Spreading the word that you’re never too young to have bowel cancer, supporting other young patient’s through the charity’s Buddy Program, raising funds to help save lives and improve the health and wellbeing of people living with bowel cancer – inspiring and empowering people all around the country to make their health their wealth, find the possible in the impossible, and live life to the fullest.
Today, six years on from her diagnosis, Hollie is celebrating the wonderful news that she no longer needs to see her oncologist for check-ups. She shared the announcement with us, family, friends and her passionate social media following through “tears of joy, of celebration, of achievement, of life, of health”.
Now begins another journey. As Hollie adjusts to her new normal the journey of self-acceptance and self-love begins.
A bowel cancer diagnosis and the treatments that follow not only have an impact on the physical, but the mental as well.
Coming to terms with scars from an operation, adjusting to the ‘new normal’ of bowel habits and possibly stoma (whether temporary or permanent) following surgery, living through some of the more extreme treatment side effects, and so on, all can have an impact on body image and how you feel about yourself.
As someone who has been through it all and is now making a concerted effort to focus on self-awareness and acceptance, we asked Hollie to share a few words about the journey to self-love and learning to accept and appreciate your body following a bowel cancer diagnosis.
Self-Love: Hollie’s Kick Ass Story
Going through cancer was a journey in itself. Learning to love and accept the ‘new’ me and my ‘new’ body was another journey all together.
Learning to accept my body post-cancer was a silent battle for me. I loved how much it had been through, I adored the strength it showed, I appreciated it, but I couldn’t find a way to accept the changes.
I fell into denial of this new body that I had and craved to have my old body. I wanted to be able to do things I used to do, I wanted to train without restrictions, I wanted to have the energy I used to, I wanted to be able to eat foods and not have to run to the toilet, I wanted to remove the acne from my face and hide away.
It was an endless cycle of feeling lost but wanting to feel at home in my body. I would avoid the mirrors, cover my scars, stress about the weight gain, live in anxiety and pretend everything was ok but on the inside, I was screaming. The struggle was real and I wanted it to end. I remember thinking to myself, who would love someone with scars like these, how could I ever find a partner when I had been through cancer and that’s when I realised I needed to love and accept myself before I could allow someone else to love me.
It’s so easy to get caught up on the comparison trap to who we used to be before cancer or to what everyone else is doing in their life, but that doesn’t serve us. It only causes us more pain. We aren’t given the tools to accept the new changes in our lives and our bodies, it’s up to us to accept them and that was the biggest learning for me.
I could spend my days wishing to have my old life back and comparing myself to what I used to be able to do or what I used to look like or I could swap it for compassion. I could appreciate the body I have, how amazing it is, how strong it is, how brave it is, how resilient it is, how empowered it is, because that’s what I deserved. I deserved to feel good about myself and so do you.
I understand how hard it is to process the changes and to accept what you have been through, but it’s needed. It has happened and learning to accept your changes empowers you to love who you are. I learnt that focusing on what I do have, rather than what I don’t have, is a big must in accepting who we are. Giving your energy to the present moment rather than the past will make you feel good, it will shift your awareness to what’s working rather than what’s not, and help you find ways to love and accept your body even more.
The acceptance journey doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a continuous commitment to yourself and to your healing. There will be harder days than others, but you need to remind yourself of how amazing you are and everything you have been through and know that who you are right now is enough.
Choosing to accept yourself as you are with all the parts that may not be what you want is self-empowering, because this is your life. For me I know I would rather spend my second chance at life loving and accepting who I am rather than wish to be something else.
I know that it is up to me to make this life as fulfilling and loving as I can and that I always have a choice in how I choose to see myself and I choose to see the best me always. I choose to see beyond the external and see within to my soul.
Just remember that because you are different on the outside, maybe some scars, a colostomy bag, acne, weight gain or loss, hair thinning, low energy you are still the same amazing inspirational woman on the inside.
Your external shell doesn’t change who you are, it doesn’t define your worth or make you less than enough. Who you are comes from within.
Remember this - there is nothing wrong with who you are, you just need to reconnect back to yourself, accept yourself and love yourself.
Here are some tips with you to help you continue or begin this journey for yourself:
- Let go of who you think you should be, who you used to be and allow yourself to embody and live life with the new changes in your body.
- Practice gratitude, every day. List 3 things you are grateful and WHY (the why connects you to the feeling of gratitude).
- Mirror work every day, stand in front of the mirror and appreciate how amazing your body is, forgive it, thank it and love it. (This may be confronting, but so healing).
- Journal your thoughts, brain dump all your worries, anxieties and fears its always better out than in.
- Write yourself a love letter.
Remember your body is amazing and loving who you are is a human need.
Your journey has gifted you a deeper connection and power to your body, your heart beats for you every day, be sure to feel that support and believe in who you are.
Living with bowel cancer
Over 15,000 Australians are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year. You are not alone.
If you or someone you care about is living with bowel cancer, Bowel Cancer Australia can help.
Through the charity’s confidential helpline, Bowe Care Nurse and Nutrition service, Peer-to-Peer Support Network, Patient Resources and much more. Bowel Cancer Australia provides support and care for the growing number of Australians diagnosed with bowel cancer each year and their families.
For further details visit Finding Support