How Breast Cancer Taught Me to Love My Body
This story is part of Survivor's Guide, a series on navigating the impact of breast cancer through beauty and self-care.
In her own words, Danielle Doby, a breast cancer patient, tells Allure how her breast cancer diagnosis has changed her body image for the better, the mantra she lives by to get through difficult times, and the ways she has found strength and joy through it all.
My cancer diagnosis was the permission slip I never needed to start being more intentional with my life and time. I have softened into my hard edges. I spent so many years shaming and picking apart my body, trying to improve and perfect it. Now I stand in awe of what my body is capable of — its resilience, and everything else I had taken for granted. Cancer has made me a more compassionate, more intentional person.
My yoga practice has been a tool that has helped me become more present in my experience. From the moment I step onto the yoga mat, I am invited to be in my body and emotions, just as they are, without the need to fix or tidy up anything. Yoga teaches me that to be embodied means to honor both the light and shadow. When I allow my pain to exist, I allow love and joy to exist too.
I have had to dig deep to get through, to find new strengths, and new ways of being I never knew were possible.
I am adamant about feeling things in our body and honoring the cancer experience. It's hard, and there are moments when I have wanted to give up. I have had to dig deep to get through, to find new strengths, and new ways of being I never knew were possible. Whenever I'm in motion with my body or sitting still with my mind, my creativity comes out. Since being in touch with these feelings, I've found ways to be softer with myself through all of this. You find new ways to be brave.
My entire self-care routine is centered on feeling safe in my body. I repeat my own little mantra to myself all the time: "I'm safe to be in my body. I'm safe to be in my body. I'm safe to be in my body. And, so it is. And, so I return." Whenever I find I disconnect from myself or get completely off in my head, this mantra helps get me grounded back into myself.
Besides feeling safe and calm, I'm finding small ways to create and find joy, like channeling my inner Samantha [Jones] from Sex and the City. I've bought different wigs and named each of them. I have fun whenever I can. [Cancer] is such a hard subject, but that doesn't mean that your life stops there either.
[In preparation for my mastectomy], I bought this plaster kit on eBay, and my mom and I sat in my kitchen to plaster my boobs. The first time we tried was a complete and utter failure. But the second time around, we got it. So I will remember my body at that time and moment.
Going into my mastectomy is another space of vulnerability; it's an unknown, which can be scary, but it's also a place where possibility lives. There are moments when I'm really scared, but I come back and remind myself that everything I do right now, I'm doing to literally save my own life.
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