How body modifications taught me to love myself again 

Coming to terms with how Cushing's changed my appearance

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by Noura Costany |

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My body has changed so much over the past few years due to both Cushing’s disease and its treatment. An excess production of cortisol can wreak havoc on the body in many ways, causing symptoms such as weight gain, hair loss, striae, buffalo humps, and bruising.

Some of the changes I’ve experienced have been positive, especially since beginning treatment: My muscles are stronger and my skin is clearer. But other changes have been difficult to come to terms with, such as the deep, purple striae I have running up my belly, breasts, and legs, or the way I run my fingers through my hair and watch as chunks fall to the shower floor.

It’s hard not to let these changes affect my mental health. Looking in the mirror and not recognizing myself is tough, and it’s made me feel immensely sad. For a while, I wanted to get my body back to where it was and become the person I used to be. Instead, I’ve learned to accept the new me and my new body, and find ways to love myself just as I am.

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The self-care practices that help me manage Cushing’s disease

Hair

A person in their late 20s smiles with their eyes closed for a photo while seated outside at what appears to be a restaurant. They're wearing a black hat with sunglasses balanced on top of it, and a blue sweatshirt. Their hair is pulled into low pigtails, and while most of it appears to be dark brown, the money pieces are dyed hot pink.

Noura Costany sports pink “money pieces” and a septum piercing while out and about. (Courtesy of Noura Costany)

Body modification has, surprisingly, been my saving grace in learning to love myself again. I’ve been able to slightly reverse my hair loss using hair oil and supplements, but the texture has entirely changed. To counteract this and learn to love my hair again, I started to dye what my hairstylist calls “the money pieces.” I started with an orange-ish color, then went blond, and now it’s bright pink.

This minor change has made me feel like a completely new person. My hair has once again become my favorite thing about myself. Plus, the colored dye is now a new accessory for me that makes me feel a little cooler.

Piercings

Every time I deal with a new health crisis, I try to get a new piercing. Most recently, when I found out that my pituitary tumor had recurred (after having it removed in 2020), I invested in an industrial piercing. I now have six lobe piercings, a nostril piercing, a septum piercing, and an industrial. Piercings always give me a burst of energy and motivation; they’re like a little reward for getting through everything I’m facing.

A close-up photo shows a black-and-white tattoo on the back of a person's upper arm. It depicts a person with curly hair and white eyes surrounded by flowers.

Noura Costany’s newest tattoo, done by Nathaly Bonilla, represents their journey with Cushing’s disease. (Courtesy of Noura Costany)

Tattoos

Lastly, I’ve found tattoos to be the most healing. Last week, I flew out to Los Angeles to get a brand-new one to represent my chronic illness journey. I want to accept the person I once was while letting them stay in the past so I can embrace who I am now. I asked for the tattoo to represent my strength and courage and include parts of myself I love, like my curly hair.

Getting this tattoo was incredibly healing, and now my arm is my favorite part of my body. My last tattoo, a yin-yang koi fish on my thigh, helped me fall in love with the stretch marks surrounding it.

My body is constantly changing. Trying to ignore that, or pretend it isn’t happening, only leads to delusions and sadness. Embracing my new body and changing it to represent the person I am now has been incredibly healing. I love my new body, my new hair, my new tattoos, and I’m happy in my skin.

Have body modifications helped you? Please share in the comments below! You can also follow my journey on TikTok and YouTube.


Note: Cushing’s Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cushing’s Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Cushing’s.

Comments

Elisabeth Leith Strain avatar

Elisabeth Leith Strain

Loved your article. It is really hard to come to terms with what this disease does to you. Sometimes I don’t even want to leave the house. The changes are swift and they are devastating. I love the way you are reframing the changes and learning to care and appreciate the body that is still there walking the path with you. Thank you for your insights I will keep thinking about your article for a long time. Cyber hugs.

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