What I Wish I Had Known Before I Was Diagnosed With Skin Cancer In My 20s

In my teens and 20s, I thought I was invincible. I would spend hours in the sun without wearing any sunscreen. I wore my tan like a badge of honor for years. Before I turned 30, I was diagnosed with skin cancer and had a quarter-sized tumor cut out of my forehead. Several years after being cancer-free, I still have frequent headaches from the nerve damage caused during surgery (the cancer had spread deeply toward my lymph nodes and brain).

Mind and body need to function as one and be in tune with each other. My body would tell me to get out of the sun through sunburn and even sun poisoning, but I didn’t listen. I wanted to sunbathe all day, and I wanted my fair skin to be a dark bronze.

After experiencing migraines that left me incapacitated in the emergency room, ulcer-like stomach pains, exhaustion, and fatigue, I decided to commit to some radical self-love and give my body a much-needed break from all the stress and mistreatment. I started to view my body as a beautiful vehicle that allowed me to do just about everything I asked of it, instead of something I constantly criticized and took for granted.

Just like choosing to think positively and have happy thoughts, we can choose to have happy bodies as well. After all, the two need to work together for us to function at our best.

Here are some ways to make your body as healthy as your mind:

1. Accept it.

There is no such thing as a perfect body. Even supermodels I’ve met and worked with complain about their bodies and are constantly trying to improve them. They can't appreciate the near-perfection they already have. Many have gorgeous figures that they turn sickly by consuming nothing but coffee and smoking cigarettes. Eventually, the struggle to look a certain way takes a toll not only on your mind but on your body, too. Health issues and premature aging are the result.

I see many women at the gym with bodies that society would say are “better” than mine because they are much thinner than me, but these women can’t do one push-up and are too weak to lift weights. This isn't about comparison. This is about having a body that feels great, functions well, and that you feel great about.

2. Listen to it.

The body and mind are designed to work together, and this teamwork is what creates wellness. You cannot have a single thought, sensation, or feeling without the body. All of our experiences have a physical component. When your mind chooses to ignore the signals your body is emitting (slow down, don't take that pill, stop at this drink), you're setting yourself up for a poorer quality of life.

When choosing a certain behavior, ask your body, "How do you feel about this?" If your body sends a signal of physical or emotional distress, look out. If your body sends a signal of comfort and eagerness, proceed. Body awareness is powerful — it lets your body know what your mind is thinking, and vice versa.

3. Care for it.

Treat your body with care before getting sick. Prevention is key. I would do anything to turn back time, listen to my body, and not have had to endure all the pain of my mistakes.

Our bodies carry out messages from the mind. Your body doesn't need to be thin, fit, and beautiful to make you happy. A good body does more than look good according to society’s absurd standards of beauty. A good body is in alignment with your mind, supports you in wholeness, and allows you to live your life to the fullest.

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