With February (“love and heart month”) behind us, that time when you give a little more – flowers, cards, gifts or an “I love you” to that special someone – have you ever taken a step back to ask, “What if I gave as much love to myself as I give to others?”
Well, that four letter word – LOVE – now has a new meaning to me. So often, we look at ourselves with a sense of disdain – a dislike for the person looking back at us in the mirror. So often, the value we place on ourselves is based on the outer image; we use the mere shell that houses us to measure our worth. We measure who we are on the inside based on what we see on the outside or in magazines, TV and movies. What’s worse, we use this visual in comparisons of our worth with others.
For as long as I can remember, starting in my early teens, it was my quest to grow up having the perfect body, to stay “fit” or get “skinny,” and I spent most of my life striving for that perfect image. It was my goal to have the perfect body – until it wasn’t. It wasn’t until my breast cancer and the possibility of removing one or both of my breasts that I was finally able to put the “ego” of a perfect body aside. It wasn’t until someone told me I may lose my life, that my strive for that perfect body did not matter anymore. My breasts were already perfect. No scars, no lumps until that one day when I found one. That one day when I noticed my nipple was no longer perfectly round. That one day when I hated my breasts for betraying me. I looked at them one last time in the mirror and knew I had to undergo surgery in just hours and not knowing what I would awake to. Those dreadful soul-sucking hours of the unknown. How could I love this body for betraying me?
Well I did. I endured, underwent surgery and woke up with a new reminder. A reminder that I fought hard to live. Scars, bruising, loads of stitches. A morphed lady lump of a once perfect breast I knew so well, now with a new, big warrior scar. A now constant reminder of what has been, and virtually no promise of what is to be.
It would be more than a year before I could look at it without tears or touch it without fear. Yet, somehow after months of recovery, a new normal began to set in with a combination of the person I once was and an obvious symbol of who I am now. I wear it with pride. I wear this scar with pure love. The love I have learned to give myself, again. The most powerful love I have learned in life after cancer.
Shay Moraga is an E-RYT500, triple-negative breast cancer survivor. She teaches Yoga for Cancer Caretakers and Survivors locally at Eisenhower’s Lucy Curci Center and is founder of Shay’s Warriors- Life After Cancer. Contact Shay at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on social media @namastewithshay or @shayswarriors.