When my left leg unexpectedly swelled up 3 years ago, and I was told it was always going to be swollen, I was ashamed. I was ashamed that my leg was bigger than it had ever been, I was ashamed that it wasn't symmetrical to my right leg, and I was ashamed of the compression garment that I would have to wear every day for the rest of my life.
Not only did cancer make me different, now my fatty leg did, too.
Last year I watched the documentary Embrace on Netflix, and in it Taryn Brumfitt travels the globe talking to women about their bodies, body image, and social perceptions. Toward the end she interviews Turia Pitt, an Australian athlete who was burned over 65% of her body after being caught in a wildfire during an ultra marathon.
She is someone who cannot hide her perceived imperfections. While being interviewed in the documentary, she said something which immediately resonated with me and changed the way I looked at my leg:
"If you're self conscious about something, other people will notice it. But if you just own it, people don't care."
And she was right. I didn't so much decide to own it, as much as I committed to not giving a shit anymore. I've spent the last year ridding myself of the shame, and wrapping that fatty leg around my inner honey badger. I embraced my shorts, stopped shopping for maxi dresses, and gladly accepted a last minute invitation from a friend, photographer, and fellow lymphie to do a photo shoot with my shameful little secret on display.
And the response that came forth was overwhelming. I realized that 30 minutes on a rainy Saturday morning had an impact beyond me and the affirmations on social media for these photos. It made me realize there are people that need to see photos like these. They need to see people just like them living with their self-prescribed shame on display for the world to stare out. Get the rubbernecking out of your system people so we can all resume our regularly scheduled programming. By me releasing my shame, I gave others the courage to release theirs. It's the ripple effect of empowerment.
Now when I step out the door I channel what Turia Pitt said, and remind myself that I don't care so they won't care. Feel free to stare at my fatty leg all you want while I obliviously resume living my life.