Cancer Is…Vulnerability

The other day while completing errands I entered a clothing store which I haven’t done since the pandemic began. The quaint boutique had swimsuits displayed prominently to go along with their spring fever theme. It was the first time I thought about putting on a swimsuit since having a bilateral mastectomy in December. I felt my eyes fill with tears and decided to leave because I wasn’t ready to publicly deal with the emotions that surfaced.

Due to COVID restrictions, I haven’t focused on fashion in about a year. My days consist of selecting from a wardrobe of comfy garments that require minimal effort. As restrictions are starting to lift and an emergence of safe, social gatherings are on the horizon, I must begin to open myself back up as well even though thinking about re-entering the world with my new physical aesthetic leaves me feeling extremely self-conscious.

Cancer is vulnerability. It is opening yourself up to moments, conversations, and internal dialogue that can be heavy and triggering. I’m discovering that giving myself the grace to sit with these vulnerable moments, while processing the discomfort, aides in navigating unexpected complex emotions.

I’m a recovering perfectionist so the adjustment to showing up flaws and all, continues to be a journey. Being vulnerable enough to say – I am exhausted, is difficult for me.  There are days I want to shout, “my body, my mind, my spirit, we are exhausted!” It’s necessary to take time to rest and recover. It is necessary to embrace the space needed to understand that healing is a process and to allow tears to flow without apologizing.

Vulnerability is a superpower and I’m finally choosing to own mine.

These years filled with dealing with the aftermath of a cancer diagnosis have felt tainted at times. But through the angst, the moments that stick are the times when I’ve been the most vulnerable. Through my willingness to show emotion and to allow my vulnerabilities to be seen, I’ve allowed my caregivers to in turn show both compassion and their unflinching love. This has been a gift to them and to me.

I’m vulnerable enough to admit I miss physical aspects of my pre-cancer body dearly; I’m also enlightened enough to appreciate that I’m not defined by body parts. I am so much more than scars and pain. I am a full woman who is vibrant and complete.

I held the hand of vulnerability after leaving the clothing boutique and put on an old swimsuit when I got home. As I changed clothes, I quieted the negative thoughts with deep belly breaths. I stood in front of a full-length mirror and filled my mind with all the things I love about myself.

Seeing the woman in the mirror with authentic love allowed me to marvel at her quiet courage; it was like hugging an old friend that I hadn’t seen in years. When I looked at my silhouette, I saw the brave woman who saved my life. The least I can do is lift her up and tell her with conviction that she is beauty personified.

Kai McGee

Kai McGee is a writer who frequently explores parenting, her journey through breast cancer, social-justice and self-care. She is currently working on her memoir. Connect with her via Instagram @onanaturalkai

Cancer Is… is a monthly Blog where Kai McGee explores thoughts on what cancer is and is not from her lens of walking the journey as a survivor, thriver and champion for Breast Cancer awareness.

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