When I was Diagnosed with Cancer at 21,…


When I was Diagnosed with Cancer at 21, I had an Identity Crisis Part 1

Nov. 30, 2021 | by Becky Shields

When I was diagnosed with cancer at 21, I had an identity crisis.


Societal expectations of women have been engrained into our minds for as long as most of us can remember. Even theories dating back to the beginning of time have deemed women responsible for giving men children, their value rooted in how fertile they are. Modern society has taught women their femininity, their appearance a huge factor in what translates to their worth, how likely you will successfully find a partner. Some of us are made to feel that being a woman our job is to find a husband, start a family, and that translates into happiness, purpose, or a sense of success.


All this was in the back of my mind when I was told of the urgently needed hysterectomy, the loss of hair, not to mention a whole host of obstacles and setbacks. My cancer diagnosis was already overwhelming, but that it was in my uterus – something that would change the course of my future - was a lot to absorb. Who would I be without a uterus? Would I still feel like a woman when anatomically speaking, a huge part of me was being taken away? What about my hair, the part of my physical appearance that makes me feel most feminine, falling out clump by clump from this intensive treatment?


Being infertile was on my list of greatest fears. As a young girl, I would often plan out my future—when I want to get married, how many children, names I liked that I could store away for the future when my very own bundle of joy entered the world.  When I found myself sitting in a fertility clinic, single and preparing to freeze my eggs to hopefully one day be implanted into another woman’s body, I felt lost. Who would want to commit to a life with me, someone who couldn’t give the one thing we are taught that as a woman, we should give? Why would someone want to be with me and go through these obstacles when it would be so easy to find another woman with that fertile capability?


These can be some pretty dark thoughts and if you have gone through any form of infertility through your cancer journey, maybe some of this resonates with you. If they do, I’m sorry. Our purpose as women, despite societal expectations, is not rooted in our baby maker ability - that is a lie. You can define yourself how you choose.   Maybe it’s being vulnerable, showing strength in a variety of forms, caring for those we love, being a light to the ones in our life that matter the most. It took some deep reflection to come to this realization, even though there are constant reminders whether that be on social media, television, or women close to us going through pregnancy every day. It can be hard to sit with these feelings and re-evaluate them with this constant push. Even though we either may not have that organ anymore to support a growing fetus, or maybe we don’t have the proper body chemistry capability, this does not mean that our worth and our value has decreased even in the slightest. You have so much more to offer than your reproductive organs.


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*Until December 31st, Mary Kay Cosmetics Ltd. will match individual donations, up to $30,000.