Why these women are truely happy with their bodies
You couldn’t tell at a glance, but these women have truly remarkable reasons for feeling so good about themselves. Stephanie Bell finds out how having a body issue can prove to be an empowering experience for some.
Not being happy with our bodies seems to be in the genetic makeup of women. Whether it’s our facial features or body shape, most of us could make a list of things we would like to change about ourselves.
But worries about the shape of our noses or expanding waistlines can suddenly seem trivial in the face of serious illness or trauma which impacts on so many women.
For these people the notion of being comfortable in their own skin takes on a whole new dimension.
When illness strikes or tragedy leaves physical scars, simple survival and recovery soon supersedes any former concerns about issues of vanity.
We spoke to three remarkable women who each have faced distressing experiences but can truly claim to be happy with their bodies.
One reader was left with serious scaring when she was badly burnt in a house fire as a baby and is now a successful, outgoing young mum despite having to deal with stares from strangers.
Another has dealt with the blow of being told her reproductive organs were damaged and after the trauma of losing three babies found great joy when she successfully conceived during IVF.
A breast cancer survivor also talks about how losing her breast and hair seems unimportant compared to having her health back.
‘After surviving severe burns I live every day as a tribute to those who saved my life’
Jodie Hinds (25), a civil servant from Portaferry and mum to Caleb (3), was just 15 months old when she sustained third degree burns in a devastating fire at the family home. She says:
We were all sleeping when the fire broke out around 5.30am in the living room. My mum, Lorna, dad Eamonn, auntie Paula, brother Eamonn and sister, Rachael were in the house.
Mum managed to get my brother and sister out and came back for me and Paula. Mum, Paula and I suffered third degree burns. I spent the first four years of my life in and out of hospital having skin grafts and various procedures. My burns were mainly on my left side, on my face, my ear, chest, left hand, elbow, knee and foot.
Growing up in a small town everyone knew me and they were aware of what had happened and it was very much a protected environment.
The first time it really hit me was when I went to Our Lady and St Patrick’s Grammar school in Belfast. That’s when I had people staring and pointing and asking questions and I don’t think I was necessarily prepared for it.
I have worn make up from the age of 13 and that gives me confidence as I can cover up the scaring. Also at 13, I contacted the charity Changing Faces and they helped a lot by putting me in touch with other people who were going through the same thing.
I have had amazing family support and mum has always made sure I get out and don’t hide myself away and that has made me the person I am today.
My attitude is that there are too many doctors and people who worked hard to keep me alive and I can’t let them down. I am doing a psychology degree part-time at the Open University as I want to help people just as Changing Faces helped me.
I’ve never let what happened hold me back, I’m a very positive person and if people stare I deal with it by asking them if everything is ok.
When it comes to boys, it is like a filter because if a bloke looks at me and just sees the scars rather than the person I really am then I wouldn’t want to know him anyway.
I think growing up with it, I have never known any different.
I have become a Northern Ireland champion for Changing Faces and have been able to meet other young people as well as parents of children who have been scared.
Before I had Caleb I did feel it was my fault that mum got burnt because she was trying to get me out but now that I am a mum myself I understand that you will do anything for your child.
Mum taught me you have to get up and get out and live your life and that’s what I do.”
‘Breast cancer’s changed my body but made me glad to be here’
Marie McClorey (57), from Belfast, a retired art and design lecturer who now works part-time as a community facilitator advising on breast and cervical cancer screening lost one of her breasts to cancer. Marie, who is single and has one daughter, Siofra (18), has endured seven operations on her breasts. She says:
When I turned 50 I was called for routine breast screening. They called me back two weeks later for another one and that’s when they told me I had cancer. I had no lump and no symptoms; it was like salt the way it was spread finely across my breast.
It was a terrible shock and I would never have caught it. Only for the screening I wouldn’t be here today.
I have since trained as a community facilitator and part of my role is to raise awareness of the importance of breast and cervical screening.
When you are diagnosed, I don’t think you actually take it in for some time and you don’t really believe it is happening to you.
In May 2005 I had a mastectomy and they did reconstruction during the same operation. They then discovered it had spread to my lymph nodes and I had to have six lots of chemotherapy and five weeks or radiotherapy.
My hair came out in the course of a week. It didn’t really bother me to be honest. I have a positive outlook on life and a good sense of humour and being diagnosed with cancer really made me take stock.
I realised that it was the simple things in life that mattered to me now, like being alive for my daughter, going for walks in the fresh air, visiting family and friends.
I taught at Southern Regional College and in 2007 there was voluntary redundancy scheme and I took it and that was wonderful as it allowed me to work part time.
It was tough losing my breast and reconstructive surgery did help but in 2008 I took a terrible infection and had to have emergency surgery to have the implant removed. I had a total of seven operations on my breasts as I had to have the other one reduced. The Ulster Cancer Foundation was terrific in helping me to get my confidence back and in boosting my morale.
I have been offered another implant but I don’t want it. I am completely content. I wear special bras and I can’t wear low cut tops anymore.
I go swimming once a week and walking and I do Zumba and Body Contact training. It’s just the most empowering thing to get your level of fitness back. I think maybe if I was younger it would be worse but I was 50 when it happened.
To me, I’ve lived my life to the full and this is a different stage in my life. As we go through life we have to embrace the fact that we don’t look the same as we did in our teens or 20s anymore.
I’m alright about that and I am happy with my body and with being alive and able to work and enjoy my family and the simple pleasures in life.”
‘I always knew I’d be a mother...one day’
Holistic therapist Ruth Ellen Logan (31), who owns The Beauty Company in Belfast, lost three babies before undergoing two courses of IVF to have daughter Aiyana, now 14 months old. Ruth is married to David (34) and is Ireland’s only Maya Massage practitioner. She says:
I first fell pregnant in early June 2008 when I was 27 to an ectopic pregnancy and I lost the baby which was very traumatic. I was healthy and decided to try again and got pregnant very quickly.
This time the tube expelled the pregnancy after five or six weeks. I was just so shocked. It doesn’t cross your mind you are going to lose your baby and you don’t think it will be your own body causing you to lose it.
I tried again and the exact same thing happened only it was much more sinister. My right fallopian tube had ruptured and I was rushed into hospital and had one and a half litres of blood removed from my abdomen.
I lost one fallopian tube and was told the other one was badly damaged and that my chances of conceiving successfully were very slim.
I had had my appendix removed when I was nine and apparently during that operation my reproductive system had been damaged.
It was just awful to hear that, especially at 27. Once you become pregnant you are a mother and when you lose a child you are a mother without children, it’s an ache that never goes away. You long for those babies so much and nothing in your life seems right, it is constantly on your mind.
I’m the type of person whose cup is always half-full and I still believed a miracle could happen. It was very frustrating to know that my reproductive system was damaged.
I did go through the emotions but then I let it go and decided I wasn’t going to indulge in self-pity. I knew deep down that I was going to be a mother.
I then discovered Maya massage. I had lost three babies and now my only chance was IVF and I thought, ‘how do I mend this trauma and get rid of the debris I’m carrying?’ I Googled and read about Maya and its benefits for the reproductive system.
As far as I was concerned mine didn’t work and I needed to do something to reconnect it. I had owned my own business and been a masseuse for six years and had an understanding of women and holistic therapies.
I couldn’t find a Maya practitioner in Ireland so I went to London and was so impressed by it that I travelled to America to train as a practitioner.
It really helped me get through IVF and deal with the stress and strain.
You have a real loss of self-belief and feel really controlled by your reproductive system and the fact that it didn’t work. Maya helped me rebuild that again.
I had my first course of IVF in October 2009 which failed. Maya helped me to understand my body and what I needed to do to stimulate the ovaries.
I got pregnant again in February 2010 and Aiyana was born in January of last year. She is just amazing, perfectly healthy and because of what we went through, she is just everything to us.
Even though my body let me down I am totally at ease with it. I believe I was chosen and given that pain and burden so that I could use Maya massage to help other people.
I think I was meant to bring this wonderful therapy to Northern Ireland and in three years I have had 43 babies born. The fulfilment I get from that is amazing.
Even celebs suffer from self-doubt
Janet Jackson (46) says she used to bang her head against the wall in frustration at her body image. Feelings of unattractiveness, she claims, came from teasing by her brothers when she was young
Singer Shakira (35) underwent therapy to overcome negative feelings about her body. She says she wished she was taller, had longer legs and slimmer hips
Christina Hendricks (37 today) says she was hurt when much of the media attention was on her curvaceous figure rather than her acting in Mad Men.
Nikki Graham (30) a former Big Brother contestant admits a constant battle against anorexia and excessive exercise. In spite of going to body awareness clinics her weight dropped at one stage to just five-and-a-half stone