People StyleWatch Photo Director Shares How Cancer Taught Her To Love Her Body
People StyleWatch Photo Director shares her intimate story about surviving cancer and learning to love her body.
Dear PMM Readers…
What a remarkable woman Rosaliz Jimenez is! It is my absolute pleasure to share her story, in her own words, of her remarkable journey to self-acceptance. If you have a story you would like to share with us this month, please click to share your story.
My Story, by Rosaliz Jimenez…
My mother is teeny tiny-she’s barely 5 feet tall and was less than 100lbs in her 20’s- but on one spring day she managed to give birth to a giant 10 pound baby girl- me. I was a plus size baby and I was so big that I skipped sizes and my poor mom had to cut the sides of my shoes to accommodate my round and wide baby “Fred Flintstone” feet. Everything about me has always been large-my eyes, my legs, and my head, just everything.
Growing up in a household of petite women was tough. When I was 8 I was already wearing the same size as my mom. Not knowing what to do about my growing, round body, my mom took me to see a dietitian at NYU hospital. I was 9 years old, 99lbs and was put on my very first diet. I learned to swap iced cream for “Light n Lively Iced Milk”, I made believe that Tab was just as tasty as a Hawaiian Punch and instead of the Elio’s pizza that my brother would eat, I had to have a tuna sandwich with no mayo and skim milk. And despite her efforts, I kept gaining and gaining weight. I soon became the target of, not only mean kids, but mean adults who constantly made comments about my size. They managed to make me feel like the smallest most insignificant person in the room.
As I became a teenager my self-image and confidence continued to plummet to the point where I fell into a deep depression. It wasn’t until I was 20 that I finally lost a significant amount of weight. I lost 30+lbs by eating 1K calories (or less) a day and exercising twice daily. Even though I had lost the weight, I still felt insignificant and I still felt fat and ugly. I was starving myself and it got to the point where I developed an eating disorder. I was SO hungry that I would binge and purge. I eventually sought help via a therapist who dealt with eating disorders. And even though I was learning the tools to love and accept myself, I never could.
But that all started to change in my 30’s. In 2011 I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Despite the fact that I had several biopsies of my thyroid, none of the biopsies showed cancer, so the diagnosis caught everyone, especially the doctors, by surprise. Apparently, I had it for so long that I had “lympho vascular invasion”. This cancer, which is a very slow growing cancer, had been in me so long that it had spread. After my surgery and radiation, the radiologist said that they noticed “activity” in my lungs. When I asked what that meant, he said that some of the cancer cells might have made their way to my lungs but that they would wait until the following year to check it. At this point I had learned to trust my instincts and I went for a second opinion.
During my visit with the doctor, she assured me that whatever had been in my lungs had been eradicated by the radiation. BUT she went on to tell me that they had, by chance, found a mass on my pancreas. The mass kept growing and one of my doctors told me that he was 100% sure that it was precancerous and 75% sure that I had pancreatic cancer- I literally thought that I was going to die.
In May of 2013 I had half of my pancreas removed. During the surgery my spleen ruptured and they had to cut my ab muscles open. That surgery was what truly changed me. For so long I made self-deprecating remarks about my stomach and “lack of abs” but now that my body was falling apart I realized what a fantastic job my body had ALWAYS done!!! All of the fabulous things that all of the organs that I had lost (3.5) did, how my strong abs helped me get in and out of a chair and to walk! It wasn’t until I had to walk with a cane that I came to appreciate how strong STRONG my body and my spirit had ALWAYS been.
Despite the pain, stitches and wounds, I came to appreciate my body in a way that I had never done before and I offered myself a compassion that I never allowed before and I offered myself love. I started off the process of change by just being grateful for each day and being grateful for being alive.
As my marvelous body healed, I started to use affirmations as a way to show my body how much I admired its strength. Then on January 1st, of 2014 I made a vow to love and respect myself in a way that I never had before. I started an anonymous Facebook blog just so that I could have a place to post positive body confidence quotes, I started to wear my hair down (it was always in a bun) and I joined a clothing subscription service so that I could experiment with fashion. I realized that for years I used fashion to hide and be a wallflower and now I wanted to celebrate my life. It may sound superficial but fashion really helped me during my transformation. It helped me “fake it until I made it”. I now exude a confidence that I NEVER had before. To paraphrase author Kris Carr of “Crazy, Sexy, Cancer” fame, I would never call cancer a gift because I would never want to give it to you but it was the best teacher that I ever had. It taught me to love myself and appreciate my body just the way that it is.
Sharing my story is now my passion! I NEVER, EVER, EVER want anyone- especially plus girls/women- to have to go through a traumatic event before they realize what a miracle their body is and has always been. My body went through cancer, several surgeries, radiation and not only survived but my body and I are thriving! My scars still sometimes hurt but I’m so proud of all of them. My body is strong and so resilient. My body is a miracle and my only regret is not falling in love with it, and myself, sooner- before the cancer, before the scars, before I needed a cane to walk, before the hair loss, before the hospitals. But I accept this, as not only part of my journey, but also part of my mission.
And the most important lesson has been that everything that my body and spirit is- strong, resilient, beautiful- is what your body and spirit is too. We need to live in gratitude of what we have- it’s the only way to transform into who we truly are. Be proud, put on some heels and let the world see who you are! You and I are beautiful so let’s celebrate!