Do our bodies define us as women?

Gorgeous E! news anchor Giuliana Rancic can now add one more incredible title to her name: breast cancer survivor.

After being diagnosed with the disease more than three months ago, Rancic has made the difficult decision to undergo a double mastectomy to remove the cancer completely, giving the disease a “less than 1 percent chance” of coming back.

“For me, it was important to get the cancer out,” she stated in a story on People.com. “That’s what I wanted to do, just get it out.”

Rancic went on to say that while she sometimes wakes at night and sobs about her situation, she is confident that having surgery is the right thing to do.

“I couldn’t be more at peace with the decision. But it’s hard, and I still break down some nights … but I’m OK.”

I have so much respect for women who have battled this disease and not let it define them. This type of cancer is especially difficult for women because of where it occurs. Society has, unfortunately, placed so much emphasis on womanly beauty by focusing on outward and physical appearance. We are placed into different categories by how “curvy” we are, thus defining our womanhood or femininity.

Here in Utah, we are not immune to this warped way of thinking. In fact, our state has the eighth-highest number of plastic surgeons per capita in the country, and breast augmentation was the most frequently performed cosmetic surgery in 2010 across the U.S.

What does this say about our ideas and emphasis on outward appearance? A few weeks ago, my mom called me to say she drove past a new salon with this slogan in the window: “There is no such thing as true beauty.”

I am so saddened by this new trend. Having had two beautiful boys and watched my body undergo major, permanent changes from growing these babies and giving birth, I understand the self-esteem dip that can sometimes accompany adjusting to a new “me.”

I don’t look the same. My stomach muscles were severely separated after the birth of my second child, leaving about an inch of space in between, which I was told could only be fixed by surgery. I have discussed with my husband about someday getting a “mommy makeover” after we’re done having children to try and get my body back to what it was years before.

But I go back and forth between wanting to look a certain way and thinking it’s ridiculous to feel that I have to have work done to fit in with society’s idea of looking beautiful. I also wonder if, were I ever to go down that path, it would be difficult to stop. That’s the tricky thing about plastic surgery — it seems to be that itch you have scratch every so often.

Our bodies are constantly aging, constantly changing. There will always be something that’s “not perfect.” I don’t hold anything against people who choose to get work done or who decide against it. But I think that the growing trend of going under the knife is somewhat alarming. I hope it doesn’t scream the message to young, impressionable girls that the amazing things their bodies are capable of doing — such as creating life — can somehow make them less attractive.

Rancic said one of the reasons she chose to undergo such a major, life-altering surgery was that she didn’t want to have to wait several more years before being able to try having children, as the lumpectomy-radiation option would have forced her to do.

“Bill (her husband) said to me, ‘I don’t care what you look like, I don’t care about the physical portion of this. I just need you around for the next 50 years. So, let’s just get you healthy.’… At the end, to be honest, all it came down to was just choosing to live, and not looking over my shoulder for the rest of my life.”

I wonder if women who have undergone surgeries such as this think of beauty — and life — in a very different way.

“I think scars tell such an incredible story,” Rancic said. “I’ll always look at them and think, ‘Wow, I made it through that.’ “

This attitude, to me, shows that there is hope for proving that there is a major difference between looking beautiful and being beautiful. I wonder about the power we women could have over our image and self-worth if we were to truly embrace ourselves for who we are, and not our bust size, stomach size, butt size, or whatever else makes us look in the mirror and immediately criticize instead of celebrate.

“My breasts have never defined me,” Rancic stated, “and now they never will.”

Wouldn’t it be great if this could be said for all the women in the world?

Leave a comment

DeseretNews.com encourages a civil dialogue among its readers. We welcome your thoughtful comments.

*