Losing my leg was worth it...
Updated: Jul 16, 2020
Life experiences have a powerful effect on how we view ourselves and how we tally-up our self-worth. We may not be aware of the labels we hold or their effect on our self worth. How have your life experiences changed the way you see yourself and what beliefs you have adopted? My hope is that my story will serve as an example of how “unpacking” these beliefs can not only expose how you’re holding yourself back, but eventually set you free!
At the age of nine, I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a malignant bone tumor, in my right leg. I found myself thrown into a world of blood draws, chemotherapy and surgeries. Nobody imagines this becoming their daily life - especially a child! Everything I once considered normal changed and my physical appearance was a direct manifestation of the transformation. I found myself asking questions about who I was without all of the things I once was defined by. Pre-cancer, I was a carefree kid who loved softball, outdoor activities and constant playdates with friends. This all shifted with my diagnosis and so did the way I viewed myself.
I am more than my physical appearance
The physical changes I went through were swift and considerable. I woke up every morning with strands of my long, light-brown hair laying across my pillowcase and at the end of each day large clumps of my hair laid in the drain of the bathtub. I felt out of control, as I shed my old self and a new life was coming towards me - I felt powerless to stop it. This was the first loss I experienced from cancer, but far from the last. My once strong, healthy body transformed to a frail frame. I barely recognized myself, when I looked in the mirror. I thought, “Who is this girl looking back at me?” During these times, something deep within me would emerge and remind me of my unconditional worthiness. I found this deeper, more reflective side through journaling and finding stillness within myself. No matter what was going on around me, nothing could take that inner peaceful feeling away. The greatest shift happened after my leg was amputated during the rotationplasty surgery. I am grateful everyday for the surgery that saved my life, but having a backwards foot that now serves as my knee was mind-blowing to say the least! Catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror after bath-time, I would cringe and shudder at my own appearance. I was able to accept the reality that my body was changed from surgery, but feeling “ok” with it took me longer.
I am NOT what I do, say, think or feel
I felt my old life fall away and I so deeply wanted to be “normal” again, play with my friends and sleep in my own bed. Instead, I focused on being brave and finding courage in the hardest of times. I learned how to focus on what was within my control and attempted to let go of what wasn’t. My new identity became one of strength and perseverance. However, I shut out so many of my “negative emotions” so I could remain strong in my own eyes. At that time, I did not know how to hold space for both my fears of treatment or dying and the strength and positivity I needed to get through the day to day - I thought it had to be “all or nothing”. I didn’t know it then, but I know now that the tough and often painful emotions of fear, anger and disappointment are great teachers. I pushed away uncomfortable emotions I did not want to feel, because I was afraid of what it meant about me. In a nutshell, I have learned the powerful difference between “I am feeling weak” and “I am weak”. There is no greater strength than speaking your truth. It is better to show up with honesty and realness than pretend to be ok when you’re not. We all have the freedom to be both happy and sad at the same time. We can learn how to control our emotions, only after we honor them - all of them!
I am worthy and equal
I believed I was a burden. Hospital bills and prosthetic expenses left me feeling like a financial burden on my family. The stress surrounding my thirteen months of treatment made me feel guilty for all I had put my family through - I felt responsible for something so wildly out of my control. I felt the need to hustle for my worth and add value to the room I was in, because I alone did not feel like I was enough. As a mother myself now, this breaks my heart on many levels, because I know that I would never view my child as a burden. My parents did not view me that way either. It was my own belief that led me to feel this way. So I replaced my old belief of “I am a burden” with “I was and always will be ENOUGH just as I am”. I find acceptance in slowing down my outside world, doing something that brings me joy, journaling and talking with a trusted friend to help me understand I’m not alone. My power and worthiness had always been there, I just needed to step into it and BELIEVE it inside my heart. We are all worthy - nothing else is required of us.
The conversation of self-worth begs the question, “Who am I?”. But what if the answer to that question is too expansive to be defined? One thing I know for sure is; I am NOT my experiences, physical appearance or even my beliefs. I can, however, use the obstacles that come my way as an opportunity to accentuate myself. I can embrace all of it without fear, because my worthiness is no longer on the table! I am imperfect, ever changing and undefinable. I am strong and weak, brave and afraid, breaking-down and breaking-through. I AM allowed to be all of it and so are you!