Feeling beautiful after cancer treatment is something that many people would struggle with, I know I did.
I cried the day I had my drains removed after my mastectomy because I wore a top for the first time that showed the true extent of what had happened to my body. I cried to my Mother and told her I was ugly.
I was bald, I had no eyelashes and only one breast after deciding not to opt for reconstructive surgery. I felt that I was ugly and I despaired. I suppose I was mourning the loss of my breast in a sense.
That was the only time I cried over my breast.
Going through cancer, or any serious illness for that matter, everything is different. You look in the mirror and you don’t recognise this bald person who has gained/lost a lot of weight due to medication and illness. You don’t recognise the face staring back at you with no eyelashes or eyebrows staring back sadly at you – because, now you are sad, sad for what you have lost, sad for what you are going through.
The mindset quickly shifts once you have the “ah-ha” moment of “I’m still here, I have been given a second chance at life”.
My own “ah-ha” moment was while on holidays a week after I finished my radiotherapy and I stripped off, self-consciously, to stand in the sea, and have my picture taken to share for Breast Cancer Awareness month baring my mastectomy scar for the world to see. I decided I would put my own insecurities aside to hopefully help someone else by shocking them into checking themselves. I was so shy, looking around to see if anyone was looking. They weren’t.
No one except myself cared.
I felt beautiful and I realised that I didn’t need anybody else’s validation to confirm that. It didn’t matter if I was a size 0 or whether I weighed the heaviest I had ever weighed. It didn’t matter whether I had two breasts or one, I was confident, beautiful and believed I could do anything because I was strong.
Beauty and confidence are not about size or weight.
This was the moment when I started to fall in love with my own self, when I started to appreciate my body for everything it is, appreciate my body for keeping me alive – not only for 35 years, but through one of the most harrowing fights I have ever stepped into.
Think about it, when was the last time you said something nice to yourself?
We are so quick to speak down and criticise ourselves, because, we have been taught that it's conceited to love ourselves, but why? Why is loving yourself and speaking kindly to yourself a bad thing? Why is it drilled into us that loving ourselves is a negative thing?
You believe all the bad things you tell yourself like “I’m fat, I’m ugly, my bald head is horrible, I’m stupid, I’m not good at anything”. So why not switch it and tell yourself one nice thing every day? Even if you don’t believe it, fake it till you make it, keep telling yourself "I am beautiful, I am worthy, I am enough", and eventually, you will believe those nice things you are telling yourself. Put these affirmations somewhere you will see them every day and say them out loud or into a mirror.
I have had to learn to embrace my new body. It wasn’t easy by any stretch.
Being surrounded by positive uplifting people is a huge help in getting your self-esteem back and feeling confident. As harsh as it sounds, anyone who doesn’t add to your life in a positive and supportive way, has no right to take up any of your time. Going through such a tough life changing experience has a way of weeding out those who don't and do deserve to be in your life – embrace them and cherish the ones that do.
Social media plays a huge part in how we feel about our bodies, but be mindful, most of the time, what you see on social media has been airbrushed or altered.
My advice is to take control of your own happiness. Do things for you. Do things you wouldn’t normally do. Do things on your own. Do things that scare you. From there your confidence and self-esteem will grow.
I took control of my happiness and dyed my hair back blonde as it was growing back post chemo, so even though it wasn't the long hair I loved so dearly, at least I somewhat resembled the "old" me, but I was a new me at the same time. Trina 2.0
Being able to wear underwear that was comfortable was a struggle, I needed something that didn't irritate my sensitive areas from surgery, this was very important, I was wearing cheap unsupportive, soft bras as the ones I got from the hospital were extremely harsh and not flattering at all.
When I discovered THEYA healthcare, it was the first bra that I was able to wear after finishing my radiotherapy treatment as my skin was burnt quite badly.
This bra then allowed me to wear my prosthetic (not that I needed it, as I have embraced my flat side) and in turn I could wear tight tops again, instead of loose baggy Tees that I had lived in all through my treatment.
I found my confidence through my underwear- which is funny since it's inside my clothes and nobody sees it!
Self-care is a huge thing to make you feel good.
Self-care doesn't need to be an extravagant spa day (although I wouldn't say no to that!) Simply putting some fresh pyjamas on, a face mask or sitting on the beach to clear the mind, or if you don't want to be alone, just sitting with a loved one. The simplest things are the most effective when it comes to self care. Confidence is something that is on the inside and shines out through your face and it's the most beautiful thing you can wear.
You are beautiful. You are strong. You are worthy.
Trina Cleary is an ambassador for THEYA Healthcare.
THEYA Healthcare provides bras and briefs for women who have undergone any type of breast, thoracic, pelvic or abdominal surgery. They are also suitable for women who are receiving chemotherapy or radiotherapy. The range, which is made from a unique bamboo mix fabric, promotes healing and offers comfort.
Laya Healthcare members can avail of a 15% discount on these products - visit THEYA healthcare to find out more
Laya Healthcare has put together a cancer care guide outlining screening, diagnosis, treatment and recovery. Download your guide https://www.layahealthcare.ie/media/site/pdfs/Cancer-Care-Laya-Healthcare.pdf