Words of Wisdom: Body Image

How you feel about your appearance is called body image, and it can oftentimes be impacted when you are on the brain tumour journey. Whether it be short-term physical changes like hair loss due to chemo, or longer term side effects from surgery or medications, it's important to recognize that you may view yourself and your body differently after a diagnosis.

We asked a couple volunteers how they have coped with their body image changes, and these are their Words of Wisdom:


Lesley-Ann’s Words of Wisdom

At age 26 I was diagnosed with a craniopharyngioma, a pituitary brain tumour. At that time I weighed about 100 pounds. Ironically, although I was very petite and thin, I viewed myself as being chubby. I always wore my clothes a size larger than necessary. Upon returning from the hospital four weeks after my first surgery, I had gained a whopping 65 pounds due to the steroid medications, which I was told I would take for the rest of my life. I remember the many crying episodes I had as I looked into my closet and saw my beautiful clothes; clothes I would never fit into again. I removed all of the mirrors in my room. The weight gain had occurred so rapidly that my brain couldn’t comprehend my image. I asked myself, "Who is that person in the mirror? That is NOT me!"

Unfortunately, our society judges us first upon our appearance. If you are overweight, people may think that you are lazy and eat fast food all of the time. Only rarely does a person consider that you may have an illness that has caused you to look a certain way. And even rarer is the person who can see beyond your appearance when you first meet them.

Finally, I started to purge. The Salvation Army has been given countless donations of my clothing. After many years, and many sizes, I have learned to love and accept myself exactly the way I am. I no longer try to be who I once was. I am me, a different me but perhaps a better me. Change is not always negative. I now focus on being healthy, eating nutritious foods and staying physically fit.


Liz’s Words of Wisdom

I had returned home a few days earlier from my 2nd brain surgery. My youngest son Phillip, who was 14 at the time, said, “Mom, I want to bring the running team by this afternoon. The kids all want to say hi.” I said, “No Phil. I am not ready to entertain just yet.” He replied, “No, no Mom - I have a case of water in the foyer, and I promise we will just breeze through.” I finally said ok.

I realized after this conversation that this was my son’s way of saying to me that it didn’t matter that my face was a bit distorted from the surgery. He was just glad to have me here with him. I figured if my little boy could be so mature and matter of fact about my facial paralysis...so could I!


Liz and Lesley-Ann are volunteer Support Group Facilitators for Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada.
A heartfelt thank you is extended to them for sharing their personal stories to bring hope to others. 


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