It started in 2011 when I was diagnosed with cancer. From 2011-2016, I had several surgeries. The most intense one being in 2013 when I had to have some major organs removed. After that surgery, I was unable to walk without assistance and was on bed rest for several weeks. As I healed, I experienced something that I had never felt before; compassion towards myself – body and soul.

It was a compassion that eventually let to acceptance of my body and the desire celebrate myself. After years of hating my plus-size body, I started to recognize MY power, MY strength and MY resiliency. Despite all that I had experienced, I somehow learned to love and accept myself – as is! This major turning point caused a domino effect of even more resets, culminating with the end of a relationship with my then fiancé, of almost 18 years. I could no longer stay in a relationship that I had, not only outgrown, but that was toxic. Early 2015, I moved out and left him almost all of the possessions that we had accumulated as a couple and started from scratch. It was the hardest thing that I’ve ever done, but after surviving so many adversities, I knew that I would get through it and that I deserved to be treated with the same respect and kindness that I was now demonstrating to myself.

My outlook changed, completely! I started to focus on gratitude- being grateful for the strength of my body, for the resiliency of my spirit, for my family, friends and all of my experiences, good and bad. I also become conscious of how I spoke to myself. Even when I felt “too big” I focused on being compassionate and recognizing my value and worthiness. Part of the ‘how’ also involved changing my style. It was important to me to use my love of fashion to reflect the sparkle that I started to see in myself. So I traded in my black dresses, black flats and my tight bun, for color, prints, heels and tousled waves. For the first time ever, I wanted to be seen and not hide. Friends started to notice this shift – it was not only a change in my wardrobe, but a shift in the energy that I was projecting. One of confidence and compassion. Celebrating myself had now become a priority.

The most important step in my transformation was changing the negative chatter in my head. I had to acknowledge that I was bullying myself and that I had to take responsibility for the way that I felt about myself. Blaming past experiences was no longer an option. At that moment, I made a vow that I would be kind to myself and that I would say positive things about myself, or at least try. It was a matter of becoming conscious of my thoughts and faking it until I made it.

Repeating affirmations and talking myself out of a negative thoughts felt inauthentic at first, but I kept on doing it. Now, the bully in me stays relatively quiet. But most importantly, I can honestly say that I truly and unequivocally love myself. This reset also led me to find my passion. It’s important for me to share my story because I don’t ever want anyone to go through what I went through in order for them to see their value and feel deserving of their love. Life is too short!