15 Jun 2017

I saved the life of my body, and now it could save another's

I had to weigh myself yesterday. I don’t have any scales in our flat, so I had to use a friend’s after work. I try to not make a habit of weighing myself, although I am low-key attempting to lose a bit of weight and have been all year. I tracked my weight during marathon training out of interest to see how my body was changing, and I lost quite a bit. It was pretty cool to see how your body adapts.

I weighed myself yesterday because Anthony Nolan, the blood cancer charity, told me to. Because they rang me and told me I might be a match for someone with blood cancer. There’s someone out there who’s in need of a stem cell transplant and my profile came up as someone who could save them. I could save their life with my body. 

I could literally be saving a life.

I’m finding it… I don’t know. I’m trying to not think about it too much or start processing what THIS *gestures around* could mean in every sense for a lot of people, because it might not happen. My blood might not be a good enough match. But to just get the call, after two years of being on the register, that I’ve flagged as a match is pretty special.

I know this isn’t about me, it’s about the (I'm assuming) very sick person in need of a transplant and it’s about Anthony Nolan, the incredible charity who can make this happen, but it hit me almost immediately that my body can be useful, and it triggered a whirlwind of emotions and some intense reflection.

Yeah, we’re going deep. Buckle in.

The relationship I had with my body for the first 22 years of my life was rather unremarkable. That’s not to say I had a positive body image, but I didn't have a negative one either. I had no image at all. I just had a body and didn’t care much for what was inside it, outside of it, and what was projected on to it. No opinion, media, or societal influences had any change on my view of my body and for that, I guess, I’m lucky and thankful. 

I remember, when I was a kid, hating my belly button. It was massive, in my mind. Huge. A black hole. I could fit my dinner in it and lose toys in it. I was convinced something had gone wrong when I was born, but my mum obviously reassured me time and time again that it was just an ordinary belly button and that everyone’s is different. I soon forgot about it when I hit puberty and adopted curves and a tummy so the belly button was often hidden away.

I had a big gap between my two adult front teeth, too. It was fixed with braces as a teenager, to a point, but those years with braces were gross. 

I always hated my hair. My parting was weird and my hair was (is) thick as shit, and I hated every colour I tried. I’m still not on good terms with my hair, to be honest.

I like my legs. And eyes, and fingers and toes. My nails are good and my tits are great. So’s my bum. I’ve always wanted the flat stomach and less fat on my hips, and maybe better skin, but I’ve never liked questions on what I like and dislike about my body because I never spent long enough pondering my body image to have decent answers. 

Is that a good thing or bad thing? 

Then I started running and, oh hello, I have a body. I’m using my body. I’m feeling all the different parts of my body and they have to work together. I’m pushing my body to its limits and I’m seeing and feeling it change. 

I didn’t start running to lose weight or get fit, but I soon began to appreciate my body. And hate it. I flipped between the two drastically throughout Couch to 5k and beyond, to now, and I had to train myself to appreciate my body a lot more than hate it, even when it seemed to work against me. It was doing something wonderful. It was pushing and changing and keeping me alive, and it always has done. I should have acknowledged that. 

Now there’s someone out there whose body isn’t keeping them alive, and my body could save their life. My strong, protective, adaptable, important body. The body I’m now intensely aware of, that I’m mindful of. I listen to it, every part. I take note of what I’m putting in and what’s coming out (I talk about my shits a lot), what aches, what’s changed, what I’m feeling, and what could maybe be stronger. 

I do have a weight loss goal - I won’t detail that because I don’t think it’s necessary - because I want to do good by this healthy body I have. I want to respect it and appreciate it, and that doesn't mean, for me, going on diets and exercising relentlessly with the sole purpose of weighing a certain amount or looking a certain way. That’s obviously absolutely fine if that’s someone else’s reasoning and motivation (as long as it’s healthy, of course), but I just want to be mindful and connected to this skin I’m in. That’s it, though it’s still a big ask.

I always thought the positive body image narrative/movement/community was for those who actively didn’t like their bodies, but I realise now that you should work on your relationship with your body no matter if you like it or not. Just like mental health, you need to check in to sustain it. It allows you to realise that you’re here, you’re present, and you’re doing good. You’re strong, you’re wonderful, and you’re important.

I managed to save my own life, my own body, a few years ago, and now I could directly, physically, medically save another’s. I proved to myself how incredible and strong my body (and brain) could be by running a marathon - hell, just by running at all -  but this, THIS, is the most astounding thing my body could do, without even much effort, and I am so maddeningly proud of it. 

To find out more about Anthony Nolan's amazing work and how YOU can sign up to their register, click here

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