Loving ourselves is all encompassing, both internally and externally. If 20 women were to stand side by side, each would have a different physique and characteristics, making them unique. Yet, we often strive to look like others versus embracing the attributes that make us special. We are our own worst critics. When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
As PKD patients, we may see different things than others see. Some of us have scars tracing our health journey. Others live with a “PKD belly” and may look as if they were pregnant because their kidneys or liver are so enlarged and polluted with cysts. Dialysis patients see a fistula, port or catheter. Transplant recipients see side effects from their medicine, such as weight gain or hair loss. Other patients may see weight gained or lost because of the trials they’ve endured.
I have more than 50 inches of scars that outline what my body has battled and overcome. Prior to my bilateral nephrectomy, my surgeon said I looked 11 months pregnant and a nurse asked me, “When are you due?” When I was on dialysis, I had a catheter for 8 months. And I’ve seen the side effects from transplant meds. When we accept these characteristics as a part of us, they become less visible and more attractive. When I look in the mirror I don’t fixate on my scars – I have accepted them as a part of who I am.
Besides what we experience with PKD, it’s normal to still face the same body image thoughts as anyone else. Wishing we were thinner, curvier, taller, shorter, curly haired or straight haired, etc. I wonder why it is such a challenge to love ourselves just the way we are? I have a scar down my entire back and I’ll admit that when I see a flawless back, I admire it and wonder what it would feel like to not have a scar and wear a top that exposes the back. Silly, I know, but it does cross my mind.
Let’s strive to not compare ourselves to those in magazines or on TV. Let’s remind ourselves of all we have fought through and continue to endure, and be kind to ourselves. If we don’t see the particular figure we desire, focus on how resilient our body is, because that’s what really matters. Most importantly, let’s concentrate on what we have versus what we don’t have. We tend to analyze our bodies and identify the flaws before the positive qualities. If there is something that you would like to improve, understand that it won’t happen overnight and celebrate small victories. We have the bodies of a warrior that fights through a lot on a daily basis, so we deserve to cut ourselves some slack. It is important for us to not only love ourselves internally, but also love our bodies, scars and all.
“She is a warrior of will,
A deity of defiance,
The battle did not break her it made her braver,
The wounds did not weaken her, they gave her wings,
Her scars did not suppress her, they gave her strength,
She embraced the journey she was given with the courage, the confidence and the capacity to conquer,
And in doing so, she has taught us all to dig a little deeper, love a little harder, try a little longer, and never ever surrender.”
– Written by Robin Krystantos for/about Valen
Next time you look in a mirror, I would love for you to share what you see.