By Paula Holland De Long ACC, CPCC / Survivor Life Coach / Founder of What’s Next For My Life ™ Inc.
Fifteen years ago, at age 37, after waking up in the hospital minus my left breast, I sobbed with despair, certain the loss of my left breast meant the end of intimate relationships. Lying in the bed with a stitched up lop-sided bump covering the hunk of metal in my chest, I was convinced that no one, not even my partner of 4 years, would ever WANT me again.
And yet here I am sharing my photos all over the internet as part of Swim Suit Confidence Week (and the launch of Lands’ End new mastectomy swim suit line). What’s changed?
Fifteen years ago, looking at the incisions and the scars I knew they would leave, first alone, and then with my partner, was harder than I ever imagined.
I didn’t fully believe his reassurances, but I felt a tiny spark of hope. He pressed me, asking “Would you reject me if I was the one with cancer?” Later that night, in the dark, silent, I reached for him and we made love for the first time. I felt a teeny tiny spark of confidence.
Having someone else accept me, rather than reject me, reduced my normal, natural feelings of despair, hopelessness, self-doubt, embarrassment, and anxiety that can come with the physical and emotional scars of breast cancer. It served a valuable purpose.
It was also dangerous, as I found out three years later when we parted ways, after he finally admitted he didn’t find me attractive anymore.
Single again, my confident energy shifted instantly to doubt, anxiety, and the overwhelming urge to hide myself from the world. All of my old fears returned with a vengeance.
As it turned out, his parting gift to me was his question, “Would you reject me if I was the one with cancer?” asked the first time he saw my scars. As I remembered my resounding “No,” I asked myself a new question. “Then why would you assume that everyone will reject you now?”
This led me to more questions that I encourage every breast cancer survivor to consider.
- How many confident people do I know that are not perfect physically? What makes them confident?
- What do I really need to feel confident with myself? What beliefs do I have that don’t make me feel confident?
- What must I have in my relationships with others? What don’t I want?
- Will I let other people’s opinion or judgment keep me from living my life to the fullest? What do I gain from this choice?
- What made me brave enough to go through cancer? How can I use this to my advantage now?
- What is the first thing I can do now to increase my confidence?
These questions shift your focus from what you can’t control to what you can. They fan the flame of confidence that comes from inside, rather than from someone or something. The kind of confidence that stays with you when you stand naked in front of the mirror.
Fifteen years after losing my breast I’m standing at the full length mirror on my closet door. I pause for a long look at myself before I take off my new mastectomy swim suit. “Love the big smile and the way you’re standing so tall and proud,” I enthused, “You’d never know I’ve only got one real nipple and boob, let alone scars, tummy bulges and dimply thighs."
I took a deep breath, preening. Then I stripped off the suit and looked again, and my smile got bigger. “I FEEL GOOD about the way I look,” I exclaimed.
I can live with that.
Fan the flame or light the spark of your internal confidence with a free 30 minute telephone consultation. Call 954-565-6894 or email paula@WhatsNextForMyLife.com to schedule yours now.
“If I can do cancer I can do anything,” became breast cancer survivor Paula Holland De Long’s rallying cry 15 years ago. Her own battle inspired What’s Next For My Life? ™ Inc., her survivorship life coaching company that has given thousands of cancer patients confidence and tools to take back control and live happier, healthier lives during and after cancer. Her one-on-one coaching, workshops, and courses are done over the phone with participants from around the country, and are also offered at cancer treatment centers and support organizations. Visit www.WhatsNextForMyLife.com for more info.