Yoga instructor Laura Owens was just 31 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. She had her right breast removed and reconstructed, and then later the left one as well, to prevent the cancer from returning to that tissue. But when a problem with her second implant caused arm pain, discolored skin, and fatigue, she decided to have both of them removed.
Now, in her late thirties, Laura has premature wrinkles from treatment, scars from surgery, and a noticeable lack of breast tissue. But through the struggle that was her treatment and survival, she has learned to love her body more than ever before. And she doesn’t care one tiny bit about what others think of her.
Recently, Laura experienced two instances of a similar situation, in which a male “friend” of hers told a group of people that they should have seen Laura “in her heyday, 10 years ago.”
The implication that Laura had once been beautiful but was now unremarkable or even ugly at first angered her. “Rude. Or am I supposed to be grateful that guys used to think I was hot?!” she wrote on Facebook.
But it didn’t take long before she stopped caring what her haters thought about her body, and she decided to write a message on Facebook to remind other women that they are perfect just the way they are and that they don’t have to care what other people think of them. “This is for the women,” she began.
After explaining what had happened with her insensitive friends, Laura wrote, “If I hadn’t been through everything I have, and was still the girl I was 10 years ago, it might crush me to hear that. But it doesn’t.”
“It makes me laugh that some people think my heyday was when I wore a face full of makeup, perfect hair, sexy outfits, padded bras, i.e. dressing for someone else’s approval,” she continued. “F*** that. I’m strong and capable; I stand up for what I believe in. I walk away from people or situations that make me uncomfortable. And I wear what makes me feel happy, not sexy.”
Laura said she understands women who choose to use Botox and fillers and isn’t trying to judge, but she’s happy she hasn’t succumbed to artificial fixes to correct her “rapidly aged skin,” which she attributes to breast implant illness. She acknowledges now that all the things society says aren’t pretty are completely natural and normal and can be beautiful too.
“A lot of my 20s were spent working in the world of high-end nightclubs where image, money & status were everything, and I’m proud that I’m no longer part of that bullsh**,” she wrote. “I’m proud that I care more about what I think than what anyone else thinks.”
“I’m scarred, wrinkled & flat-chested, but I’m also feminine & full of life. I’m a strong fucking woman, not a sex object. I’m not here for your benefit. There’s a lot more to me than my looks. And if you can’t see that, then it’s your loss. THIS is MY heyday.”
At the end, Laura worked to empower women everywhere by including a photograph of herself topless, showing off her scars, and writing a few important messages to others who struggle with bodily imperfections.
“Surround yourself with people who remind you of your amazingness every single day,” she wrote. “Don’t take yourself too seriously, none of us are getting out of here alive. I love my laughter lines the most.”
And, of course, the grand finale: “YOU’RE AMAZING.” Enough said.
Thank you, Laura, for showing women everywhere that they don’t have to get rid of their wrinkles and plump up their breasts to look beautiful. We hope your message continues to inspire you as it builds up others.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?