Monday, 23 September 2019

Breast cancer and body shaming?

I’ve been quiet over the summer on the blogging front. A combination of a relaxing holiday ,a wonderful family wedding and family visits are probably part of the reason but if I’m honest that’s not all. But it is what’s kept me going.
Really for a few weeks I’ve only wanted to say, ‘I’m tired’.....my tired is tired.  
My words disappear into tiredness
That seeps into bone aching weariness

My wellbeing lost for now
And I find it difficult to write about this. Not to protect your sensitivities, dear reader, but because at this moment it doesn’t help. But nor do I want to be one of those happy clappy cancer survivors whose life has turned around and now they are dressed in pink and expressing gratitude for the whole experience. If it gets you through-that’s fine by me-but I can’t do that. 
I just want to express my truth in a way that helps understanding. After all, we don’t expect people following spinal injuries ( as I have as a result of a benign spinal growth) to dress like fairies ( ok- ok, but you know what I mean) and express their gratitude for the resulting chronic pain and disability. 
What is it about breast cancer that means you have to be so relentlessly cheery, wearing pretty headscarves so no one is offended by your baldness. And even the prosthesis, holds a societal pressure for me so I find myself wearing it when I’m working or socialising so no one will know my breast has gone. It’s undoubtedly part of how women are viewed and judged in our society and a dawning recognition in me of how much I have internalised that. 
When I was a director of a breast cancer charity,I admit, I enjoyed some of the pink sparkliness having mostly worn black ( it goes with everything) before that. I embraced it for a time, excited 
to buy the latest fashion targets breast cancer T-shirt or whatever else I could afford. In some 
ways it helped balance the day to day working with breast cancer and those people whose lives had been devastated by it. I’m sure for many of us in the field having some light in the shade of 
living with cancer was what drove the desire for sparkles, and why not. But in time is wasn’t enough.
So this week I wrote about and attended an event exploring weight stigma and body shaming  and experienced a very personal aha moment. It was a realisation of my internalisation of the need for the perfect body and the shame attached to falling short of that. Am I alone in feeling shame at having only one breast? Also I’m currently on two medications that support weight gain and because of pain and loss of mobility I do very little exercise. So I’ve gained weight; older and fatter is how I see myself. Not one person has criticised me for this, or judged me. They don’t need to, I’m doing all of that to myself. I even wondered about joining slimming world whilst writing about how yo yo dieting does not work, in fact it tends to increase weight gain in the long term. 
What does work, however,  is self care. Enjoying healthy food and activity, being kind to yourself, practicing mindful ways of being in the world. So yes knowledge about food matters but the goal needs to be health and wellbeing and not weight loss. A focus on weight loss rather than health, reinforces our already damaged relationship with food. Yes there is an issue with childhood obesity but there is a much bigger one with eating disorders in children. I know this and yet I’m also a victim of it, my self critic in full voice.
So awareness is the beginning of change and this week I’m being kinder to myself. Long over due! I’m also going to raise funds for Maggies, taking part in their culture crawl. I’m on my mobility scooter! If you want to see more and even make a donation, no mater how small please support us if you can. https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/audreybirt2019 



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