Life

Evening of Hope – Calgary

Last year, my life became very public. I was on CBC Radio Edmonton, Global News Edmonton came to interview me in my home, and I went to Global News Edmonton to be part of their morning show. This was followed by many news articles in local papers. (MORE to come on who I worked with, interviewed with and how this came about in a later post)

When all of the above came around, and went through the cycle of sharing, a new friend – AGB – who organizes an event in Calgary, AB to support Eating Disorder Awareness Week, to bring awareness to Eating Disorders, asked me to speak at the event.

I wasn’t speaking on my experiences with Eating Disorders, but rather on my experiences with body image, body positivity, and the comments surrounding the above.

I was nervous, on all levels, to talk about my story at the event, but I am SO proud that I got up and spoke about my experiences. My hope in sharing my story, is to raise awareness about the body image issues children, teenagers, young adults and adults face. This is also much deeper for me, in that I also want to share awareness for Burkitt’s Lymphoma, rare cancers, how to help loved ones through their treatment, and after their treatment.

I wanted to share my speech with you, here today. There will be a professional video coming, in which I will share here as well in another post once I receive it. I stepped greatly out of my comfort zone to speak at this event, and I am so thankful that I did this. Below are all of the images I shared throughout the speech as well!

Hi everyone, I’m Lindsay, a 30 year old mother of two little girls and wife to an amazing, supportive husband.

I’m here tonight to tell you a little about myself and my health journey.

In 2018, I became deathly ill landing in the hospital – septic, with my brain and respiratory systems shutting down, in a coma, with a very rare and aggressive form of cancer. Through many surgeries, very aggressive chemotherapy, and multiple times that I was on the brink of death, I am standing here, in front of you tonight, defying the odds that I was given – potential for survival 10%. A few tumours were found in my body, 2 that were the size of footballs, one on each ovary, and a tumour the size of a small orange on my small intestine.

On January 12, 2018 I was the heaviest version of myself. When I was released from the hospital on June 3, 2018, I was the smallest, thinnest version of myself. I was on my way to a “healthy” life, but what does healthy really mean?

As children, teenagers, and even as younger adults, we are taught by society that thin equals healthy and beautiful, when in reality we are our own versions of healthy and beautiful. My version of healthy is doctors appointments and bloodwork every three months and living with chronic illnesses and chronic pain, my husbands version of healthy is a check up with his doctor once a year, and your version of healthy will be different than ours. Healthy comes in all shapes and sizes and all that truly matters is that you find love in yourself. All that matters is that you are confident in your version of healthy, and how you feel.

I received comments and stares about my physical appearance, how skinny I was, about how unhealthy I looked, about how I needed to gain weight, how I needed to eat more food or drink more fluids, it even got to a point that they put an NG tube down my nose, and I had them take it out 8 hours later. Most of these comments came from my health care professionals, my doctors and my nurses, even though they knew all of the chemotherapy side effects I was experiencing, ones like nausea, vomiting, food aversions, mouth sores, loss of appetite, and I could keep going on all night with the expected or experienced side effects. These comments angered me, upset me, enraged me, made me cry and made me furious, but they also made me feel like I wasn’t doing enough for my own health and well-being despite what I was going through.

I didn’t receive many of those type of comments from my close family and friends, instead as I posted updates on social media, accompanied by photos, I received comments like “you look so healthy” or “it’s so good to see you looking healthier” or even “you’re glowing, you look so healthy”. These comments were just as damaging as the ones saying I needed to eat more because I was too thin.

I had an ileostomy, due to a surgical complication from my first set of surgeries, because I was just too sick to heal myself on the inside. An ileostomy is a small opening in your abdomen where a piece of your intestine is brought through to create a loop, this is now where you have bowel movements, and your stool is collected in a bag that is stuck to your abdomen, much like a giant sticker. What many people didn’t know was that having an ileostomy also meant a very restricted diet, low fibre, minimal fruits and vegetables which almost always meant I was a little on the malnourished side.

My body is covered in scars, my neck, my arms and wrists, my back, and many scars mark my abdomen from several surgeries. These are the only visible scars but I have mental and emotional scars, many long lasting, or forever lasting chemotherapy side effects like short term memory loss and short attention span just to name two, many of which have changed my life, caused me to relearn how to do basic human skills, or to keep track of my appointments, make lists, stay on task. Many of these, scars included, have changed my daily life and my well-being as a whole.

So much about our life doesn’t go the way we would like it to go. Heck, I didn’t think that at 27 years old I would have a rare form of cancer and almost die. This is called “the uncontrollable”. The uncontrollable is the unexpected, the every day challenges that we face as individuals and human beings. The mental health challenges like anxiety, depression, PTSD, and past trauma. The physical challenges we face with chronic illnesses, disabilities, and more. Our life depends on our overall health and well-being, in every aspect.

When I give you a glimpse of what I went through and you see the pictures behind me, you’re probably thinking, “how did this lady make it through this?” or “how did this lady overcome all of this?” Well, the truth is, I had an amazing support system, I had a phenomenal medical team, but most of all I had the love of my life along side me as I fought through this. I’ve come full circle on loving my body and having an immense amount of gratitude for it, in ways I never thought possible. It got me through the worst and most challenging times in my life, mentally, emotionally, and physically. Self love, and positive body image haven’t always been easy for me, but going through what I’ve told you about tonight has given me more self love than I ever thought possible. Counselling has done SO much good for me throughout processing all of the changes I’ve gone through, the comments I’ve experienced, and processing the disbelief that I had cancer, that I almost died, but that I am lucky enough to wake up every day, to live another memory filled day, and to be here with you all, tonight.

A large part of my overall healing process was working with a dear friend and boudoir photographer, who helped capture the new version of me. The version of myself that had fought the battle of my life and won, the version that had an ileostomy, more scars and stretch marks, a new outlook on life, a new gratitude for my body. This boudoir shoot, made me see my marked body for all that it is, a truly remarkable and exceptional being that pulled me from almost dying, kept me alive, healed me, and has made me grow into a fiercely strong, and inspirational human being. During this photo shoot, it felt like I had rediscovered a part of me that had been lost in translation, a new found happy, ecstatic, high on life individual who has changed her mindset and no longer takes her life and those in her life for granted. In the photo where I am looking in the mirror at this new version of myself, you can see the realization, the pain and the hurt in my eyes, but you can also see the healing, the gratitude, the gratefulness.

We only get one body, we only get one skin, so regardless of what flaws we see that we have – like stretch marks, scars, and cellulite – that is our body…so why not do whatever you possibly can to embrace it and love it? Love what you have been given.

I came here tonight, hoping that I can positively impact just one person. To show you that NO MATTER what your fight is, you are worthy, you are strong, you are capable, and no matter what life throws at you, you DESERVE to be in this world, you are NEEDED in this world, you are strong enough to fight the toughest battle in your life, and YOU ARE LOVED.

Always remember that down days and cry days, will lead to good days and happy days, but also always remember that “You. Are. Enough.”

Signing off for today,
Lindsay

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