Note: Some photos of my surgery scars – but I only share ones that are not excessively graphic!
Yesterday I returned to the pool. I’ve been approved to for a few weeks but I had a few obstacles: getting my car going again, becoming more steady (with a cane) to be able to handle driving and going out on my own, the recent disastrous increase of Covid cases in my community (many cases are the variants and it’s putting a strain in hospitals), shame for the surgery weight gain, the scars left on my leg from surgery, and the stares I’d get for using a cane at 36.
The car was fixed (needed new battery), the snow and ice melted, and I was more steady and comfortable in driving and going out without help. But I was still hesitant. A lot of the hesitation was due to not wanting to put myself at risk for Covid and also trying to determine if swimming was a necessary outing or one I could omit to help my community reduce the spread of cases. I talked to my local YMCA and my physiotherapist. The current protocol in the pool and the Y made me feel very safe in going to the pool and that swimming wouldn’t be an unnecessary risk. My physiotherapist also strongly believed it would be immensely helpful in my recovery and my progress. Yet, when I put on a bathing suit, I saw my reflection and at first, I did not recognize the woman in the mirror.
Now, I’m not a vain person. I am the woman who stopped using make up 7 years ago because I liked the woman I was without makeup and always felt more comfortable without. I’m the woman who lived in an excessively overweight body for most of my childhood, all of my teen years and most of my twenties. I’ve learned to live in a body I didn’t feel comfortable in and to still dress and style myself to be comfortable for me, not others.
However, a huge part of me wanted to use multiple excuses – Covid, using a cane, all the other physio I’m already doing and justifying it as enough, wait until I lose some weight – to not return to swimming. But I forced those thoughts back, threw on pants and a hoodie over my suit, I grabbed my swim bag, I drove to the YMCA, I got out of my car, made it to the change room, and I got myself into the pool.
The swim felt amazing!
I did receive some stares and some even asked – and I just shared my story and I found so many were supportive and one person said to me: “If you can come back to the pool from all of that, and be here even with a cane and scars, then I have no excuse to come back tomorrow either.” So when I came across the quote: “I would rather have a body full of scars and a head full memories than a life of regrets and perfect skin.”, I really understand what that meant.
The body full of scars is both physical and mental scars. This journey is not just a physical battle but it is a mental battle almost every hour. Some days I have to really convince myself to complete a physio task as I’m so exhausted physically and mentally. The weight gain has been a major mental challenge with myself. I worked hard to lose the weight I did over 3 years and I worked hard throughout the before surgery, during surgery and after surgery to eat healthy and do what I could to manage it – but unfortunately not being able to do the high intensity of training I used to, the weight has crept back on – very nearly to where I was when I began.
Yes, I could take all of what I’ve been through, the setbacks I’ve had, and the losses this journey has created and fixate on it to a point of a major depression. And trust me, I have been near there – I won’t sugarcoat it. This. Is. Not. Easy. And to accept and face it every day takes an emotional toll. So I tell myself take each task one at a time. Take each hour by hour, each day by day.
So, with swimming I focused on step by step. First I called to ask about Covid protocol. Next, I packed my swimming bag. After, I booked a swim time. Then, I put on my bathing suit followed by throwing on clothes. By putting suit on at home, it reduced the anxiety of getting changed in change room both due to my weight gain and my scars, and I could have less excuses to leave the change room and not get into the pool. I still had to shower and change after the swim, but it was getting into the pool that would be the challenge as after, you have no choice but to shower and change – especially in Saskatchewan when winter returns – there’s no way you can just leave in your wet suit!
So, I am battling a body full of physical and mental scars. But I will have memories of how hard I fought this whole journey. My goal isn’t to look perfect, act perfect, or have perfect skin during this setback or even after it. But when I look back, I hope I can say I didn’t have regrets with how I dealt with what I was given. I still aim to get back on track with my weight loss journey and to get back to as many activities I used to do before this. My priority is returning to teaching, followed by being able to do long walks, rucking, kettlebells, and hopefully running too. My priority is to always recognize the woman in the mirror regardless of what she looks like and if her physical appearance changes, for better or for worse.
And I’ll put on those shorts and bathing suits without shame but with pride in the warrior I am and for the scars and memories I am fortunate to have – as it all just means I am alive, I am living life the best I can, and that I fought for myself to have a better pain free life.