Loving my body has always been a difficult thing to do, as I am sure it has been for all men and women in the 21st century. Every single day we are subjected to media that tries to define beauty. The truth is, beauty cannot be defined as having a particular body type, figure, or image. Over the past couple of years I have finally learned to love everything about my God-given body. I am grateful for finding comfort in my own skin because not many people can say that they are truly accepting of their appearance. I'm not necessarily giving advice on how to learn to love your body because everyone has their own way of finding self-acceptance and happiness. I can only write about my own personal journey of turning every physical flaw deemed by society, into a unique trait that makes me, me. I can honestly say that having Cystic Fibrosis has made me more appreciative of my body, despite the many negative aspects of the disease.
For starters, I have always been insecure about my size. I stand at 5'1", whereas the average supermodel has about nine more inches of lengthy body. My weight has always fluctuated between 100-115 pounds. My petite body type has a hard time fitting in clothes that are made for women five inches taller (and bustier) than me. I know everyone reading has their own challenges when it comes to the dressing room!
People with Cystic Fibrosis are generally underweight because of malabsorption in the digestive system. As a child, I always had a low BMI in comparison to other girls my age, making doctors concerned with my ability to fight off possible lung infections. I remember getting asked if I was an anorexic dancer by a ten year old girl when I was just six. That experience definitely made me aware and self-conscious of my thin body. As I grew older, I had an easier time packing on the pounds and could maintain a healthier weight. In high school, I hit 130 pounds and was called, "fat" by an anonymous family member. That didn't help my negative body image either. I couldn't find a weight that I felt comfortable at. It was a very confusing period of time for me. Now, at 24, I am at a healthy 115 pounds and feel comfortable looking in the mirror. I am not the most fit I could be, which I plan on changing, but all-in-all I'm happy with my size.
Another insecurity that I have managed to overcome, is the size of my actual chest. 24 years of violent coughing has induced stress and scarring to my lungs. This has caused my actual chest diameter to expand. Developing a "barrel chest" is a natural side effect in people who suffer from respiratory conditions. I am aware that having a larger chest is not a very feminine quality. However, my chest and upper back have become so strong and powerful because of the constant internal pressure of my lungs and hello, strength is sexy! I don't mean to brag, but I can hold certain yoga poses for long periods of time because of my chest and back muscles. I wouldn't be able to do so if I didn't have CF, so for that I am thankful.
On a daily basis, I am constantly reminded of the degenerative process of my disease. In previous blogs I have talked about other ailments and disorders that stem from CF. One of these is osteoporosis. I have not developed this bone condition, but my bones are weaker than normal. Every time I exercise, I can hear my bones crack like pop rocks. Again, I am thankful for this because it means I am able to push myself and I know that if I keep pushing, I will only become stronger.
The biggest insecurity I have had to address, are my extremely mild clubbed fingertips. Pretty quirky and unexpected, I know. The clubbing of fingers and toes occurs in many people with respiratory diseases because of the lack of oxygen in the blood, making for a very odd appearance. About two years ago, I noticed the fingernails on my right hand were starting to club. I. Was. Devastated. If any of you reading know me personally, then you know I am obsessed with keeping my nails manicured at all times. I know it sounds superficial of me, but it's something I find important. Once I noticed the slight clubbing, I made sure to show all of my girlfriends' the eyesore. They all assured me that I was crazy and that they could hardly tell that my fingers looked similar to E.T.'s. The fright has since then worn off and I finally agree with my friends. You can barely tell my fingers are clubbed. They could be so much worse. I have even learned to love my newly shaped nails.
When I look at myself in the mirror, and really look at all of the features that my disease has caused, I am proud. I have literally fought for my body. I am a warrior of my disease and my body is the battlefield. Every scar that my enemy, cystic fibrosis, has inflicted upon my body, is a triumph. I am alive and grateful for my beautiful, powerful, petite, and scarred body. I'm sure that your body has a story too, so be proud and show it off!