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The Tit Is Back!

Updated: Jul 8

‘This week we are delighted to welcome this powerful personal blog from Liz Keates. These won’t be everyones experience but it really resonated with me. Do feel free to add your comments’. Philip Booth


Liz is a Life Purpose and Spirituality Coach who loves helping midlife women who have experienced a life shock, such as cancer, who are now ready to move forward with their lives. Liz supports and encourages women to ignite their purpose so they can create an amazing next chapter in midlife.


The Tit Is Back! 8 lessons learned from a cancer diagnosis, mastectomy & and beyond


Life Shocked


Aged 43 and with no family history of breast cancer, I was totally ‘life shocked’ when I received my breast cancer diagnosis. When I arrived in the consulting room I was sitting upright in my chair. By the end I was slumped and traumatised.


My consultant’s verdict “...mastectomy with delayed reconstruction”. As those words fell from his lips, my heart plummeted endlessly.


“Why can’t you save my nipple?” and “Why does it need to be delayed reconstruction?” were some of the questions I blurted out.


It had yet to occur to me that metastatic disease had still to be ruled out and my prognosis could have been a lot worse - thankfully not.


I’d previously had 3 tumours removed from my left breast. A second opinion concurred that a full mastectomy with delayed reconstruction was the safest option.


My boobs were my favourite part of my body – I had great tits, or so I’ve been told! Where I’d once had a size 34E breast, two weeks later it was gone, leaving a thin scar on my flat chest.

What followed was an extended period of uncertainty, trauma, grief and fear. Fear that it might return or worse metastasise. Later on, acceptance, interlaced with healing on multiple levels - thankfully.


The Tit Is Back?!


A vulgar title, maybe? It’s very in ya face, I’ll give you that! Frankly so is a cancer diagnosis - it’s a huge, cold slap in the face.

This title is courtesy of my nephew who was 9 at the time. We’d agreed that honesty was the best policy, so he knew that I’d had surgery to remove my breast and another to put one back on! 13 months following my mastectomy op, I arrived at the Royal Marsden for my DIEP flap reconstructive surgery, both nervous and excited for this momentous occasion.

A few months later whilst my sister was looking after my nephew his phone rang. He was out of the room she picked it up it and read from the screen “The Tit Is Back!” I can only imagine her face - What the heck, who, what? “Oh yeah, since Aunt Liz had her (reconstructive) surgery that’s what I call her!” My nephew nonchalantly replied.


When my sister relayed this story I literally LOL’d. So crude, so hilarious and SO TRUE! This new handle, became seared into my psyche. When I thought about it, I’d chuckle to myself. Let’s face it, humour is essential at times like these, it takes the edge off the seriousness.

It pretty much sums it up! This experience had changed me. It woke me up and I AM BACK! Not just my tit, but I AM BACK too! And like my new tit, I’m different, some might say an upgraded model


Me and millions of other women:


It would be rare to “arrive” in midlife and not experience at least one big wake up call. No one escapes; divorce, loss, bereavement, ill-health. Collective worldwide shocks, such as the recent world events evoking collective trauma, isolation, fear, grief, and uncertainty – which continues.


I’m conscious that breast cancer is on the rise. Although my sarcoma was rare (less than 1% of all breast cancers) breast cancers overall are not. In-fact 1 in 8 women are diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime.

I’m grateful that I’m more fortunate than many – I got a reprieve. Well, that’s all any of us get really, isn’t it? Yet I stand by my unapologetic right to mourn the loss of this part of my womanhood, the invasiveness of cancer, multiple surgeries and scars, all of which temporarily left my self-esteem in tatters.


Yet, I am also grateful that it “forced me” to face my shadow in a way that I’d never done before. Here are my 8 valuable lessons I gained from this experience.


1. What if the worst thing that happened to you becomes the best!


A cancer diagnosis feels like an intense storm – it’s traumatic. Yet like all storms it passes, at least the initial shock does.


When the dust settled from the shock waves that rushed through my system, gems of wisdom, insights and blessings followed incrementally.


What we rebuild following a storm has the potential to be stronger than what was destroyed in the wake. This is true of our life storms too.


I’ve just celebrated my 6th cancerversary! I hope never to revisit cancer. YET I am now able to appreciate the vast learning from this life-altering experience. I don’t believe I would have learnt so much in such a short space of time any other way.


I’ve learnt that the worst thing that happens to you can became the best thing. The transformation that occurs from the intensity of the crucible offers enormous rewards. It hurts like hell YET as we emerge from the embers. The gift is that we now see life through a different, clearer lens.


Celebrations, romantic dinners, vacations with loved ones all offer beautiful memories and thank f*ck for these times! Yet, it’s less common to receive such powerful insights

and deep shifts during these times. This, my friend, is instead saved as the reward for weathering the intensity of a shit storm! Phew, as it’s much needed.


2. Sovereignty - Take responsibility for your healing & life.


Listen to the professionals of course! AND do your own research, follow your gut and make your own decisions from an informed and empowered position, wherever possible. THIS is one of the most significant lesson I learned, and one I now apply to all areas of my life, as best as I can!


Sovereignty is Queen. This does not come from a place of arrogance or hubris and is not always easy when you are saturated in FEAR. Yet, this lesson taught me not ask or wait for permission from others, but rather TRUST myself more, my inner whispers and the prompts from the universe. Ultimately, we must take our rightful place in this world by embodying our personal power.


Midlife and life shocks are times when our confidence can take a hit. So take one step each day towards sovereignty, towards your unique destiny. Your inner guidance is your best buddy! We have the right to choose, irrespective of what others may think is in our best interest. Sovereignty is your birth-right.


3. Go in and In...


“Go in and in and turn away from nothing that you find”. This is the final line of one of my favourite poems, by Danna Faulds. It speaks beautifully of the value of being in the moment and the profundity of the inner journey.


Initially, post diagnosis, longer meditations felt overwhelming for me, so a few minutes breathing space helped me so much. Taking deep slow breaths was a lifesaver. If the breath is a source of anxiety, grounding the body is a great alternative.


The stillness and connection can feel nurturing, calming and containing. At times it can be frustrating, as well as being a gradual and non-linear practice. Yet this was some of the most valuable time spent then and to this day!


Finding a spiritual practice that works for you is so important. It’s not a case of one size fits all, so any practice that invites you to turn gently and compassionately towards your heart is beautiful.


4. Healing through facing the shadow.


Talk therapy can be very powerful, for sure. I’ve had my share before, during and after cancer. It’s been so helpful in terms of gaining insight, being heard and processing loss. My learning here is that not all shadow work requires therapising; there are amazing alternatives.


Our bodies remember even when consciously we don’t. So various forms of alternative healing modalities can be key to unlocking and releasing trauma and PTSD.


This inner work enables us to release trauma from the past, that’s held in our body memory. If you feel that residual trauma is preventing your personal healing, it is of paramount importance to seek professional support.


I used various modalities including Reiki, Craniosacral, Chiropractic, Breath Work, Sound Healing, EMDR and plant medicine to name a few. Word of caution – not all at once! I found that different energy work helped me at different times.


Allow yourself to be guided, and trust what works for you.

5. Mother Gaia – Nature our greatest healer:


My need to connect with nature was instinctive and I’m fortunate to live near some ancient woodlands here in London. Nature heals us on multiple levels, of that I have no doubt.

Connecting with outer nature is a direct and profound way to connect to our inner nature. My mindfulness practice in green space involves phone off, walking barefoot (sometimes), being present and receptive, and engaging our senses to the elements of earth, air, fire, water. Bliss!


It is in nature that I tend to feel most connected to my higher self and the divine mother, which helps me feel and express my emotions more readily. Never was this more restorative and therapeutic than when I was in recovery.


I walked, sat, felt, sensed and observed Mother Gaia. I still love to. When I was recovering from surgeries and unable to walk far, I’d sit in my garden. Nature was such a significant part of my healing. I felt held by her and shed many tears in her presence. Thank you Mama Gaia. I’m eternally grateful.


6. Facing our mortality wakes us up to life!


It’s a cold shower reality check to what it means to be impermanent. We all know that we have an expiration date. Yet facing that gave me an unparalleled personal perspective. I remember thinking – “Is this IT for me?” And if so “Am I happy with my legacy?”


My answers led me to reflect upon and address certain habitual behaviours, and other aspects of my life. I’m still figuring it out, as we all are ;) I can now honestly say that I am more in alignment and more AWAKE than ever before.


That said - WHY WAIT for a wakeup call to take life by the horns?! If limiting beliefs, fear of judgement and expectations of others are holding you back, this is particularly for you. Ask yourself, will any of this matter on your death bed? I appreciate that this sounds morbid, that it’s easier said than done, but working to overcome these obstacles is worth its weight in gold.


As you awaken to life, a word of advice. DON’T TAKE IT TOO SERIOUSLY! Have fun! Enjoy each precious moment. Live your life with exuberance, be silly, lighthearted and joyful! Take calculated risks. Invest in yourself, both time and money. Live your truth. Live your life on purpose. I dare you :)


7. Protecting your energy field – protects your health!


Give yourselves permission to be selfish. Actually, I’m not a fan of the often-accepted definition of the word “selfish”, as being excessively concerned with oneself to the detriment of others. It’s time to reclaim the word selfish! Hell yeah!


This was a tough one for me. So much so that I returned to therapy, which resulted in implementing strong and clear boundaries including physical distance, from someone I love dearly. Instinctively I knew this was a requirement for my healing. The outcome has been profound as, in time, it helped heal this challenging and complex relationship.


Protect your energy at all costs. Putting others first and allowing their abusive behaviours to spew energy-depleting poison over you will damage your mental and physical health. Trust me, you can ill afford this.


Be mindful of what you allow to pass the ‘gates to your psyche’. Don’t let anyone drain your energy or deplete you. Just don’t. Whilst healing, living in a higher vibration is a requirement. See selfishness as self-care, self-love, survival. Give where you can, whilst keeping check that this doesn’t diminish you. Surround yourself with experiences and people who FEED your soul, not feast from it!


This is a lot to take in, but in my opinion, it is VITAL for deep healing.


8. The divine gift of transformation:


When my consultant removed the bandages from my mastectomy scar, I burst into tears. It felt so final, seeing my red puckered scar. It took me a long time to admit this, but I felt ashamed.

Ashamed that I had cancer - that my body had “let me down”. Ashamed of how my body looked and that I “wasn’t stronger.” I also felt guilty. How dare I be so superficial and self-absorbed. There are women who’ve had double mastectomies, women who die, for crying out loud! This feels especially poignant to me, as I lost one of my dearest friends three years after my diagnosis.


I no longer apologize for my thoughts, feelings and reactions. It’s part and parcel of being human. During a life shock it’s part of the process. Besides we must ALL be kinder to ourselves and others, especially during such confusing, painful and traumatizing times.

The final physical piece was my mastectomy cover-up tattoo. They are not for everyone, so for my sisters who bare their scars with pride, I salute you, with all my heart!


For me, following a successful reconstruction, my tattoo was the cherry on the top. It was meant to be my new nipple but that hadn’t been as successful as I’d hoped, so a tattoo it is!

This sacred journey has taught me the miracle of transformation. When our circumstances look bleak and hopeless, we wonder if they will break us. We wonder if we will ever look or feel whole again.


Yet, for me, navigating the turbulent waters from my cancer diagnosis to The Tit Is Back has ultimately been THE MOST incredible gift. When faced with such adversity, such earth-shattering and intense life shocks; if we are prepared to “go there”, the rewards are vast.

Transformation is revealed when we are brave, authentic and vulnerable enough to open our hearts, even when everything in our being screams that it’s safer to snap it shut. Just as our traumas can be unlocked and released from deep within us, this delicate dance of trauma-releasing, heart-opening, unfolding. Repeat. This never ends. It’s eternal.


The alternative to ALL of this is the unlived life – and you don’t want that, do you! The inner journey will ultimately steer you towards your soul-led life. This crazy, painful, joyful, roller-coaster intense, adventure. This wonder-filled life – YOUR soul’s purpose. So my friend, go in and in and turn from nothing that you find.


BIO:


Liz Keates is a Life Purpose & Spirituality Coach who helps women who are experiencing a lacklustre midlife to ignite their soul’s purpose and life a second half of life that’s even better than the first! Including transitioning into a career that is in alignment with who you are! Get your FREE LIFE PURPOSE MEDITATION AND WORKBOOK HERE! (see link below for my free gift)

https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/k7e9b8?fbclid=IwAR1nrGxVW50vk buE5GPrapdks8viA8Pi5XlGgyKDPqqPLGPx9t8L2xw42ow


The tattoo was by tattoo artist Lianne Moule who Liz described as ‘so sensitive and incredible’. See more at: www.immortalink.co.uk


Readers might also be interested in Tanya Buxton’s blog about a mastectomy and tattoos: https://www.wigwam.org.uk/post/empowering-art-more-than-a-tattoo

Also check out our other blogs at: https://www.wigwam.org.uk/blog


Lastly, as always, we want to also draw attention to our disclaimer (see here) as we know cancer is a very serious and individual disease. Our advice is always to consult with experts in their appropriate medical field before taking up any form of treatment: https://yestolife.org.uk/disclaimer/


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