My Best Self Is Yet To Come

photo-5Long-time LBBC guest blogger Randi Rentz is back and today she’s discussing her journey with body image after her breast cancer diagnosis. 

Women are subjected to thousands of messages about having the “perfect” body. Believe me, it’s not easy walking around in a female body, no matter your size, color, height or weight. It’s hard enough trying to look your best, but when you’re diagnosed with breast cancer, it’s even tougher.

It took me a very long time to realize my femininity doesn’t reside in any one place; it is me, the whole me-ness of me, that can’t be sliced off in pieces. Although I had a lumpectomy, yes, I do know something about having random female body parts surgically removed. Many readers may not know that I had a full hysterectomy a few years ago. Can you believe five people asked me if I felt less like a woman afterward?! Geez! Actually, I felt less like talking to them, but no, I didn’t feel less like a woman.  I should have said, “If you can’t deal with it, then you can’t come to my next birthday party!” Sorry, I digress.

What people don’t realize is not just that breast cancer has left a permanent scar (whether you have reconstruction or not), but that there is no navigation system for helping to get you through the tunnel of angst, isolation and rage, and out to acceptance. There. I said it. Personally, I had feelings of isolation squeezing me into its confines after my diagnosis of DCIS followed by a hysterectomy.

The recording in my head read like this: “Who would want to date a bald chick with a huge divot in her left breast? Oh, and by the way, let’s add that all my reproductive parts are gone, too. Is there anybody out there who would want me?”

Good gracious, was it THAT bad? I’m afraid so. Really. 

Some people or “outsiders” as I call them believe that a reconstructed breast will fix you right up, and if you don’t agree, maybe there’s something wrong with your head. OR, if you ONLY have a lumpectomy then you are so lucky to keep your breast. Some people said I was “relatively unscathed.” I say, call the attitude police. Immediately.

What “outsiders” don’t understand is that there’s no official mourning period for a lost breast; a sliced portion of your breast, or a full or partial hysterectomy. You can’t rush your feelings and you can’t be rushed by friends and family who expected, or hoped, that when finished with treatment, you’d be over it and back to your old self. Am I right?

I recognized that during extended periods of my breast cancer treatment and recuperation from my hysterectomy, my sense of time and perspective faded (rather quickly!). For me, my breast cancer and hysterectomy were emotional and physical depriving experiences. It did lasting harm by threatening my sense of well-being, aptitude, self-esteem and feelings of productivity for well over two years.

After I had a “snap out of it” moment, I knew there was no way, no how that I would allow breast cancer to have lasting harm. This kept me from going off the deep, dark end of the breast cancer abyss. It took me quite some time to adjust to my new body, inside and out.

I started by pausing when I felt myself thinking negatively about my mangled body. I learned to just pause. I acknowledged that I was thinking irrationally, and brought it to a stop. Then I replaced the negative thoughts with supportive language. Supportive is different than positive, so if you were thinking, “I’m repulsive,” don’t feel obliged to switch to, “I’m stunning.” That may be too big of a leap. Since negative self-talk often arises in times of crisis, something like, “I am struggling now but doing the best that I can” might work. Or even “My best self is yet to come.” Re-routing that negativity may work wonders for your confidence. It really helped me. BIG time.

I learned that the reason for living is life. My incentive for becoming physically and psychologically well is the potential for my future.

So, you know what I did? I left the Isolation Island. Sayonara, baby. Hello gorgeous.

Randi Rentz, graduated with honors from The Johns Hopkins University with a Masters degree in Special Education. She was an editorial assistant for a publishing company in suburban Washington, DC before becoming a special education teacher in a school district outside Philadelphia, PA. Randi currently is an Asperger’s Support Teacher for grades kindergarten through fifth. Presently, Randi has her own consulting company for children on the Autistic Spectrum where you can see her work at   www.helpforaspergers.com. She is a proud member, supporter, and blogger for many breast cancer organizations and never leaves the house without diamonds. Visit Randi at her web site at www.randirentz.com. Be sure to check out the teaser for her upcoming book “Why Buy a Wig…When You Can Buy Diamonds!”

Can you relate to Randi’s story? If so, join LBBC and Susan G. Komen of Greater Kansas City for a free webinar on May 20th at noon ET on healing your body image after breast cancer. More information and registration details can be found here. 

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5 Responses to “My Best Self Is Yet To Come”

  1. OyiaBrown Says:

    Reblogged this on Oyia Brown.

  2. Peggy Says:

    Outsiders only see the outside. Long after the visible signs of breast cancer have disappeared, the inward transformation continues.

  3. dianequinlan Says:

    I am putting that quote on my work area! Hang in there, Randi! Never know what will happen, or whether it will be good or not. In the meantime…..LIVE!

  4. Olivia Says:

    I remember when you were a nice young girl. Now you’re an amazing woman!

  5. Blog For Mental Health 2014: The Emotional Impact of Breast Cancer | LBBC's Blog Says:

    […] My Best Self is Yet To Come (Randi Rentz’s blog post) […]

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