Cancer: Unknown

Hi, I'm Jessi. I'm 35. I'm a wife, a mother of three, a communications professional, and I have cancer. I was originally diagnosed with Cancer of Unknown Primary, and then officially Small Round Cell Sarcoma. The official 5-year survival rate for this diagnosis is less than 5%, but that’s not me. I’m a survivor and I will beat this.

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  • Jessi Stetina

Will I ever be body positive again?

As I think it could be said about most women, my body and I have a complicated history. There have been times where I’ve been in a good place with my body, and there have been times where I’ve been in a bad place. But even in my worst places, I could crawl out and give myself some credit. I’d even find inspiration from others. Inclusive beauty campaigns, the whole body positive movement as of late, and a husband who always seems to think I’m beautiful always helped.


If all else failed, I could build myself up with a quick reminder that while my body wasn’t perfect, it was mine, and it had grown my favorite people. My body was strong, resilient, and amazing.


Until it betrayed me.


We say all bodies are beautiful, but can you feel beautiful when your body has turned on you?

That’s how I feel. Betrayed. I trusted my body. I tried to listen to it, I tried to nurture it, and I tried to celebrate it. While I did all of that, it began to turn on me. The thing that is supposed to protect me, hold me, be me, has stabbed me in the back. Or in my case, stabbed me in my abdominal wall.


Even after my initial surgery, it was pretty easy to push down these thoughts. While I knew I had cancer, it certainly didn’t feel real. It’s been harder to ignore in the last few weeks, as I began to feel pain in my abdomen. A steady soreness that seems to only inconvenience me enough to remind me that what I’m feeling is cancer. Then my right lung partially collapsed. I had some shortness of breath, but I had no idea that was the extent of it. I was able to have a thoracentesis to re-inflate my lung, but I again felt betrayed. Nothing externally was causing any of this. It was all my body doing this to my own body.


I’m under attack.


I know it will get worse with chemo and radiation as I prepare for treatment. I know my sense of self in the mirror will be challenged daily. But that almost seems better. It’s easy to explain, “I look like this because of chemotherapy, a foreign substance in my body.” The thing I’m having the hardest time with is what my own body is doing to me.


I worry I’ll never trust my body again. I’ll never celebrate it for nurturing my children. I’ll resent it for threatening to take me away from them. Even after this is all said and done, even if I bounce back stronger than I ever was, part of me is going to always know I was betrayed so deeply by the thing that is supposed to most protect me.


How do you go about forgiving your body?

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