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How I feel about my body a year on from my ovarian cancer diagnosis

PHOTOGRAPHY BY PADDY COPPINGER FOR PEACHY MERCH

WORDS BY EMMA FITZGERALD

“It’s okay to not feel confident in yourself all the time, to acknowledge that life’s ebbs and flows also extend to our self-esteem and to be open about what scares you.”

In early 2021, I wrote an article for Fashion Journal about how my experience with ovarian cancer had impacted my body image. At the time I had undergone one major surgery and was under the impression, perhaps naively, that my body had settled into a new normal. 

Then I underwent fertility preservation and that idea went out the window. Anyone who has been through the egg freezing process will tell you how challenging it can be. Granted, each body is different and will react in its own way, but it is an undeniably arduous task for anyone to undertake for the potential prize of motherhood. 


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I struggled with the physical consequences of the procedure for much of last year. I became furious at my body for not recovering in the timely manner I had been promised and for betraying me in the first place. I grew fearful I’d never be happy with my body, that I’d live in constant discomfort with myself.

After I’d been so vocal about working through these issues, I was right back where I started. It wasn’t until after another surgery in September that I began to understand how unpredictable this experience will continue to be. Some treatments will be more challenging than others, some days I would have to work harder to combat my inner critic.  

When the opportunity arose to be a part of the Bonds, Jockey and Bras N Things ‘Take On Cancer In Your Undies’ campaign, I could barely contain my excitement. Ovarian Cancer Australia does amazing work and I would jump at any opportunity to give back to the organisation that has done so much for not just me, but for anyone affected by this insidious disease. 

My decision went beyond my personal ties to the organisation – I truly believe in the message of this campaign. In the video, I liken the experience of fighting cancer to being in your underwear in public. I know this may come across as corny but I genuinely believe it to be true.  

The idea of exposing ourselves to strangers, displaying our bodies in a raw, vulnerable state, is intimidating, to say the least. There’s a reason this is a recurring nightmare for so many people. 

We’re all told to love ourselves loudly and proudly, to own the bodies we’ve got and unapologetically flaunt the skin we’re in. I’m not saying this is wrong – I agree with the sentiment wholeheartedly. But I am saying it’s okay to not feel confident in yourself all the time, to acknowledge that life’s ebbs and flows also extend to our self-esteem and to be open about what scares you. 

Having photos of myself in my underwear, in a national campaign no less, is terrifying. I’m exposing all my flaws, all the small scars, wrinkles and dimples that I pick apart and ruminate on.  

These thoughts don’t go away by slapping a smile on and telling myself I’m beautiful just the way I am – if only it were that easy. They also don’t get better if I let them fester, bury them deep down in the dark and tiptoe around them lest I awaken a raging beast of self-scrutiny. 

Overcoming self-doubt means acknowledging it exists and facing it head-on. It means pushing myself beyond my comfort zone and taking on challenges no matter how daunting. 

There is nothing braver than waking up every day and choosing to live your life honouring your true self, to be as authentic in your actions as you are in your words. That includes being honest about what frightens you. 

This campaign asks us all to be brave, to be bold. Courage is facing what scares you and for me, that isn’t just taking on cancer, it’s doing it in my undies.  

Ovarian Cancer Australia is a not-for-profit that advocates for women with ovarian cancer, fighting for more awareness, better treatment options and more research funding. OCA also delivers essential psychosocial services, including the provision of specialist ovarian cancer nurse consultants to support women through diagnosis, treatment and beyond. 

100 per cent of profits (up to $300,000) from the teal undies will be donated to Ovarian Cancer Australia. The exclusive range of teal undies is available in Bonds, Jockey and Bras N Things stores and online from April 19 and in Coles from April 20. Ovarian Cancer Australia is encouraging Aussies to get their teal undies in time for World Ovarian Cancer Day on Sunday May 8.

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