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Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2018: Beauty Through the Eyes of a Survivor

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Today, we’re sharing more of Ms.H’s breast cancer survivor chronicles. If you missed the first part of this series, please click here.

We welcome breast cancer survivors to share their stories. We hope someone reading will be inspired.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month! One of the most insightful things I am learning through this my journey is our perception of beauty and what we understand makes as beautiful as women. Now, I have never really been a girl overly concerned with her looks or image. I have always been more inclined to putting forward my brain as my best-selling point. However, when the occasion calls for it (e.g a Lagos wedding), I dey try small sha – professional makeup atimes and on-point gele at least, so that I will not fall my family’s hand.  However, in this last few months, I have learnt how to appreciate all parts of my body and not take for granted my body parts often seen as dysfunctional or admire other people’s seemingly better packages. Let me share some of these insights with you.

Some extra fat here and there ain’t always a bad thing
I have always been a slim person and I had spent the last one year trying to get rid of extra belly fat following childbirth last year and finally I had made significant progress before this diagnosis. Only for me to be consulting with the Plastic Surgeon that will do my breast-reconstruction, and he looks at my whole body and says I am so slim that he can’t find where to source the excess skin and fat to use to construct me a new breast. I found that quite amusing and laughed. So hey, if you have some love handles here and there, take it easy on yourself girl; some people may just need it.

My hair was not so bad after all
Like most Nigerian women, I am always complaining about what to do with my hair. Most of the time, resorting to wigs, weaves and everything in between. Well, following the chemotherapy, all my hair fell off and I am now as bald as a baby – now I understand the saying “a woman’s hair is her glory”. I never appreciated how having your own God-given hair gives you a certain degree of emboldening power. I now understand why some cultures make widows shave their hair because just that simple act makes you vulnerable and somewhat subdued. So hey, appreciate your hair, no matter how nappy, kinky and stubborn it it. By all means use our various black women add-ons but don’t’ take for granted the hair God put on your hair, for it is indeed your real glory. Let it out and let it breathe once in a while.

Beauty is really in the eyes of the beholder
My husband and I have been married for 7 years and we love each other with that kind of “I don see you finish” kind of love. In the past, I never thought it would really be important the way he perceives me because after all the stress of birthing 2 boys – my body had better be the best body in the world to him. However, for the first time, I catch myself concerned. Here, I am fighting the fight of my life and I have energy to think about what a man will think of my body. It is actually laughable. For the first time, it made me realize the conscious and sub-conscious weight that we as we women give to the way the men in our lives perceive our beauty. So hey, if you are a woman reading this, always remember that the most important persons’ opinion about how your body looks is YOU. And, if you are a man reading this, be kind and sensitive to your significant other about her inadequacies and insecurities about her body. It may seem like she doesn’t care but she probably does.

The perception that breasts are a woman’s identity
As a medical student, I was often shocked when women would abscond from the clinic once they were told that their breasts will need to be removed. I never quite got it. You mean, you would rather die than have your breast removed? You must be crazy.
Well, I kind of get it now. From a young age, girls are made to see the breast as a great tool for womanhood (i) a tool of manipulation used by our mothers when she is trying to get us to do something or threatening she says- “You sucked this breast for 9 months etc……” (ii) a tool of seduction when in music videos when we see those “highly endowed” cleavage baring video vixens with all the men lusting after them (iii) a life-giving tool because you must breastfeed otherwise your child will be not become Bill Gates or Albert Einstein in the future, or so they say!

Society places so much pressure on women to see their breasts as their identity and without it you are less of a woman. Now, that I face the imminent removal of mine, I have come to realize that I had better have another way to define myself as beautiful even though my female ammunition is gone. The concept of “inner beauty” becomes less a cliché and more of a conscious effort to see myself as beautiful from my mind’s eye so that this inner beauty becomes what I see regardless of what stares back at me from the mirror. So hey, if you have breasts big or small, carry it with confidence and shine. Make sure you teach your daughters to be proud of their bodies, no matter what package it comes in.

In a nutshell, let us not allow society’s perception of what it is to be beautiful as a woman cloud our judgement and the way we see ourselves. You are beautiful just the way you are. Most importantly, remember to do your regular self-breast examinations and if you are over 40 years, kindly request a mammogram from your health care provider.

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