A new age of beauty has risen and it excludes no one! Body positivity - a social movement based on the belief that every body is beautiful - advocates for a world where our self worth is not defined by our exterior but instead, the positive impact we have on the world and all those in it.

My own journey with my body has been a bit unique to say the least. As many of you may already know, I am a three time survivor and currently undergoing treatment for Hodgkin's Lymphoma - a cancer that attacks your white blood cells (lymphocytes).

At the ripe age of sixteen, I underwent round one of chemotherapy and radiation, resulting in hair-loss, scarring, and fluctuation in my weight. Weight has always been a struggle of mine and when I was initially diagnosed, I was the skinniest I had been in years. It was as though this beautifully wrapped gift had been placed in my lap and although everything around me was falling to pieces, at least I was skinny...right?

Wrong. After all the heartache, all the tears, all the pain, I went back to my old ways. Leaving the doors of McMaster SickKids Hospital, I was 220 lbs; the same weight I had been just a year before.

I decided to go to a different school and it was better in certain aspects. There was less bullying, less judging behind your back. I remember being in class and kids asking me if they could wear my wig. I remember always being seen as the big gal in town, walking into grade twelve even heavier and finding out just a year after I was declared “in remission”, the cancer had returned.

I was sent to Juravinski Cancer Centre and mom did research. She found an all-natural juice therapy called the Gerson Therapy and luckily, my oncologist was open to letting us try it. Not only did I lose 30 lbs (235lbs - 205lbs), but in just a few short months, the cancer had disappeared. I felt better than ever and I looked great!

What else could a seventeen year old girl want, right? Over the next three years, I would drink profusely, eat horrendously and wouldn’t exercise nearly enough. By 2015, I weighed a total of 350 lbs and, you guessed it, got cancer again.

I was able to try the Gerson juicing therapy again and from the first CT to the PET Scan I received, everything had shrunk! Unfortunately, cancer was found in regions that did not appear in the initial CT scan, so chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant were performed.

After round three of Hodgkin's Lymphoma, I learned my lesson: healthy Ryan was a happy Ryan! I was dedicated to eating right, and exercising properly. The more weight I lost, the better I felt. Nothing would stop me from being the healthiest I could be!

The problem was I believed skinny equated to healthy.

This past battle with cancer has taught me that just isn’t the case. At my skinniest (115 lbs), I wasn’t eating, sleeping, using the washroom, walking...I was basically a vegetable. Yes, my body wasn’t busy fighting off all the fast food and candy I would be if I still was 350 lbs but it didn’t have the energy to fight. I remember lying in bed and my mother begging me, “Please, Ryan. Please for me...fight.” So, I picked up a juice and fought. I picked up a smoothie and fought. I fought and fought until I could fight no more because it didn’t matter what I looked like. It didn’t matter if I was as big as a bus or as skinny as a twig. At  the end of the day, I could do just that.

Fight.Cancer is a part of my story and  I’m still fighting but, here’s the difference. I’m trying my hardest to do everything in my power to be healthy. Yes, body positivity includes loving how you look but, loving how you feel? That’s the ticket to true happiness. At my skinniest, I was my sickest. At my biggest, I was my saddest.  At my strongest, I am my most beautiful. At my healthiest, I am my happiest self. Healthy means loving who you are, loving the body you’re in, loving the people you surround yourself with, loving the life you lead.

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