Guest blog: Kristin Moya
BREAST CANCER & BODY CONFIDENCE STRUGGLES
I woke up on a hospital bed feeling a bit numb, confused, and in pain. Had I just been stabbed? My stiff neck, aching back, and burning chest were among the many pains I felt as soon as I opened my eyes. I remember thinking, wow, I was ALIVE! But, a part of me had been missing. I looked down and my chest was gone. - Of course, I had balloons placed for reconstruction, but a part of me was gone…nipples and all. As the months past, my breasts healed, my scars became lighter, and I found myself finally getting my permanent implants in. In the midst of it all, I said hello to self doubt as I looked in the mirror. Surprisingly, the self doubt I had wasn’t towards my new foobs, it was actually the result of my short hair. You see, the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I wanted both boobs removed. I knew I had a 50/50 chance of surviving, so I opted for my life. On the other hand, going into treatment knowing I was about to lose all my hair made matters worse. I would officially be known as the “22 year old sick girl” and no longer for who I am. At least that’s what I thought.
While my hair started to regrow, I struggled with my confidence. I no longer felt beautiful. Let’s rewind back to the days where I started to lose strands of my hair in the shower. I had never felt more subdued to my cancer. This was it. Anxiety crept in as I was faced with my inner demon - self doubt. I knew I was bald and beautiful to others, but the inner me couldn’t bare to look at myself in the mirror. For about a year I struggled with my confidence. Though I had hair extensions put in to help with my self esteem, my life was still incomplete. My breasts were the least of my worries. I had two new foobs after my reconstruction to embrace and get used to, as they were a size bigger than my original. I felt perkier than ever. At this point I had about 6 scars: Four on my breasts, one on my neck, and one slightly above my left breast. But for me personally, I still was more worried about my hair than the fact that I was a 23 year old who had a bilateral mastectomy with no nipple sparring.
Although I did not pay much attention to this issue, I also felt rather uncomfortable because of my new chemo bod. Living in South Florida, I always had the urge to go back to the beach, but wanted to do so without the need of hiding my body. Here I was, two years after my first diagnosis at only 24 years old, I had battled cancer twice, my hair had grown, and I was proud to say I survived. So why was that not enough? Why was I wasting my time thinking about how I looked or what people thought of my appearance? I knew the cancer created this mess. But now, the question was how was I going to fix the mess it left behind?
Throughout my entire battle I was the strongest I’ve ever been. It did not phase me to have cancer, to lose my breasts, or even understand the fact that I could have died. Instead, the changes it made to my appearance formed an inner battle within myself. However, then it clicked. I decided it was time to make a change.
Following the months of low self esteem, I began to exercise daily whilst boosting my confidence and strengthening the motion of my upper body. One year later, I joined the gym and my new-found love for weight training began. I was in a rather good place about myself. My natural hair was finally up to my shoulders, my skin was glowing, my body had been becoming stronger. But…there I was, faced with yet another challenge: a bathing suit.
FINDING POST-MASTECTOMY OPTIONS FOR MY RECONSTRUCTED BREASTS
Because of my implants, I could no longer wear bras containing any form of underwire. I was forced to find bathing suits suitable for my circumstance, but it became difficult. My breasts were either too big, too small, or followed by an indescribable level of discomfort around my underarms and chest. Ugh- was it a battle! Not only did I feel uncomfortable because my bathing suits didn’t fit, I still wasn’t confident enough in the way I looked to be seen in public. I couldn’t bare the idea of being seen in a bikini when all I could think about was if people could see the fact that my right breast was just a tad bit smaller than my left breast?! Yeah, I know… the “ideal” effects of having 30 rounds of radiation.
Kristin shows off the details in the sporty Cortez Halter Swim Top
I could recall countless conversations I’ve had with women who stressed the fact that my body would never be the same anymore. The likelihood of my body returning to normal wasn’t expected considering the exposure I had to chemotherapy, radiation, and maintenance treatment that involves my daily intake of Tamoxifen, Levothyroxine, and monthly shots of Lupron. Let me not forget about the fact that I have to be in menopause. I remember allowing these conversations to sink into my mind and consume me. There my mind was, focused on the fact that I was 24, without boobs and ready to gain water weight from my medication. How would I be able to go to the beach living in South Florida with all these setbacks? How would I feel beautiful in a bikini?
Showing off her curves in the Cortez Keyhole Pocketed Swimsuit
As the months past my body became more toned as a result of my daily visits to the gym. For me, this was a way of coping with the cancer. I guess you can say this was my form of meditation. I felt happiness because I was able to prove many theories wrong. I no longer had the setback of lacking confidence in myself or appearance. The medication nor my breasts phased any bit of me. I said goodbye to the thoughts that were consuming my mind and began to embrace the start of a new life. That is, life after cancer. Boy is this life sweet!! For the first time in forever I felt like ME once again. In all honesty, coming from a time where inflammation was the new norm because of the amount of steroids and chemotherapy I received, my days of looking in the mirror suddenly became a joy as I started to dwell on the fact that my hair was getting longer and my body was toned. I had ultimately reached a phase where my main desire was to bring sexy back into the life after cancer - where I was no longer facing many of the challenges I once had, but instead living my best life. Why should I hide my scars? Why should I ever feel uncomfortable in my own skin? HECK, I had just lost both breasts at 23 and my thyroids at 24, I should be proud to feel beautiful and sexy after cancer.
FEELING SEXY AFTER BREAST CANCER
My days of going to the pool and beach became pure bliss. My doubts were buried away with all the insecurities I once had. I could remember the soft feeling of sand in between my toes and the freedom I suddenly felt the first time I wore a bikini again. It was a moment of proof that life after cancer is possible. Sexy after cancer is possible. Feeling beautiful after cancer is possible. It's not only about having faith, but my advice is to always have the will power to accept yourself as you are. With or without boobs, we are ALL beautiful. With or without hair, we are ALL beautiful. My husband always says confidence radiates beauty. The truth is, it does. For a long time, I lacked confidence in wearing a bikini to the beach without covering my body up because of the worry people would notice the difference in my breast size or the little bit of cellulite I had behind my legs because of the treatment side effects. The reality is, I’m proud to walk in my shoes because they’ve walked a battle not many can understand. I know many women in this community can relate to everything I’m saying. But ladies, we have walked a battle that has not been easy,and you know what? We should be proud to flaunt everything we have in a bathing suit or lingerie! It’s time we bring sexy back after cancer. Im living proof that no form of treatment can limit your possibilities of reaching your goals! As AnaOno encourages, you are “NEVER ALONE!” Ladies, I can’t agree more and cannot stress the fact that you are NEVER ALONE! Wearing AnaOno’s swimsuit line made me feel sexier than ever. I felt free wearing the Cortez Keyhole Pocketed swimsuit as it hugged all my curves and gave me a beautiful figure while supporting my breasts!
I encourage every lady out there to gain the confidence in bringing sexy back. As we enter summer take the risk of wearing a bikini and owning it. Trust me, this confidence will have you feeling like a brand new person who is ready to close a chapter. It's time we all start a new chapter and awaken the confidence in our lives after cancer. I know if I can do it, so can you.
Tips for feeling confident your first time in a bathing suit post mastectomy:
- Make sure your breasts are as comfortable as possible. If you are feeling pain this might make you overthink the way you look in a bathing suit. (AnaOno’s Cortez Keyhole Pocketed Swimsuit and Cassis Wrap Top gave me the perfect fit to provide comfort! Absolutely love the way they me cleavage and provided support!)
- Apply sunscreen on your breast area because the skin is more sensitive to sunlight after surgery and treatment.
- Before you go to the beach, spray your body with tanning oil to give yourself an extra glow in your bikini!
- Just remember no one knows your story but you! I tend to assume people have their eyes on me because of my boobs or scars, but they DON’T!
- Confidence radiates beauty!! Always, always, always be confident in yourself as you wear your bathing suit. Your spouse will LOVE this and it will make you feel better about yourself.
- Have fun wearing your bathing suit! Remember the battle you walked? You deserve to feel sexy in your swimsuit!!
At the age of 21, Kristin Moya graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Psychology with a minor in biology. At only 22 years old, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and then told she’d lose her hair, both breasts, and would eventually need to have a total hysterectomy. Followed by this challenging battle, she was diagnosed a year after her bilateral mastectomy with thyroid cancer. Despite her journey, she received her Master of Science degree in Forensic Psychology graduating with honors. Now, Kristin hopes to inspire other women and let them know that life after cancer is possible. She doesn’t intend on allowing cancer to limit the possibilities of achieving her goals and wants to help others do the same. Kristin also recently bravely shared her story with Cosmopolitan.You can keep up with Kristin on her Instagram, @kristin.marissa