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From Resistance to Love: My Body After Cancer

From Resistance to Love: My Body After Cancer

“We all have scars; both inside and out. Use your experience to support those who are going down the same once went down. Know that your past is worth more than the pain you once carried because it can now be used to comfort and give strength to another soul who is suffering. Cherish your trials and tribulations as gifts; embrace these opportunities to share the grace you have been given.” - Katie Maslin

The big C word brings such fear, anguish, sadness and grief. We never think it will be us until it is. Our lives will never be the same as we embark on this emotional, physical and spiritual journey with our bodies and inner selves.

Nena ThornbergI had surgery first and pushed for a double mastectomy due to my Triple Negative diagnosis. I knew that I did not want breast reconstruction and all the surgeries that it would take so that I can have more time with my husband Paul and our 7-year-old daughter Serena. I shaved my head before chemo began so that I can donate my hair to kids with cancer and not have to watch it fall out.

At First It's Hard to Look At

Even so, it was hard at first when I looked in the mirror at my rail-thin body with little muscles left by chemo and the loss of the long hair that I once loved. I’m a firm believer in planning ahead. I purchased wigs before I shaved my hair. I found various pictures of women who had tattoos after their mastectomy. All with hopes that I could cover up my bald head, scars and insecurities, and regain some femininity.

As time went on, and I grew more comfortable in my new skin, I was able to shed my wig and embrace my baldness. The scars began to remind me of where I had been and the healing that had taken place. We live in an era of filters and photo editing, with unrealistic images of women that can spur an unrealistic quest to be ‘perfect’. I didn’t want to be perfect. I wanted to be real.

I'm Not Perfect. I'm Real.

In my online support group on Facebook, I came across a post about The Grace Project by Charise Isis who captures pictures of women after breast cancer. The images that I saw on her website were of women of different shapes and sizes. Some were flat, some with unilateral mastectomy, and some with reconstruction. Each woman is so different and unique, and so imperfectly perfect. Charise happened to be in LA while I had just finished all of my treatment. So I had the opportunity to participate in the Grace Project.

It was the first time I began to accept my new normal, my new body. I feel, for the first time, empowered, strong, and beautiful. This is who I want to model for Serena, who came with me to the photoshoot with Charise.

Awareness. Hope. Reflection. Healing. This is my story.

Nena Thornberg and Daughter

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Everyone’s experience with breast cancer is unique. Sharing your story on the YSC blog is a powerful way to speak your truth and help others.
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