From One Patient to Another - Loving your body after cancer

20 Aug 2021

Does your body feel like a weaker, frail, more marked, and heavier version of yourself?

Maybe your body doesn’t even feel like your body anymore.

If any of these resonate with you then let me reassure you, that YOU, my friend, are not alone. 

When I first entered remission a year ago, I remember often looking at myself in the mirror crying because my clothes didn’t fit, I had blood-stained stretch marks all over my body and felt so uncomfortable in my skin. My body had changed so much like everything else in my life and I had to pick up the pieces.

On one particularly hard body-image day I reached out to one of my friends to share how I felt and I want you to personalize her response for yourself as you read this;

“You haven't had weight gain because you've been lazy or let yourself go. Your body had every cell zapped. The treatment doesn't know what's good or bad cells so it just attacks them all. Be kind to yourself. Your strong healthy body kept you alive and paid the price for that. You'll get there. The alternative is you didn't get better and imagine how thin and sick you would be now!! Let's celebrate extra kgs!”

If you are in remission like me, or still fighting here are some tips that have helped me love my skin after cancer;

1. What’s your relationship with your body like?
My entire life I had never been truly happy with my body, but it wasn’t until remission that I discovered just how hard I really was on myself. It took cancer for me to get a wake-up call to start treating my body a different way.

Now It’s time for you to do an honest check-in with yourself. What is your relationship with your body like?

As women we think when I get to ______ I’ll be confident in my body, I’ll wear the bikini, I’ll be happy, feel beautiful or be successful. The day to start loving your body is today, and the way we do that is by taking small steps.

2. Self-Compassion is the key
The goal is to extend 1% more kindness to your body today than yesterday, Maybe today that’s by taking a deep breath & choosing to stop that negative self-talk you would usually have with yourself in the change room.

Remission is all about taking one small step at a time, don’t let this overwhelm you, our one goal today is just to find one way to extend love to ourselves. Imagine if you took 1 small step of self-love every day for 30 days that means in a month you’ll have a lot more love towards yourself than you did a month ago!

This little exercise will get the ball rolling. Grab a piece of paper & a pen and write a letter to yourself as if you are writing to your best friend who has been through everything you have. Chances are you’ll be a lot kinder in the letter than you are being to yourself. This is an incredible way to learn the art of extending self-compassion to yourself.

3. Buy some new clothes
It is okay if you are heavier, a size up, or maybe all you want is to be able to put on weight. I want you to permit yourself to be fully loved here as you are. Go out and buy a piece of clothing that’s your size and that you feel AMAZING in and celebrate yourself. 

4. Start moving
I am a qualified Personal Trainer, and I learned quickly you’re not going to get far by hitting hard. Start small and find an activity, exercise class, or walking track that you love. I dare you to exercise for fun, for peace, to rebuild trust within your body. You are already worthy and beautiful.

5. Don’t do it alone
You were never created to do life alone, there is incredible professional support, great groups, and community available.

I saw a counselor and Integrated Oncology Naturopath which massively helped me in my post-cancer journey.

I also share a lot about body image and exercising after cancer with my community on my Instagram over at that_warrior_girl_ I would love to connect with you and have you a part of my body loving and life loving tribe!

This article was written by Katie Nicol for the 'From One Patient To Another' Pink Hope Series