The sexy side of breast cancer

You’re there. Sitting in an impersonal doctor’s office, so cliché in its décor that it could be any doctor’s office. You’re in a chair that you’d rather not remember but whose upholstery you’ll never forget. Because the itch coming from that hue of blue made your skin crawl so much that your body didn’t feel like your own.

You see the doctor mouth the words you knew in your gut were coming. The words you felt clumped together in your breast a week before you came to this office. And sat in this chair.

A breast cancer diagnosis can make you feel like your body was hijacked. Everything that was womanly about you is suddenly taken from you, quite literally, and you’re left by yourself to rationalize something that is too intimate for others to understand and too universal to keep bottled up.

Not very often does a breast cancer diagnosis make you love your body, and even less often does it make you love your breast. But that’s what happened for Eriko.

“My breast cancer made me a sexier person,” she said. “I was forced to become in tune with my body and my breast. I had no choice. Not all women really want to have to deal with it, but when you’re confronted with a diagnosis of cancer, you have to pay attention to your body in ways you never did before.”

Eriko decided right after her diagnosis that her cancer wasn’t going to take her life from her. She pulled out a calendar, started a treatment countdown and asked her husband to buy her something pink and sparkly to honor the occasion.

Honoring herself became as central a part of her treatment as her mastectomy and radiation were, and Eriko believes that helped her maintain her sense of femininity.

“While I was going through breast cancer treatment, which was hell, I would set these little mini-goals,” she said. “One of them was, on Fridays, when I knew my radiation treatment was over for the weekend, I would drive over to my favorite restaurant and order my favorite salad, take it to go, then run home and take a nap or a bubble bath – just to kind of honor myself.”

A little extra attention went a long way in making Eriko comfortable in her new body. When she first lost her breast, she was very sensitive about her scar and didn’t like anything to touch it. A friend gave her a pair a silk pajamas, and soon the scar started to feel less like a battle wound and more like a badge of honor.

“One of my girlfriends flew to Thailand often, and she said, ‘I have the perfect gift for you. I am going to buy silk Thai pajamas for you and I know you’ll love them,’” Eriko said. “When she gave them to me I thought, ‘Oh, I don’t want to wear anything like that. It’s like too much fabric against my skin.’ I was still very, very sensitive, and my scar was still healing. But those silk pajamas are my favorite ones now because they make me feel very sexy and pretty.”

The pajamas showed her that her sensuality had little to do with her anatomy and more to do with her state of mind. If she could make herself feel feminine and sexy by wearing clothes that felt good against her skin, her scar wouldn’t be as disruptive.

“When I finally felt like it was okay, I would go shop for these really sexy camisoles,” she said. “That’s what I wear underneath my clothes, and that’s just for me. It makes me walk taller and feel proud that I am a woman.”

Eriko feels that cultivating her sexy side during her breast cancer treatment gave her a new perspective on life, and while it may seem counterintuitive, she recommends other women try it.

“When going through breast cancer treatment or other hardships, always know that there is an end, and that it is not always going to be this dark,” she said. “Treat yourself, buy some bling, buy a sexy outfit. Buy a camisole, buy some shoes. Go out and get a manicure or a pedicure with your girlfriend. You deserve it.”

If you’re looking for a way to celebrate the body’s transformation from woman to survivor, check out Save the Ta-Tas, a cute line of shirts and other gear that celebrates breasts and scars alike. A portion of all purchases goes to fund research, so your dollar does double duty!

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Living large… and loving it!

When Meryl took the stage with three of her plus-sized girlfriends on America’s Got Talent, she earned the respect of women across the country… and caught the eyes of most men.

Her fishnets drew attention to her thick thighs, and her corset hugged curves that most women cloak in sweatshirts. She climbed on stage in front of millions of people in lingerie, something few of us would be willing to do even if we exist within our healthy weight range.

But the vixen who made it to the semi-finals last season wasn’t always living large. She said she’s always been a big girl, but something about going from a 13/14 in Juniors to a 16 in women’s clothes caused her to start a painful phase of self-loathing.

“It killed me mentally,” said Meryl. “I couldn’t face having to shop in a plus-size store.”

In college, she decided to take Fen-Phen, a controversial weight loss medication that was eventually recalled. She lost the weight, but she also lost herself.

“I thought if I lost all this weight, I would be happier, more social, date more; I thought I would be perfect,” she said. “That’s not what happened. I wound up becoming totally anti-social. I didn’t want to see anyone. I had no energy. I was always tired and fatigued. And, yeah, I could wear clothes that were nice but I look at pictures of myself then and I was so sad.”

Eventually, Meryl was diagnosed with heart valve damage from the Fen-Phen and she was forced to ask herself if thin was worth dying for.

Meryl learned to love herself and accept her body in part because of the positive support she received through her song and dance troupe, the Glamazons. The quartet regularly performs in New York City and has appeared on The Insider, Entertainment Tonight, and Access Hollywood.

“When I decided to embrace my body, I started getting my boobs back, wearing bright colors and dressing sexier, and suddenly, I felt like a beautiful woman,” said Meryl. “The Glamazons are the result of that change in me. The group is an opportunity for girls who are big and beautiful to sing and dance professionally. We get travel and meet all kinds of girls who are inspired by us and who are moved by what we do.”

Meryl and the other Glamazons took inspiration to a whole new level in 2007 with America’s Got Talent. Singing sultry numbers like “Lady Marmalade,” “Hey Big Spender” and “Fever,” they made women of all shapes and sizes want to tie on something lacy and prance around like burlesque dancers.

Meryl said that dressing like you love yourself is part of the process to learning to love yourself.

“Dress according to your personality, not your size,” she said. “Covering up your curves just makes you look bigger. Wear clothes that make you feel good about yourself and that you feel good in.”

Once you’re outfitted, the next thing to change is your mind. Meryl’s shown it can be done, but the rest is up to you.

Feeling the big love? Watch Meryl perform “Lady Marmalade” with the Glamazons last season on America’s Got Talent.

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How Martial Arts Made Me Confident

Meredith never imagined she’d become a martial artist, let alone considered the benefits of a disciplined body and mind. It all started when her boyfriend brought her to a dojo in San Francisco.

The moment she set foot in the doorway, she knew that she had found a place she wanted to invest herself in, “I had been involved with the Burning Man festival and a lot of other crazy, fun activities. I was 34 and I decided it was time to grow up a little bit, so I went to the dojo and there were all these kids in their little uniforms, and there was this element of family that was totally different than anything I had ever experienced.”

Nobody messes with Meredith. When she walks down the street, she knows she can protect and defend herself. “With martial arts, I feel safe in my body. There is a level of confidence I hold in my body when I walk down the street everyday. If I am wearing high heels or I am dressed up for some event my head is up, my focus is up, and I am attuned to my environment.”

Along with confidence and focus, martial arts have given Meredith a freedom from body issues. “The very practice of martial arts means that your body is clothed in uniform. Having a uniform allows me to be viewed as the same as everyone that I practice with.“ In addition, sex appeal transformed from being contained within body parts and physical features like hair or the shape of a figure, to manifesting itself in the immaterial feelings with the body.

Three years ago, Meredith broke her clavicle. She attributes her rapid recovery to her involvement and new awareness of her body found in martial arts. “In hapkido, my body was attuned and I was able to heal, and do arm movements. I would have never had the return to normal in my left arm if I hadn’t been practicing punches and kicks, and being aware of what my experience was while I was in the dojo.”

Did you know that there is a National Women’s Martial Arts Federation? Check out their web site here!

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