When Vera Ora – psychiatrist and mother of pop superstar Rita – was diagnosed with breast cancer, she learned a very powerful lesson about listening to and loving her body
After everything I’ve been through, the last thing I ever thought I’d be asked to do is model swimwear.
I’m 55, I work as a psychiatrist in the NHS, I’m a mum of three who’s had a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery after being diagnosed with breast cancer. My initial reaction to the modelling request was, “Why me? I’m not a model.” My next thought was, “Why not me?” And precisely because of everything I have been through, I knew I had to say yes.
With summer almost here, I can guarantee that some of you will already be stressing about stripping down to your bikini or swimming costume, putting pressure on yourself to look a certain way on the beach. It makes me sad that instead of just enjoying the feeling of the sun on our skin, too many women are crippled by the feeling they don’t look good enough. I have learned the hard way to truly appreciate what my body does. It doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy dressing up and I go to the gym regularly to stay in shape, but ever since doctors told me I was clear of breast cancer, I treasure every day.
To understand where I'm coming from, let me tell you my story. I was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was just 39. It was a difficult time from the very beginning. Ten years earlier my husband Nick and I had brought our children, Rita, then one, and Elena, three, to the UK from Kosovo. We left because it was becoming a tense and dangerous place to live, but I found it very hard to leave behind my family, friends and career as a GP.
I arrived in the UK unable to speak English, therefore unable to work – and we had nothing. I stayed at home with the children while Nick worked long hours to support us. Later, I had our son Don, and loved being a mum, but my confidence had crumbled. I finally got work as a waitress to improve my English, in the hope of eventually being able to work as a medic again.
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