Naked in the Truth

Soon after my cancer treatments I had the good fortune to participate in the “Love, Intimacy and Sexuality” workshops sponsored by the Human Awareness Institute. These workshops are clothing optional. That means that many people in the workshop are naked. Take a big breath…yes, naked. Unclothed.

At various times participants have the opportunity to stand in front of the group to share their experience. Sweating and shaking, I mustered up my courage to do that because I wanted to be seen with my Image of Aphrodite Sexy After Cancer Barbara Musserchanged body and breast. Somehow I knew that this was part of my personal healing. I stood there quaking in front of 100 men and women, naked, and talked about my shame and pain because of my disfigured breast. People smiled at me and sent me signals of compassion. Then I took a big risk and asked how many of them found me attractive, including my breasts. Almost every hand in the room went up, and many people said, “Scar? What scar?”  I pointed to my scar. Several people smiled and said they couldn’t see it, even sitting 6 feet away from me.

I was shocked! This was the beginning of my real healing.  In that moment the belief I had – that I was disfigured – was shattered. My experience of cancer was reframed in a powerful way.

Many of the participants came up to me and told me how beautiful my breasts and I were, and asked if they could look at, gently stroke or even kiss my breast. A few even knelt down and bowed, saying that these scars had saved my life. Several women came to me and said I had spoken for them, that they had also experienced breast cancer and didn’t have the courage to do what I had done, and that I had done their work for them. They now knew that they could also heal from this trauma.

Later in the workshop, six of us stood in front of the group, all showing our surgically altered breasts. Everyone in the room stood up and bowed to us to honor us. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

These experiences really helped me when I had additional surgeries to remove a large section of my breast and all the lymph nodes under my arm. Not only did I have additional scars, but also my left breast was less than half the size of the other. Radiation therapy further altered the shape of my breast. Even though these were more radical surgeries than the initial lumpectomy, I was able to navigate with less concern about how attractive I was. Something had radically shifted internally, and I knew that my beauty wasn’t a function of what my breasts looked like.

A few years later I became a facilitator of these workshops and often spoke of my experiences with breast cancer. Naked!  Imagine how I felt, this woman with a body radically changed from breast cancer and treatments, standing naked in front of a room full of a hundred people, leading them deeper into their journey of intimacy, sexuality and love.  That was transformational for me and it was hugely healing.  I wrestled with all my personal demons to be transparent and authentic to be able to support others in their process.

There were always women in attendance who identified with my story and carried the belief that they were “damaged goods” as a result of their cancer. I know that by facilitating these workshops and sharing my story, I helped many women (and men) heal the pain they carry about breast cancer and beauty and thinking they don’t fit the standard for beauty in our culture.

If I can do it, so can you. There’s no doubt about that. And it’s not always easy. However, you are worth it. This is your one precious life.  Stick with me as we explore the journey of accepting, forgiving and loving your body as it is now, changed by cancer and treatments.

© 2012 by Barbara Musser, Sexy After Cancer.
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This blog does not reflect the opinions of The Pink Fund, its Founder, Board of Directors, Advisors or Volunteers.  It is not meant to serve as medical advise of any kind.  Any questions about your health and sexuality should be directed to a licensed physician or therapist. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the writer who voluntarily blogs for The Pink Fund without compensation.

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