I love my body! Despite the fact it’s a piece of crap on the inside and has been for a very long time…I still love it!
It’s not a model’s body, not by any stretch of the imagination, but my husband still finds it attractive after 24 years together. He took this photo back in 2011 when we went on our first cruise and when I asked him if he could find it (because I wanted to show it to our daughter to prove I looked good in a two-piece back then), he looked at me almost in disbelief and said “of course I can find it”. He knew exactly where it was because it’s a favourite of his.
I was 49 when this photo was taken and I’m 56 now. I don’t look quite the same as back then but I’m working on it. I’ve had a hip replacement since this was taken plus another surgery, as well as many years of increased pain with my Fibromyalgia and other illnesses. In fact, over half of the Invisible Illnesses I live with now didn’t even exist in my body when Ray snapped this photo. But I still love my body, just the way it is right now.
I’m 5’2″ tall and I weigh about 145lbs right now. I fluctuate up to 150lbs. I have strong arms and legs, but my fingers and hands are weak. Once upon a time in 2008 in Calgary AB, I walked a Half Marathon in -23 degree temperatures (with a windchill of -30). The annual Running Room Hypothermic Half Marathon is quite famous and is now held in cities across North America. This was my very first time – I took a training program but hadn’t trained properly near race day because of my health and really, I probably shouldn’t have even done it. However, I finished in 3:30:22 and in fact it was such a good race time that Ray almost didn’t make it to the finish line in time to take photos of me crossing (it was a surprise for me). I was delighted to finish and vowed I would never do anything like that again (I got a tiny bit of frostbite under my chin which was the only area left exposed).
I love my body now, but there was a time when I mourned for the body I used to have. Back in the mid-2000’s, I used to be in great shape. I went to the gym, I had a trainer named Terrianne and I lifted weights – heavy weights. I was doing 40lb bicep curls and 80lb hip abductors and at one point, I could leg press 800lbs. Yes, you read that right…I could leg press 800lbs. I was well muscled and toned and in the best shape of my life. It was only because of 3 unexpected surgeries between 2006 and 2007 that my life derailed and I was unable to recuperate properly. In fact, I had barely done any proper training for the Hypothermic Half when the Marathon actually took place, so to finish in the time I did was a real testament to the shape I’d been in previously. We really take our bodies for granted when they’re running well, don’t we?
I still love my body! Even after everything it’s put me through with surgeries, and Fibro and Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue and all the other Invisible Illnesses, it’s the only body I have, so I try to stay positive and treat it well. I like to try to keep my mind sharp as well so I enjoy doing things like word search puzzles and crosswords and I’ve always enjoyed those online hidden object games. Because I don’t get out of the house a lot, I do tend to spend a lot of time on the computer, but sometimes, I’m aware of being “housebound”. It’s an awful sensation and it makes me feel like an invalid. A shut-in if you will. How about you? Do you ever feel that way?
Unfortunately, I have to use a cane for mobility purposes. I’ve had my right hip replaced and it works great, but my left hip still needs to be replaced in the near future. Additionally, my Left Achilles Tendon has been giving me problems for quite some time and even though I’ve seen a physiotherapist, he’s not been able to do much for me. We’ve tried massage and acupuncture and he feels that there’s not really much else that will help the problem, which he thinks is more with the tendon attaching at the bone. Ultrasound isn’t going to improve anything, so after 4 sessions, we’ve called it quits. The other reason for using a cane is that my right knee has problems with severe pain and an occasional buckling and collapsing problem. It’s arthritis that causes this and so I wear a knee brace and use the cane for stability.
Sometimes, when I’m out running errands, I have to use a rollator because the distance is too far for just a cane. Mine is bright orange and made by Hugo:
I call it my “Pambourghini”. Seriously though, it’s great for use around downtown Langford where I live, or when I take the bus to the doctor because it folds up with one hand and it’s easy to transport if Ray and I take the truck somewhere instead.
Here’s the thing though – I don’t want to be defined by my Chronic Pain, and just because I use a mobility device doesn’t mean I don’t want to look my best at the same time. I try to dress fashionably but I also have my own unique sense of style. I can’t wear high heels, so I tend to wear shoes that have some sparkle to them. I love long dresses for a more feminine touch, and over the course of the last three years, I’ve gone from having summer hair (practically bald) to short hair to long hair.
And when I have a chance to go out with friends or with my husband on a rare date night, I want to look good. I want to dress up and be pretty and look like every other person around me. I don’t want someone to be able to pick me out of the room and say “oh, there’s the one with chronic pain”.
But while I care very much about how I look, I’m often too tired or too sore to go anywhere and when I do go out, it’s usually a medical appointment. The last person I need to impress is my doctor. In fact, I generally want him to see me at my worst, so he knows what my day-to-day look really does look like.
In order to try to take care of myself, I’ve recently taken on a 30 Day Challenge to do 20 Squats, 20 Wall Push-ups and 20 Bicep Curls every day. I want to try and be as fit as I can in the body I have but I know I need to start slow so I don’t cause a Fibro flare-up. This was my modified answer to an invitation from a friend for a 100 Squats a Day Challenge. So far, I’m on Day 2 and I’ve done both days in good form!!! Go me! I set an alarm on my iPhone to remind me what to do and when, and I’m determined to follow through!
There was a time when I didn’t always feel this way. I felt like my body had betrayed me. It was hard to go from being so healthy to suddenly being bedridden half the time, or unable to go for a walk without using a cane. It was frightening to think that this was going to be my future, and chances were it wasn’t going to get better, only worse. And in a lot of ways, it’s been true. I’ve had to give up hobbies I loved because I don’t have the stamina to keep doing them.
When I lived in Calgary, AB, I used to sing in a women’s 4 part a cappella Barbershop Chorus called Rhythm of the Rockies, and in a quartet called Quintessence. We were part of Sweet Adelines International and our chorus would compete in Regional Competition against other choruses from BC, AB and SK – we were the All Canadian Region, Region 26! The winner of the Chorus competition would go on to International competition the following year. In 2005, Quintessence decided to compete for the first time in the Quartet competition and ended up winning Novice Quartet of the Year!! I think we placed 10th out of 16 Quartets as well. We were so proud of ourselves!!!
Quintessence Quartet: Cheryl (Baritone), Pamela (Bass), Lauri (Lead), Judith (Tenor)
Rehearsals became too much for me, when pain and fatigue took over my life. We competed one more year, in 2006 but that was my final year of singing, including in the chorus. What a huge disappointment that was for me. I had been singing in some form or fashion for most of my life. And now, that was gone. It’s even harder now that I live where I live as the very excellent Pacific Edge Chorus from Sweet Adelines rehearses just down the road from me. I would love to be a part of singing again but I just don’t think I could manage the energy required to be involved again. I have to be honest though…every Tuesday night, I’m teased by the fact there’s a rehearsal going on!!
How do you feel about your body? Do you feel like your body has betrayed you since you first developed Fibromyalgia? What has Fibro taken from you? Did you used to be involved in any crafting or hobbies that you had to give up?
Do you still like your body?
Despite everything, I still love my body. I’ve forgiven it for what its gone through. I know it’s not it’s fault, it just is what it is. Overall, on the outside, I think I’m aging well. I have no wrinkles, lots of silver in my hair which I love, and the older I get, the more content I seem to be with life in general. I’m in love with my hubby, my kids are doing well in their lives and my three grandsons are all happy and healthy. Those are the things I like to focus on, not the parts that are breaking down left, right and centre. I try to remain positive and stay joyous. Contentment IS achievable, but it takes fortitude and the right mental attitude.
If you’re struggling, I invite you to reach out. I have a wonderful little booklet with some powerful words from women I’d be happy to pass along to you, so if you’d like that, send me a message using the Contact Page. It’s about more than just body image…it’s empowering in many different ways, but all about being a strong woman. And that’s how I like to think of myself. I am a strong woman!
Our bodies are complex, but they’re all we have. Let’s all be strong and learn to love them again, just as they are.
there is always hope