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Putting on a Happy Face Can Work...

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We all feel insecure about our body image, none of us are perfect. But I've found the trick is to make the most of what you've got and put on a happy face!

At what age did I feel my best and confident of my body image? You'd think I'd say in my heyday as the Green Goddess on breakfast telly 30 years ago, when my slinky body was held up as the picture of health. But no! Not only was I insecure about my lack of curves back then, but I was soon to be diagnosed with cancer which was to challenge my self confidence.

At the height of my career in 1988 I discovered I had breast cancer, I was 47 years of age and it was found on a routine mammogram. Anyone being told they have cancer finds it difficult to come to terms with. I felt cancer happened to other people not to me and for a week after diagnosis I believed there had been a mistake, I was in total denial. But in August 1988 I finally I signed the consent form and underwent a double mastectomy followed by immediate reconstruction in which implants were inserted directly under my skin.

Along with facing the physical battle of breast cancer many women feel the treatments of the disease are an onslaught to their femininity and have a tough time battling body image issues. A poll by the charity Breast Cancer Care found "88% of people who have had breast cancer say the disease has had a negative impact on the way they feel about their bodies.... and 68% say that it affected their sexual and intimate relationships." Possibly due to my fitness level I made a remarkable physical recovery and was back on television within three months, but the emotional journey was to be ongoing.

My own body image had never been good. I grew up in the 50s when femininity was associated with the voluptuous bosoms and waspish waists of Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell. Meanwhile, I was 5ft 10" positively skinny, and stooped a bit to conceal my towering height. I bought a size 32A bra to boost my small boobs and made my own clothes in an effort to disguise them altogether!

I married at 19 and soon started a family. My breasts swelled to double their size during pregnancies and I felt a like a 'real woman'. It was fun to dress in more flirty feminine fashions which made it easier to put on my happy face! I was disappointed when my boobs eventually shrunk back, but with two boisterous boys to contend with my priorities were in perspective!

In 1983, and by then in my 40s with two adult sons, I joined the BBC for the launch of Breakfast TV as their fitness guru, dressed in a green lycra leotard. Millions admired my lithe physique, and the national papers praised me with headlines like Who is this "Green Goddess? which spawned my nickname! Life on TV every morning was hectic and exciting, but sadly during this time... and after 27 years... my marriage floundered.

Regrettably I took up with a Jack the Lad character and the relationship progressed with us getting married on my 50th birthday. It wasn't an easy time, during which my body rejected the breast implants, resulting in more surgery and new prosthesis. Within a short time of marriage my new husband betrayed me. Divorce followed immediately but I pulled myself up by my boot straps and (with some difficulty) put on a happy face.

But the betrayal had shaken my confidence and I had body image issues. However, I found that talking to other women helped put my problems into perspective. My female friends are very important to me, many of whom have also battled breast cancer. These special friends I call my "bosom pals"!

But my battle wasn't yet over... and just two years ago an MRI scan revealed that after more than 20 years my replacement prosthesis had ruptured. Again I underwent major breast surgery, but thanks to my brilliant NHS surgeon I now look as good as new and life goes on! At the age of 74, and after my recent third bi-lateral reconstruction in as many decades, I finally feel at ease with myself. I'm happy, healthy and lead a very active life, both socially and professionally and live life to the full; you do when you've been given a second chance!

Most of us will experience a problem or two during life which may affect our body image and knock our confidence. My advice is to think positive, try to put on a happy face, and who knows...... perhaps the best is yet to come!

Around the Web

Body image after breast cancer treatment - American Cancer Society

Body Image Concerns - Living Beyond Breast Cancer

Self-Image and Cancer | Cancer.Net

Your body after breast cancer treatment | Breast Cancer Care

Body image after breast cancer - YouTube

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