It’s Giving Tuesday

It’s #GivingTuesday today. Did you know? Yesterday was Cyber Monday. The day following Thanksgiving, was, of course, Black Friday. But today, it’s #GivingTuesday.

And so today, I want to talk about a cause, a movement, a bright light that I so believe in. REbeL.

I’ve written about REbeL several times over the lifespan of my blog. It is a non-profit organization which was the brainchild of a woman whom I know and love dearly. A vision to re-shape the way that young people see themselves and the world around them. And her vision is now, very much, in action. It is actually creating change. And not just in young people. In people at all stages of their lives.

I wrote about REbeL in the past because, when I was in high school and early college, I struggled to understand how to balance my emotions and food. I struggled to find control over life and so I took it out on my body. And I struggled to wrap my mind around the fact that beauty is not something that can simply be seen on the outside.

I wrote about REbeL again because, as I became a mother, I realized the beauty in that. In the way the human body functions to create another human. It made me thankful in ways that I never knew I could be for the beauty of the body. And not the beauty of my weight. Or my size. But of the beauty-full force that a healthy body can be when given the opportunity.

And today, I write about REbeL again because I have cancer. In September, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. And as jarring and life-changing and world-altering as the time since has been, the one thing that I haven’t had to fear is losing my beauty. And I credit this to REbeL.

How can that be? Because REbeL is redefining my personal feelings of beauty every day. It reminds me that I am thankful for lungs that can breathe. It reminds me that this illness can’t take my smile. And it shows me that the beautiful things aren’t truly the most beauty-full.

My hair started to go shortly after I began chemotherapy. And so, we had a head-shaving party. And I was surprisingly okay with the GI Jane look. In fact, it was oddly liberating. Freeing. An opportunity to sleep later and put all of my hair products in a basket in my closet and not have to think about all of that for a bit. It was incredible to know that even without my flaxen, envied locks, I could still be the same girl I’d always been.

In just a few short months, they will remove my breasts. A symbol of femininity and sexuality so valued by our culture. And yet, for me, something that I cannot wait to get off of my chest. Because they are doing me no good at this point. They are attacking my otherwise strong, healthy, capable body. And so, as I talk reconstruction, I am very upfront with my thoughts that if I have no breasts but I have my life and my boys and my husband, I imagine I will be happy to have no breasts. Because while I will have scars, and I will look different than other women my age, I know that I will still have the heart that beats beneath where those scars lie.

My nails and skin have been a bit up in arms with the treatments. My eyebrows are starting to thin out. And they tell me, my eyelashes will go. My body is changing every single day. My outward appearance is transforming into a person I’ve never known or looked at in this life. But I don’t like her any less. In fact, I kinda think she’s a badass. Because they also tell me, through all of these physical changes, I will likely become cancer-free. And just like that, I can see all the beauty, once again.

Cancer will take parts of me. But I won’t let it take my spirit. I won’t let it steal my smile. Or my joy. I won’t let it deplete me of my positivity. Or my wit. I won’t let it strip me of myself. My beauty-full self.

And this, is mostly, because I’ve heard and believe the message of REbeL. Because I know that outer beauty has nothing on inner beauty. That the form and function of the human body has multitudes more to do with what it can do on the inside than how it can appear on the outside. I know that when people ask “how are you so skinny?” while you have cancer, you would gladly take 20 or 40 more pounds on your frame if it meant you’d be free from the sickness that is inhabiting your body. And I know that when I envision what my new breasts will be like, the only thing I really care about is that they are healthy.

In having children, I realized how much I adored my body. How much I appreciated its super powers. And now, with cancer, I once again find myself indescribably thankful for the fact that the beauty of the body is so far beyond skin deep.

REbeL is currently hosting their year-end online fundraising campaign. And today, on Giving Tuesday, I invite you to read about the cause, the change that it is creating, the impact, and find out how you can get involved. Consider making a donation and making a difference. Because the organization has made a huge difference to me. And made the physical changes of cancer feel much less heavy. And made this journey so much more filled with beauty.

It really is a beauty-full world. So REbeL, be you. Love you. And be compelled, daily, to REbeL.

by Ashli Eickman Brehm