Everyone struggles at some point during their lives, but often women’s struggles or experience of struggle are unique. In honour of International Women’s Day on March 8, we asked women to share their stories of both trials and triumphs. Women’s stories and experiences are valid and important. Women’s wisdom is profound and deep. Let’s honour, support, and hold each other up. Let’s celebrate women and demand gender equity.

When I was five, I sat in a blow-up pool outside my house, and when the big kids walked by after school, I covered my ponytails because I was only wearing shorts and no top. I knew girls weren’t allowed to go without a top, but I didn’t know why, so I covered my ponytails so they wouldn’t know I was a girl.

When I was 13, my breasts grew very fast and soon I was a C cup. I dropped out of the swim team because I got sexually harassed so badly that I no longer felt comfortable or safe in a bathing suit. They bounced when I ran, and boys along the track would shout out at me and make jokes. So I dropped out of track and field, too.

In my teens, some boys wrote about my breasts on the boys’ bathroom wall and the principal of my junior high made me scrub it off. 

In my 20s, something very bad happened to me, so I decided to be a bad girl and was tough so that I could control my sexuality.

I was a plus-size pin-up girl in my 30s, when weight gain made me go up to a double D size. 

I worked with children who never noticed anything about my body except that I was soft to hug.

In my 40s, I was busy making my career work after a big move. I dealt with sexist comments from the men I taught computer skills to. I had to work twice as hard as the male instructors to get respect. I wore suits and made sure that the air conditioning never made my nipples visible through my conservative blouses.

One day I found a lump in my breast. It took three operations and chemotherapy and radiation, until I was left with one breast and one big, mangled scar. I worked so hard to gain my strength and my health back. I lost weight and I exercised and I was able to return to work.

When I met the surgeon to talk about reconstruction, she told me I didn’t have enough belly fat to rebuild a breast to the size I’d had before. That’s how surgeons do it now, after years of poisoning women with implants. They rebuild a breast out of your own tissue. But I’d lost too much weight and had a prior surgery in my belly that meant they only had a small amount to harvest. 

I told her I no longer identified as a big busted woman but as an athletic body type. I said I would be happy to go down to a smaller size.

It’s a brutal operation. It’s a long, hard recovery. 

But when it’s done, I will run again and swim again like that little girl I used to be.

This contribution is from a woman who wishes to remain anonymous.