The Pressure to be Perfect Through Cancer
I made more effort with my outfits, make up and wigs and ‘being upbeat’ throughout my cancer treatment than at most other times in my life. I was so desperately trying to show the world that I ‘was coping so well’ and that ‘I’ve got this’. In reality I was exhausted. It felt strange to look back at myself in the mirror, with a person staring at me that I didn’t seem to know anymore.
Now, there are two sides to this.
On the one hand side I needed to feel in control over anything at all possible. Cancer had taken away all control over what I thought I had and I am sure many people with a cancer diagnosis will agree that uncertainty is one of the hardest parts to deal with. Controlling how I looked and how I portrayed myself for sure gave back some of the stability I so desperately yearned for.
On the other hand I have this feeling which I can’t quite shift, that ‘getting through’ cancer and other difficult situations in life doesn’t seem to be enough in today’s society anymore. We are meant to ‘thrive’ through life’s most challenging phases. Putting up with the grueling side effects of cancer treatment can be hard enough. Do we really have to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and raise money for charity along the way?
Where do these extremely high expectations come from? Again, another feeling I can’t quite shift: ‘Perhaps these sky-high expectations come from ourselves, rather than from others?’.
Nine months after my last burst of radiotherapy I found myself running across the finish line of my very first half marathon in less than two hours. Looking back I can see how hard I was on myself, how desperately I wanted to proof to everyone that cancer was behind me. But in reality, I as more anxious than ever before. My mental health was at an all-time low and I was utterly disappointed that my life had not gone back to ‘normal’.
I think I was starting to realise that I would have to embrace a ‘new normal’ but I was nowhere near ready to do so…
Initially I thought I had to change even more of myself to start to even have a chance at loving the new me. My hair had not grown back as I was expecting it to, instead it was very fine and with sparse areas showing a lot of scalp. It was so depressing. I felt so conscious and hated my fine hair. At around that time my amazing husband, a hairdresser then, started to design and invent a new kind of hairbrush. One that is kinder to your hair and scalp, still delivering amazing results for shiny and healthy hair. But without pulling any more hair out than needed and without any unnecessary breakage. It’s a wonderful product, I can only highly recommend it. It’s taken him 5 years to bring the Manta hairbrush to the market, and in strange ways it has taken me all this time to find a way back to myself. Finding home.
A key tool that helped massively in shifting my perception of myself was yoga. Only once I embarked on my yoga journey did I start to practice kindness towards myself. I slowly manage to let go of the expectations I had set for myself and I started to talk to myself as if I was my best friend. Have you tried it? I would highly recommend it!
Being me started to feel good enough. Tired me, happy me, anxious me, exhausted me, grateful me, silly me…
I started to acknowledge all my states of being and emotions and treated them as normal.
Through the love, patience and kindness towards myself something wonderful started to happen. I started to eat better, sleep more, I seeked speaking therapy and I tried new approaches and alternative treatments to help my mind and body heal and recover. I had so much healing to do.
Instead of putting all my efforts in pretending I was ‘nailing this shit’ (excuse my language), I was pouring all my energy into helping mySELF on so many different levels.
I’m glad I made a U-turn in my approach to my recovery. This kinder way of treating myself has longevity.
You don’t have to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, and you don’t have to run a marathon, but pour everything you have into being loving, kind and compassionate towards yourself. Wherever you are on your journey when you are reading this, if you have healing to do or not, let me send over a big virtual hug to you and remind you of how perfect you are.
Dani Binnington is mum to three daughters (12 year old Rosa and 11 year old twin girls Layla and Eliza). She shares her journey openly of being diagnosed with a TNBC at the age of 33. Dani underwent surgeries, chemo and radiotherapy and later on a double mastectomy and the removal of her ovaries as a means to reduce her risks of further cancers due to being a BRCA1 carrier.
Dani is the founder of online portal www.healthywholeme.com where she shares her many tools that have helped her in her recovery, physically and emotionally. You can join Dani on the mat through her online yoga classes.
Now until the end of the year, Manta Canada will donate 15% of proceeds from the Pink Manta Brush ($42) to Rethink Breast Cancer. Click here to shop.