Scars are beautiful, they are battle wounds. They show what you have gone through and how strong you are for coming out of it.” #PREVIVE, #INSPIRE, #THRIVE Who knew that painting my own body and doing a photoshoot to encourage other women to see all their creative potential and beauty inside would help me thoroughly appreciate and empower me to embrace my own body in a way I never knew I would do so again. At age 22 I found out that I was positive for a BRCA2 mutation. The gene mutation BRCA2 is associated with both breast and ovarian cancer. Doctors informed me that I had an 85 percent risk of developing breast cancer, while my chance of developing ovarian cancer was about 30 percent.
At that time, I had the desire to have children and taking part in the preventive surgery would have risked that. I was not going to let cancer take away my ability to have biological children. It could take away my breasts and other organs, but not that.
In 2015, three years after my second child was born, I underwent a total laparoscopic hysterectomy with robotic-assisted da Vinci Surgery. It was a minimally invasive surgical technique that utilized a few small abdominal incisions. The surgery was not as simple as it sounds, but I also was lucky enough to recover quickly.
Six months after the hysterectomy, I had a prophylactic (preventive) double mastectomy. Before undergoing my mastectomy, I spoke with a breast surgeon and made the decision to start the reconstruction process immediately.
I was worried about my bodies appearance. The most apparent features that physically exhibited my femininity were no longer there and I was too aware of it to not care about them. I came out of the surgery with no nipples and two scars straight across my chest.
I was fortunate to partake in a clinical trial for a product called AeroForm, a breast tissue expander system. I came out of my mastectomy with tissue expanders, devices used to stretch the skin to create a pocket of space for a long-term implant.
However, taking part in this photoshoot for UNLEASHED, a therapeutic project I created to help women fall deeper in love with themselves, made me feel hesitant. I was worried about my physical appearance and I didn’t want to humiliate myself. I still bore my battle scars after all. Then to paint my own body and share my pictures with others, that made me more nervous.
Nevertheless, my passion for helping women find their beauty again and for them to find comfort in their own skin made me realize that I had to practice what I preach. I wanted them to appreciate their bodies and connect to their heart felt emotions to feel empowered and strong.
UNLEASHED proved to be a great success! Not only did it help many other women feel proud and comfortable in their own skin, but it also helped me feel just as empowered. This truly was the best project I have done in my life.
Loving yourself and being happy within your own soul makes a difference in your everyday life. And I can now say I will have no problem being nervous about my scars and showing someone my chest. I say that with full confidence, even now as I am going through a separation.
Physically, if you saw me today, you would never know I had surgery. People tell me all the time how good I look, so clearly, I’m grateful to look and feel healthy. Yet, the pressure I endured from years of worrying and while going through the surgeries, it took a toll on me that I expected, but still was greatly overwhelmed by.
The choice to remove healthy body parts is not easy. There is always some doubt about the necessity of such a drastic action. Personally, I also found the physical recovery from the double mastectomy to be particularly challenging – from the pain to the limited range of motion post-surgery, to the visual changes my body underwent.
A quick tip I wish was emphasized to me is the importance of building up your core before having major surgery – it is critical for recovery. I, however, did not do it enough. Thankfully though, with the support of friends and family, I have built my core up to endure and surpass my once powerful insecurities.