Meeting My Body Where She’s At

I have this running joke that began at age 40. Every year around my birthday, I have some new diagnosis to wrangle with. The birthday present at 40 was PCOS, or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Poly what? I consider myself to be quite savvy in all things medically related, but I had never heard of this one. Four letters that were a huge pain in my butt. My skin looked like I was 13 again, and no matter how much I worked out, I was packing on the weight. Some birthday present, eh?

Looking back, it was at 40 that my hormones began to wreak havoc on my body. At the time, I was training hard with the hopes of getting into serious bodybuilding. Completely changing my diet and exercise, and consuming a large amount of protein daily probably were not the kindest things I could have done to my body. However, I also believe to my core that I was perimenopausal at the time, despite my healthcare providers telling me I was way too young.

The next couple years, my “birthday presents” were surgeries – knee and shoulder injuries from roller derby (completely worth it). Year 43 was extra special, and I say that with a massive dose of sarcasm. What I first chalked up to PCOS, continued to nag my inner knowing. My body was telling me something different and I posed the question to my doctor that I really did not want the answer to…”Do you think I’m in menopause?” Even then, my doctor still claimed I was too young. I pushed back with, “Can we at least do the blood test?” Sure enough, I was knee deep in what affectionately became known as Esther the Menopause Monster.

Esther and I became very well-acquainted. We hung out together often. I would know she was visiting because she would cause me to lose my patience or make me super-hot. Hot like the Sierra Desert, not hot like Jason Momoa. The characteristic I liked least about her was her stubbornness. No matter what I did for exercise or what I ate, she would hang out around my waistline. Worse yet, I caught a glimpse of my butt in the kids’ bathroom mirror and swore it belonged to someone else…like the lunch lady I remembered in elementary school. What in the hell was happening to my svelte little figure I had known all my life, even after having four babies?!

The year of my 44th birthday, I was going to see how Esther and I could “be on a break,” with a little intervention from some hormone therapy. Doing my research, I thought bio identicals would be the safest. Considering my family health history, and taking some guidance from my doctor, I decided it would be best to undergo genetic testing to know the best course of action. And so, it was determined that my present for birthday 44 was going to be a BRCA1 positive diagnosis. 2019 was the year of seven related surgeries – an oophorectomy followed by six breast surgeries, including a double mastectomy, implants, ex-plants, and multiple “fixes” to take care of scarring, infection and open wounds. 2019 can bite me.

The year of birthday 45 has been different from all the rest, and not just because it happened during quarantine. It has been the year of re-learning how to love myself and my body. This trusty little machine has been through a lot. A fibromyalgia diagnosis and arthritis in my thirties, derby surgeries, now eight BRCA1 surgeries, and co-habitating with Esther. While I work out seven days a week and eat clean, the shape of my body is simply not the same, which I attribute to surgeries and hormone changes. Weight is hanging out in new places, and cellulite has taken up residence alongside Esther. I do not have my 20-something figure, or even my 30-something figure. But then again, I am not supposed to. That is a fallacy put on us by society and I have carried it around on my shoulders for far too long. So, year 45 is the year of acceptance.

Please don’t mistake my acceptance as giving up, they are not the same. I will continue to fight for my health and do the things I can do to be kinder to my body. Instead of being rough on her, I will be gentle and more forgiving. I will not look at what I have lost, but rather have appreciation and gratitude for how far this strong, tough girl has gotten me over the years. Chasing babies, going on walks with my kids, roller skating, running, lifting weights, walking 20 5 Ks in 2020, and now taking on a 10-week workout challenge. Rather than missing what was, I will give thanks for where I am – still able to take part in activities that feed my soul. I will let go of what society tells me I should look like, and re-define my own beauty, inside and out, that tells the story of my journey.

And so, my beautiful sisters out there in the world, I encourage you to do the same. Let go of the comparison, the anger, the frustration and the embarrassment. Stop shaming your own body and listening to how others define beauty. That, my dear, is up to you. Decide to meet your body where she is at. Thank her. Praise her. Speak kindly to her the next time you see her in the mirror. Most importantly, love her and appreciate her for where she has carried you and where she will be taking you.

By Amy Proffitt