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 / Updated  / Source: TODAY
By Susan Bodiker

Susan Bodiker founded One Girl Wellness to help girls and women overcome the body image disorders that eat away at their self­‐esteem and keep them from engaging confidently in their world. Her new e­‐book, “Fat Girl: How to let go of your weight and get on with your life,” is now on sale. Visit www.susan­‐ for details.

This recent torso shot is the first time I've brought attention to this part of my anatomy.
This recent torso shot is the first time I've brought attention to this part of my anatomy.Courtesy of Susan Bodiker

By every aesthetic standard, my stomach leaves a lot to be desired. Digestively delicate and slightly round (despite years of Pilates and other exercise), it has always been my weak spot and the area of my body I’d most like to change — and mostly try to camouflage. Now, it is covered in a riot of scars thanks to emergency surgery I had 12 years ago.

Here’s what happened: My mother had been dead for less than a year (of colorectal cancer), when I got very, very sick. I thought I was following in her footsteps, which would have been exceedingly ironic considering our history. As it turned out, my intestine had ruptured for random, mysterious and ultimately undiagnosed reasons. Between the sepsis and the pain, I was as near death as you can possibly be without the bright white light and hallucinatory visions. All I could think of as they raced me to the operating room was, “I never got to go back to France” and “Who will take care of my son?”

Courtesy of Susan Bodiker

Considering the drama that preceded it, my recovery turned out to be amazingly quick and uneventful. The ileostomy, every bit as gross and traumatic as you would imagine, was repaired three months after that first surgery and my now repentant and reconnected colon and I have lived pretty much happily ever after since. (The following summer, I took my son to France.)

But for years, I couldn’t look at myself. I couldn’t feel much either — some of the nerves under the skin never recovered from the repeated incisions. Bikinis were a fashion don’t as was anything midriff-bearing like two-­piece workout wear. With its unusual topography, my stomach was uglier than ever to my hypercritical eyes.

In the past few years, however, I’ve reached an understanding with these scars. I’m proud of them. They are proof of an inner strength and resilience that I didn’t know I had. I had come very close to dying, yet I survived and even thrived, continuing to raise my son alone and working.

They’re a daily reminder that I was given a second chance at life. I better not waste it.