I was once shy.
I should clarfify this point, because I imagine those of you who know me and are reading this, would disagree that I have ever been ‘shy’. I was incredibly shy about all issues relating to my body.* My body is fat, hairy, covered in old stretch marks and don’t even get me started on my breasts. I have been in constant battle with my body image my entire adult life, strongly influenced by the kind boys at school, who used to call me ‘pork chop’ or made me put a pencil under my boob to see if it passed the droopy test (I didn’t). In short, there has been a distinct lack of self confidence.
And then on 14 August, all that changed. I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma and I was in a hospital. On my first night in hospital, I had to have an ECG. By the time they came round to do my ECG, something I had only heard about before on ER, I was in my pyjamas and hooked up to fluids via a cannula. That ECG was a quick introduction to hospital life and a lesson of how your body parts are not primarily sexual objects. During the ECG I asked if I could keep my bra on, the male nursing assistant said yes, which I was incredibly relieved about. I did not want to whip my baps out to a complete stranger. It transpired however, that I could not have my ECG with my bra on, nor my top. I slowly, degradingly, had to remove my clothes, where at the end of it, my right boob was flopping out and my t-shirt was over my head, with my body covered in stickers. I remember crying during the whole thing.
As my thirteen night stay progressed, I had to be washed by mother, have my legs shaved by my sister, had an Echo, got stuck on a commode and whilst under general anaesthetic, somebody, I assume a Medically Trained Person, inserted a catheter up my whatssit.
All false shame I had about my body, disappeared. It had to.
I did not realise just how much it had disappeared until I had the ECG last week. When I was asked to remove all clothes on my top half, there were no feelings of modesty or apprehension, I just took off my jumper, shirt and bra and let my two little friends hang right out. I suspected a change when I was at Mamma Jones’ house for Christmas. I would allow the females in my family to see me in a state of undress and think nothing of it, something I know I would not have done before. I do not come from a naked household. On more than one occasion, I failed to shut the bathroom door.
I have been liberated.
I am not quite so liberated in the flat, because I am a considerate person. I acknowledge that it would not be fair for Housemate; I don’t think he needs the image of my naked form in his head all day long. Although I am liberated, I am aware that my form is not for everyone, and you know, there is something called decorum. That said, I do occasionally get changed with my door open. I just forget. Sometimes, I let my boobies hang loose under my pjs whilst making a cup of tea. Other times, I use my arm as a shelf, depending on who is in the house. Thoughtful.
I guess, when you have to routinely talk about your bits and pieces, and show them, all embarrassment disappears. If I continued to be embarrassed, I could only imagine how worked up I would get, and I have more important things to fret over. When everyday is a battle to survive, what your body looks like, shouldn’t and doesn’t matter anymore.**
To be clear, I am not yet a nudist, and I do not think I will ever be the person who walks around the swimming pool changing room with their lady garden on show, but I do hope, that My Myeloma has enabled me to be more comfortable in my own skin. As bumpy and lumpy, with a texture of orange peel as it is, my body is battling something horrific and if it succeeds, I do not think that is something to be ashamed of anymore.
It does not hurt to try and see the positive side of My Myeloma, and this new found acceptance of my physical appearance is evidence of that.
* Toilet talk with certain friends and Big Sister is an exception to this rule. Poo has always been fun.
** I am full of contradictions. I will probably have to remind myself of this when it comes to the big head shaving.