“It was a significant day when I managed to sit comfortably by a swimming pool on holiday in a swimming costume”. In the second of three blogs about her experience of ovarian cancer, Sarah talks about her body image throughout and after treatment.
At the end of my chemo it was a hot summer and I found that none of my clothes fit. A really good friend leant me some of her clothes and then I had to buy a temporary wardrobe (I needed to believe that this wasn’t permanent so I went to charity shops). It was another layer of feeling altered from myself… that I couldn’t even wear my own clothes.
I felt really disconnected from my body & I didn’t feel at all comfortable being naked. After chemo I’d not only put on weight but my body shape had completely changed. I remember having to go for a new bra fitting and standing in the cubicle, with this massive red scar – and because my body had changed so quickly I didn’t recognise the person looking back at me which was incredibly upsetting.
I have now lost all the chemo weight, the scar has faded and when I look in the mirror I look more like the version of me that I know. I ate well (following the advice from Penny Brohn) and joined Slimming World, walked, swam and did Zumba Gold with the older people, it was really important to dance and to laugh – and it was great to see every week my strength and stamina improving. This summer I could get my old clothes out of storage that I hadn’t been able to wear for two years but most importantly I feel healthier, stronger and more able to live life well!
When so much happens, it changes you. I became suddenly someone who was sick and needed to be looked after, whose whole identity was shaken and I think that's quite complex – it's a mixture of the physical issues and also confidence. But that continues to change too, though now the changes are for the better and it’s an amazing feeling to reconnect with parts of who I am and to feel that there is still more good to come.
It was a significant day when I managed to sit comfortably by a swimming pool on holiday in a swimming costume! It wasn’t that that before this point I’d felt especially self-conscious or thought that people might be looking at me – but that bits of my body, if I look at them, remind me of what has happened and the consequences that this has had on our lives, hopes and future. My relationship with my body is improving and the scars are fading and I hope that I feel increasingly able to trust my body again and that one day I might be convinced of this trust!
- Read Sarah's first blog: Finding my way through it
- Read Sarah's third blog: It was so incredibly important to discover that I wasn’t on my own