Cult of Beauty (Nov-Dec 2001)

By Matt Dabbs

by Cynthia Rowland-McClure
November – December, 2001

“Make sure you make it pretty,” I told my surgeon. His reply was filled with empathy: “O Cynthia, I can’t,” he said.

My left breast was being cut away. I had breast cancer and I was only thirty years old. So many deep emotions engulfed my heart when I learned that my body had betrayed me. I was afraid of the unknown. Am I going to die? I felt profound dread and sorrow, because an important part of my sexuality as a woman was being torn off.

I had fought hard not to buy into the messages of this world that I was to look beautiful in every way. I had fought hard to be whole, and for the first time in my life I was in love with a wonderful man, David. I feared he might abandon me, that he would not want a woman without one of her breasts.

I had worked so hard to accept my body, overcome my self hate, be comfortable in my own skin, regardless of the cultural standards about the perfect size body.

I am not damaged freight

Two years before I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was an award-winning television news reporter. I knew the makeup. I looked good in my business suits. I had an authoritative, distinct voice for my on-camera news stories. Who would believe that while I looked good on the outside, the truth was I was dying inside? Self hate engulfed me. I had two lives. One was a career woman, the other a secret life. “The good girl’s addiction” – Bulimia. I was addicted to dieting and binging on huge amounts of food. I made myself vomit and take huge amounts of laxatives, only to starve myself for days, allowing only my lips to touch black coffee and water. Then, the viscous cycle would start all over. I called it my monster. I reached the point after living with my monster for 12 years that only death seemed to be the answer. I had gone to 17 different “professionals” and no one could help me. On a Sunday morning I decided to end my life.

I couldn’t take the madness anymore. Then a phone call from a caring friend saved my life. I entered a hospital that would change my life forever. That’s where I met my counselor, Mike Moore, who would help me save my own life from a devastating addiction called Bulimia and Anorexia. I could hear him say, “Cynthia, you are not damaged freight. You have tenacity, Cynthia; your God has a plan for your life.”

I learned that my self hate started early. I had repressed a childhood trauma that was locked deep in my soul. I had fallen into boiling water when I was four years old. Locked up memories and feelings of being abandoned by my parents had to be confronted. My father was a preacher, and I thought I had to be perfect to please him.

I wrote about my torturous journey in my book, The Monster Within. At 28, I resigned from my television career. God had anointed my life to be become a minister to people who were losing hope, who had self hate. They need to know there are reasons for the self hate and that there is a creator who gave his only Son because he loved them. The seeds of self hate are planted in the heart for many reasons.

During the past 17 years of sharing my story and hearing others tell theirs, I have understood that self hate can begin with a trauma but too often starts in family relationships.

For instance, a 16-year-old who weighed just 78 pounds when I first met her remembers at an early age her dad telling her, “you know I never wanted a girl. I wanted a son.” So this precious girl starved herself to have no breasts, no feminine hips – she looked like a teenage boy.

Then the world screams at us, “Your body and hair has to look pristine; if they don’t then you are a loser.”

In America, one recent survey revealed that one of four women and one of seven boys have been sexually abused by age 18.

Men are becoming addicted to pornography, they are deceived into believing a woman should look sexy, and women are buying into this thinking.

I asked three single men what they would do if the woman they had committed their life to found out she had breast cancer. “What if she lost her breast and her hair with chemo therapy?” I asked them.

One young man’s face fell, “O man, that’s a tough one,” he said. One of the others said, “It wouldn’t matter, I’d get her through it.” I told the three single men about my journey. They were amazed.

Hearing and acting on the words of my counselor, “You’re worth is not based on what you look like,” for me, means honestly finding the reason for self hate, respecting myself and never giving up faith – these things are true beauty. I miss my breast. My husband, David, married me the way I was; he fell in love with my fighting spirit. We just celebrated 15 years together.

Each time I observe my scar that took the place of my breast, I tell myself, “My true worth is not based on what I look like, it’s how I use my God-given gifts. It’s how I keep putting one foot in front of the other, even when I think I can’t. True beauty is staying healthy emotionally, spiritually, and physically. It’s about how I receive love and give love. Standing up for what is right. And ultimately I believe my true beauty comes from my deep faith that God can turn scars into beauty. He has a purpose for my life, and that he is bigger than any problem I face. God looks at my heart, not the cool hair I wear now or my savvy clothes; he simply loves me.New Wineskins

Cynthia Rowland-McClure

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About...

This author published 1598 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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