage, just Tylenol. I could feel my body reacting and working really hard to heal. I went home and recovered quickly. In fact, I felt amazing! I was back to work in 2 weeks with no issues.
I am grateful for the body I have and all the things it has done for me. I respect my body now and honestly don't give a damn about the pooch or extra weight. I will continue to exercise and eat healthy, but now I will do it for a different reason. I will do it out of respect for my body, not out of vanity.
My message is simple, whatever size or shape you are, you are beautiful! Be grateful, you are alive and have a chance to do the things you want to do, you still have time to live a happy, Kick Ass Life.
Live now while you can because one phone call can change everything. Be kind to your body, love it, respect it. You will receive that same love and kindness back.
Paula Marie is a published author, successful realtor, and entrepreneur. Paula's mission is to empower others to manage their time and mindsets to live an extraordinary life! With Paula's eight powerful tools and life planning strategies, you can create the life you truly desire.