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?
Are you concerned about skin cancer when the weather gets colder?