A woman stands strong as the darkness shatters around her and reveals light.

Learning to Love My Body after Surgery to Remove DFSP

After having two surgeries for dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans (DFSP), a rare form of skin cancer, I now have a larger body with more scars. The result of the surgeries is that I am now cancer-free, thankfully. However, the physical and emotional remnants of surgery are numerous. 

What dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans (DFSP) surgery has left me with

My first surgery left me with a row of sutures, followed by steri-strips covering the length of the wound that had a small piece in the middle that took forever to heal. The second surgery left me with 27 staples, followed by steri-strips after the staple removal 4 weeks later. I have only been able to tolerate biker shorts, leggings, dresses, and loose rompers so that I do not aggravate my wound.

I haven't been able to exercise

I used to do Crossfit, and I joined Orange Theory during the middle of the Covid pandemic. Since my first surgery 3 months ago, I have not been able to exercise, and I likely won’t be able to until I am cleared by my surgeon in a few more weeks. In addition to not exercising, I have a bad habit of eating my feelings and not adhering to my usually healthy nutrition. While this has helped me avoid falling into a deep depression and having panic attacks during my recovery, the combination of a sedentary lifestyle and overeating has led to me gain 20 pounds.

I had to decide how to treat myself

This weight gain gave me a choice; either I hate how I look and speak negatively about myself every time I look in the mirror, or I embrace my new size and buy bigger clothes that make me feel good about myself. I chose the latter, and I am so happy I did. I remember when I was at my smallest adult size a few years ago, I stressed about losing more weight, lifting heavier in the gym, and attaining the “perfect body”. I compared myself to fitness models every time I scrolled through my social media account, and I was never happy with myself.

I wake up and accept what I see

Now that I have no other option since I have not been cleared after my dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans surgeries and physically cannot go to the gym, I wake up every morning and choose to accept my body the way it is. I have stretch marks from 2 successful pregnancies, scars from 2 c-sections and 2 cancer resection surgeries, and what appears to be a tummy tuck only on one side of my abdomen.

I named her Bertha

I have since named my “larger than I’m used to” tummy Bertha and I have accepted her scars, stretch marks, and rolls. I no longer suck Bertha in for pictures, and I no longer tell myself that Bertha is too big to wear crop tops. I also no longer tell myself I don’t have a “bikini body” because I have both a bikini and a body, therefore I have a bikini body. Anyone who does not want to see my bikini body or my halfway tucked tummy in a crop top can simply look the other way.

I've learned to love my capable body

I am still awaiting the day when my surgical oncologist clears me for exercise, but for now, I have learned to love the body that allowed me to survive 2 surgeries to remove dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans cancer, and I am thankful to Bertha for teaching me self-love and a positive body image. I hope this can be a reminder to anyone who has scars from skin cancer treatments to love and appreciate themselves, regardless of how they look. Your scars are a constant reminder that something tried to kill you but was unsuccessful!

How do you feel about your skin cancer scars?

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