Reflection: Self Confidence and Illness

Self-Con·fi·dence  (self ˈkänfəd(ə)ns)
noun:    a feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities, and judgment.

 

As I stared in the mirror this morning I noticed my baby bump really beginning to show through. I am almost 5 months pregnant and up till now I haven’t really been showing. I kinda just looked like I sat on the couch eating twinkies for a few days straight but not a significant bump. I don’t mind, not at all, it means the little peanut, who we’ve decided to name Lilianna btw, is growing strong. But it did make me reflect on how many changes my body has been through the last 15 or so years.

When I started my chemotherapy treatment, I was smack in the middle of the brutal teenage years. All my friends started developing breasts and forming there more feminine bodies, and here I was losing my hair and gaining weight from the chemotherapy and massive doses of prednisone I was prescribed. The teenage years are not easy for anyone whether your sick or not, in fact, they can be quite awkward. But I didn’t feel awkward, I just felt plain ugly. I would take pimples and training bras over the hair loss and weight gain any day. My self confidence was at an all time low. It consumed me, and at some points I didn’t want to fight anymore, even though I was given a good prognosis, I felt Katherine was lost forever.

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Me, during the height of my chemotherapy. I always wore a hat over my wig because I was embarrassed of my bloated face aka “moon face”.

If you have ever felt similar to what I just described you are not alone.  According to a 2010 study ” patients may face changes in physical appearance, barriers to routine activities that sometimes are added to chemotherapy, the stigma of the disease, the difficulty of addressing the treatment and side effects, and readaptation after treatment. These patients may have psychological problems such as changes in their self-esteem once their perception on body image is related to this new life condition”.

If I could go back and talk to that 14 year old year old girl I would tell her that these changes are only temporary. Like a butterfly, you need to go through a transformation to become what you were really meant to be. I can just imagine what it must feel being in a relationship and sharing these struggles with a partner, how it effects intimacy, and the overall partnership. But if you were like me, hang in there. People that really love you will not see your physical image. They will see how strong you are and the fight within. Even though you may not feel it, that is when you are most beautiful, when you are your strongest.

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Four months into remission, still dealing with my self confidence.

Later in my twenties, I was back to the peak of health, going to the gym 5 times a week, working a full time job, and going to college. It was at 27 when I was struck with fibromyalgia which stopped me in my tracks. The constant pain, depression, and inability to do the simplest things made me feel completely useless once again. This time it was the weight loss that changed the way I saw myself. I wasn’t eating because I was in too much pain and the nice toned muscles I spent years training for were slowly fading away. Once again I didn’t recognize the girl in the mirror. It took almost 2 years until I was able to start fighting back and regain my life. I had to dig real deep for that inner strength but if I could conquer cancer, I could fight this too. Even though I had doctors and a great support system, I wasn’t going to move forward unless I believed in myself.

Through both these struggles in my life I had very low self confidence, self doubt, and the thought of not being able to live another day. I felt unworthy of people’s friendship and love and thought being alone, ugly, and miserable was my life sentence.

Sure there are things I would still like to change about myself. I could lose a few pounds, have longer, thicker hair, be a little taller, and the list goes on. But as I look at my growing belly and the life growing inside it I think about the type of woman I want my daughter to look up to. None of us are perfect, and neither is life, but we all have the strength to accomplish whatever it is we want to.

If you are at your lowest right now, know that you are not alone. The imperfections you see in the mirror do not define you. What matters is how much you love the real you! And if you feel like you can’t go on, seek a professional to help you reconnect with yourself. I did, many times. No matter how much your friends and family love you, their not trained like a psychiatrist or a psychologist. Do something just for you. Tell yourself “this is my gift to you”. Hang in there, life is just a compilation of many different chapters, some of the best ones have yet to be written.

-k

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