Body image after a mastectomy

I don’t think I know any women who don’t have some sort of body image issue. It’s like riding a bicycle: Once we learn how to feel uncomfortable with our bodies we never forget. That discomfort quietly rides along with us waiting to interrupt otherwise good days. (Body image isn’t just a woman thing by any means. I know plenty of men who struggle as well.)

My mastectomy has literally thrown body image right out the window for me. I have an amazing partner through this whole ordeal. She is naturally inquisitive on a practical, scientific, and factual level. Don’t ever try to argue with a Sauter; they are usually right. Amelia always asks a lot of good hard questions and now is no different. The other day while we were out for a walk, I mentioned I was noticing that my perception of my body image was shifting. She immediately asked how I felt about each of my individual body parts. My responses are a lot different now than they would have been two months ago. Shit just got real.

There’s nothing like losing a body part to neutralize a very skewed view of your own body. Sentences like: I’m fat. I hate my thighs. Ew, look at that, I’m gross. I can’t leave the house looking like this. These sentences sound incredibly trivial and shallow now. I’m missing a body part and I think – I’m fat? No, I don’t think so. Not anymore. I can’t pinpoint where my body image issues came from or how they developed, I just know that now I see myself differently. It may sound bizarre, but the extreme of my mastectomy feels like it has freed me from the ridiculous standards that society holds for women. My body image shaming voice is so far out there I can’t even hear it anymore.

I have the opportunity to re-build my self image about my body. Cancer knocked on the door and I see opportunities behind it. I would have never considered myself an optimist until now.

This is how I feel. Today.

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