My changing body image, post breast cancer surgery.

I met a stranger last year. She arrived not long after my breast cancer surgery. Though I didn’t know her, I felt comforted by her presence. She knew of my torment, she understood my trauma and vulnerabilities. Being the guardian she is, she immersed her being into mine to shield me, to guide me and to make me invisible when it all got too much.

You see, my body image has been a huge deal post-surgery. I’m even reluctant to type this again but ‘yes’ I am referring to the uniteral mastectomy followed by reconstructive surgery. I actually have an improved body (by many people’s standards) since the operation. Many women pay for similar types of surgery to the one I had to save my life. But getting used to the new version of me has been far from plain sailing.

You would think that I would be flaunting this new edition of Becky at every opportunity. Nope, I have felt extremely uncomfortable with my new body and unwilling to be nothing but modest. Why? Because I didn’t know this body or what to do with her. Also, I have told the world about my cancer and the consequent surgery, eyes are watching, minds are intrigued and tongues have questions. Plus, my size, my shape and the types of clothes that suit me, have all changed. Just a few months ago, I waited in line at House of Fraser for a considerable amount of time with the wrong sized bra until at the till, I remembered that my cup size had changed and consequently left with nothing; bewildered by my mistake.

This has been my new normal. Not knowing what is normal.

My stranger encouraged me to cover myself in black. Black has shrouded my being to become a hidden mass of nothingness. It allowed me to surreptitiously tip-toe through crowded rooms unnoticed and unbothered. It hugged me close when I felt vulnerable and needed an anchor to hold tightly. My stranger had my back at all times. I honestly can’t imagine how I would have got through this without her.

However, sometime during the last few weeks, I woke up ready as usual to share my sadness with my BFF but she wasn’t there. I searched frantically for my partner in solemn silence but she had disappeared.

Vanished without a ‘See you later!’

But strangely, it felt okay. It was weird, but instinctively I understood that her time with me was complete. I had entered a new phase. Someone or something else had arrived.

Almost a year since my breast cancer diagnosis, my spirit has been usurped by another form of newness. Again, a foreigner has entered my space. She has no name but she is quite different to my first stranger. I am still learning about her but I know I am feeling her vibe. She is playfully provoking and enjoys challenging me. I oblige wilfully to her dares (though curious) as secretly, I like the direction in which she is nudging me. She has only been around for a few weeks but already I see her influence manifest in my intentions and actions.

I wish you could see her or feel her vibe but as I do not even know her name and my naked eye has never witnessed her presence, I cannot show you the evidence. What I can do however, is share with you a few images for which the only fitting caption is: ‘She Made Me Do it!’ These were taken on a recent much needed break to Benidorm on the Costa Blanca, Spain.

My instincts tell me that you might be hearing a lot more about what she has prompted me to do in the near future.