Updated: Jun 22, 2021
The multiple surgeries that come with a breast cancer diagnosis can strip you of your confidence and rob you of your sensuality. Join Tammey as she talks with Cat Phillips of “Sexy Souls Search” about redefining sexy and reconnecting to the soul. In this intimate, vulnerable, and powerful conversation, Tammey and Cat discuss tips and tools that help guide listeners through a journey that leads to the reclamation of sensual identity. Learn where “sexy” truly comes from, in this episode of the “Your Killer Life” podcast.
Topics in this Episode:
Once again, NOT A BOOB JOB!!
No such thing as a “one size fits all” diagnosis
An adjustment in sexiness
Thriving, not “surviving”
Dance like no one is watching
Light and dark in tandem
Vanity or identity?
Redefine a narrative
Overwhelmed with good intentions
“I am more than a physical being”
We define sexy!
Reconciliation with beauty
Speak kindly to yourself
Turn those heads!
Lessons of a continuing journey
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Tammey Grable-Woodford: Hello, and welcome back to Your Killer Life. I am so excited for this week’s guest. We are talking with Cat Phillips, and she is with Sexy Soul Search. And so, yeah, we’re going to have a little bit of sex talk on this one, but probably not in the way that you’re thinking. Cat is... not only is she just amazing and I would say a long lost breastie of mine, but she is a body and soul coach, she’s cancer thriver, and I love that because that is often how I refer to myself. I... survivor just seems so minimal when thriver is really what is possible, and she is out there redefining sexy and talking about how sexy and redefining that and reconnecting with the soul are tied to gather.
So thank you so much for joining me on the podcast today, Cat.
Cat Phillips: That’s so great to be here, Tammy. Thank you for having me.
Tammey Grable-Woodford: Oh, absolutely. This is such an important topic, and I think it’s a topic that we honestly don’t really. I was gonna say, we don’t talk about enough, but you know, I kind of want to phrase it as maybe we’re learning to own, like, we are learning to take back some of this language and redefine it as part of our femininity and our growth after these experiences.
But before we get into all of that stuff, which this is going to be a great conversation. Tell us a little bit about you, about your experience, your diagnosis, because I think that it is so helpful for us to hear from other women who have been there, done that, been through it, and all of our experiences being so unique.
So tell us a little bit about you.
Once again, NOT A BOOB JOB!!
Cat Phillips: Yeah, sure. So yeah, Sexy Soul Search really was born from my experience, obviously. And about ten years ago, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. And about a year after that, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. So I had a back to back double whammy. And, um, so I went through treatments and tons of surgeries and took a few years to really kind of get ahead of, you know, the Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
And so, I’ve been recovered fully from that. But then over the last several years, I kept having recurrences with the breast cancer. So, I had implants and many surgeries and changing of implants. And it seemed to me at that time, unfortunately, that I was so focused on the cosmetic outcome of my treatment rather than the health of my body.
Which is really, you know, a sad thing, right? Many surgeries, recurrences, the body just kept getting... my body kept getting more mutilated and more mutilated. And, um, the last straw was that I decided to remove the implants because I thought maybe they just weren’t working for me. Maybe they had something to do with recurrence.
Cosmetic surgeons will say no, but in my heart, I just thought that was the thing to do. So, I had them removed, and I was still desperate for some sort of semblance of breasts, you know? So, I opted for a fat transfer. Fat grafting procedures. And I had a couple of those, and I had complications and lo and behold, I had another recurrence of breast cancer.
So, I said, do you know what, Cat what are you doing? This brings a whole new meaning to drop dead gorgeous. You are so focused on trying to have a beautiful body, that something that you can be proud of, that you’re risking your health and your life for this, you know, image that you have in your mind that probably won’t ever achieve.
So, um, I went through quite a dark place, quite depression, you know, at that last, um, recurrence and the fat grafting didn’t even take. So, I actually looked worse than I ever did. Um, throughout the years and something clicked in me that I said, I have to be ok with this. I cannot keep going under the knife and, um, reinjuring injurying, um, my body.
And so, I, I took some time to really mourn the process. I grieved the body that I once knew. And I knew that I would never get that back, or even some semblance of that. It is what it is. And so, I really started to look at modalities of emotional healing, spiritual healing, and meditation breath work, that kind of thing.
And I went on like a soul search and, um, it took me about a year. That’s what birthed Sexy Soul Search. Because I decided that I am going to redefine sexy and that I am more than my physical self and that my sexiness radiates from my soul and who I am at a deep soul level is who I am, and that is what is sexy.
I am empowered. I am confident. I am beautiful. I am all of those things down to my soul.
And that was, I had a spiritual awakening basically. And so, so that was the turning point for me. And I discovered that if this can be a turning point for me, how can I help other women the same way? Because I never, in the 10 years that I’ve been through this process, have never been spoken to about the emotional side, the mental side, um, you know, that trauma, um, about, you know, how I look physically and how it’s ok to look this way.
And I get to decide that I’m enough. And it doesn’t matter what anybody else might think. You know, so for me, it was, it was a spiritual journey of self-discovery and, um, you know, I feel that if I can help people, if I can be of service to women or anybody with body image issues, but for me, because I’m a cancer survivor that is near and dear to my heart, there are so many people in this world that are struggling with body image concerns.
And so, this speaks to anybody and everybody, you know, even people we think might not have any sort of, um, you know, self-doubt. They, you know, inside, we don’t know what people are feeling. So that’s my story, kind of a abbreviated, but, um, yeah, so, so here I am today and I’ve been through, you know, relationships and, and been single and been married, and had dates.
And I’ve dated when I have expanders in and I actually, during the, my chemo way back, um, during Hodgkin’s I actually dated, did online and wrote an article about it called “Chemo Courtships.” And I had no hair. And so I, you know, really interesting topic and subject to discuss, because whether you’re single or married or, you know, with a long-term relationship or a new relationship or potentially a relationship, this is important conversation to have.
No such thing as a “one size fits all” diagnosis.
Tammey Grable-Woodford: It is, it is so significant and it’s so hard to own it in a society that sort of conditions women from childhood to seek outer validation and external validation for their beauty, for what is acceptable, for it’s... I think a lot of pressure that is unique to women. In this area. But before we get into that, I wanted to ask what type of breast cancer did you have?
Cat Phillips: Um, I was diagnosed with DCIS.
Tammey Grable-Woodford: DCIS. Ok. And I get that, um, I want to make sure that, to answer that. Cause I know that that helps others who are going, going through that to relate and mine was ILC. And I think it’s also too important to point out because I did not know until I had my breast cancer diagnosis, that there were so many different types of breast cancer. So, I always want to advocate and let people know that it is different treatments are different and, and outcomes are vary based on all of that. And so, and then you had recurrence of your breast cancer. Did you have metastasis or just, so are you considered metastatic or did you just have recurrence in the breast area?
Cat Phillips: No just, um, lymph nodes that’s as far as it I’m... knock knock. Yeah. So, I said just the lymph nodes, like it’s no big deal, but I know the... (both laughing)
Tammey Grable-Woodford: said just breast cancer. (both laughing) So, I mean...
Cat Phillips: You know what? After the Hodgkin’s lymphoma, I sat in the doctor’s office and the doctor said, Oh, you have breast cancer. And I said, “How fucking unoriginal.” Sorry, can I say that? You might have to bleep that out
Tammey Grable-Woodford: You already did. That’s happened. That ship sailed. (both laughing)
Cat Phillips: Because I was like, ok, like, I didn’t know anybody who had Hodgkin’s I knew, I knew several women who have had it just came out of my mouth and I was like, really like, what? Come on!
Tammey Grable-Woodford: Yeah. Oh my gosh. You know what? You gotta laugh.
Cat Phillips: Gotta laugh. You gotta laugh.
Tammey Grable-Woodford: There’s a whole different, I was having this conversation with a girlfriend of mine who is a Stage 4 and she is living with her metastasis. And you just have these until you are in this boat. It’s hard to explain, like you can literally go from laughing about it, to crying over it, in a nanosecond, but you know, you find your humor where you can.
Cat Phillips: Absolutely. You have to.
Tammey Grable-Woodford: And then it’s interesting how your language changes, right? “Or did you just have it in the recur, in the breast?” It’s just, Oh my goodness.
Cat Phillips: I know.
An adjustment in sexiness.
Tammey Grable-Woodford: Trust me, as that fell out of my mouth. I caught it. Just not just not fast enough. All right. So, let’s, let’s talk about sexy.
Now. I mentioned at the beginning of this; I wanted to; I was excited for this conversation because a lot of times, and we were talking in the virtual green room, about how a lot of times, sex is defined also externally. Right? And it’s been a language really more so of the masculine energy, um, than of the feminine energy.
And so. You start going through this process, and all of the sudden, because I will tell you even after repeated reconstructions and multiple surgeries, I finally got to the best I’m going to get to, which is not where I was. I’ll never see that previous self, that, that ship sailed. Right. So, so adjusting to that, but really kind of redefining what sexy and what sensuality, what that feels like and looks like, and for you personally, and that is such a huge conversation. So yeah. You want to kick us off a little bit about how you, what you mean when you say redefining sexy. Because if we look up sexy, we’re going to find, yeah.
Cat Phillips: Yeah. First and foremost, um, it starts with self-worth and self-love. Because if you don’t tackle those two things, it’s going to be more difficult for you to feel comfortable or intimate with somebody else.
So, for me, I have a, I have a program that I’m developing where it’s different phases of kind of going through this process, and it starts with self-worth. And there’s also a self-love and there’s different activities or rituals that you can do. And it’s really about getting intimate with yourself and finding that sexiness within you and on a physical level.
So it could be something like dancing naked in front of the mirror to your favorite song. I mean, really getting your groove on you know what I mean? And moving your body to a way that is like sexy as hell. You know what I mean?
So that kind of, that kind of thing. Um, giving yourself self-massage, um, really getting intimate, knowing what feels good to you, with your new body with the way that it is now. Cause it’s different, there might be areas you don’t want to touched. There might be areas that are sensitive. You have to know that.
So really, I mean every inch of you, getting really intimate. Um, and then, you know, falling in love with who you are now because there is a mourning process. I think that is so key that women don’t. Do you have to mourn the body that you once had, to accept what is. So, um, if you don’t do that, you’re going to have a really hard time moving forward and accepting and loving yourself as you are now.
So I’ve done several of those kinds of rituals over the, over the year that I had my spiritual awakening and it, that really got me to the other side.
So I redefined sexy as I’m empowered. I am confident now. I know that I’m beautiful inside and out. It doesn’t matter... there could be nobody on this planet, who thinks I’m beautiful. It doesn’t matter. I do.
You know? And I’ve decided that for myself because it is who I am. I can’t change it. You know, I can’t, at this point, I can’t change it. And I, and I don’t want to try to change it anymore because all of that desperation led me deeper and deeper into a dark place.
Tammey Grable-Woodford: You know, it’s so true. The confidence is so paramount. And it’s also something that is, that is stripped from us in this process in ways like that... that’s a common thread. I obviously can only intimately speak from my own experience, but I can tell you that I went from someone who was... who had ran for state representative, who had no problems speaking publicly, to feeling so stripped of my confidence that I had social anxiety meeting with friends. Like I got to the end of this and I’m like, how do I have a conversation with people now? That’s not a cancer-focused conversation.
How do I integrate back into society and around, yeah, and around what’s normal. The old normal. And then I went through this period of just struggling to find the, uh, the normal that was, and I often say it’s like trying to hold the same river water twice, right.
Like that had passed.
Cat Phillips: Impossible. Yeah.
Tammey Grable-Woodford: Yeah. And so then it really was coming down to how do I accept and love me? And then I called, I said it was like being a teenager again. So now I’m having to adjust to my body, to love, love myself...
Cat Phillips: Right. Exactly. Exactly. That’s it? And it’s a pro... it’s not easy, you know, and I feel like I’m more confident now than before I had all of this happened to me.
Tammey Grable-Woodford: Yeah.
Cat Phillips: It’s amazing. The evolution and it’s, it is it’s mindset, but it’s a process. Transformation doesn’t happen overnight. And you want to enjoy the process.
You don’t want to just flip the switch. You won’t learn anything that way -you won’t grow or extend. So it’s a process, and you move through it, and it’s, you know, it’s up and down, and it’s a beautiful thing.
Tammey Grable-Woodford: Yes. It really is. And I also loved what you said. I want to go back and talk a little bit about self-massage, something that I, I see often I’m, I’m in survivor groups, and I’m sure you are too. And sort of one of the, one of the common threads that comes up is just not wanting to touch, like not wanting to look as one thing, which is really... it’s complicated because you can’t not see yourself when you dry yourself off. Like, you know, eventually you’re going to... going to see it. And so what I say with, uh, breast cancer is that there’s just every day you are reminded every day, you are reminded that you went through this because you’re going to see or feel, or have this reminder.
And talking about feel. So I, I was someone that I had cupping done, and I had massage done cause I had painful scarring. And so I had that type of sensation, but when it came to feeling them. It was an odd thing because, and I think a lot of guys, and we have, we have husbands and caregivers and, and boyfriends that listen, you know, the sensation that we have in that area is so different.
And so it is kind of a trigger because at first, you’re like, wow, this either I don’t feel anything, which is really hard. Or it feels like your foot fell asleep, kind of numb tingly, as nerves are redoing their thing. So talk to us a little bit about the power of not just seeing yourself, but also, as you said, massage and getting to know yourself again and getting to to feel yourself again.
Cat Phillips: Yeah, I think it’s really important to eventually see yourself as a sensual being; even though I talk a lot about, we’re more than our physical selves. That’s really who we are on a soul level; we still have bodies that we drive around in this life. And this is, you know, our, our vehicle that, you know, it’s important to take care of it. And this is, you know, what we’ve got while we’re here.
So you want to feel comfortable in your body, obviously in a safe way. If there’s areas that you shouldn’t be, you know, roughing up, then don’t know, don’t get it. But when I’m talking about massage, I’m not talking about deep pressure, like a massage therapist would do.
I’m talking about a light gliding motion that feels good. That you can explore your body. And even if in a sexual way, you want to explore your body. It’s a beautiful thing because you are a sexual, sensual being; we are human. So go to town and enjoy it because I think even, yeah, after you have had these surgeries and you feel maybe less than you, you might not feel like you’re worthy of having pleasure in the way that you once did.
And that’s a shame you know, I mean, if anything, you deserve it even more after everything you’ve gone through. And, um, and, and we go through so much pain and illness, and we’ve been not feeling good. I mean we, we deserve to feel good, so to really explore and, and not be afraid of that. And when the time is right, the time is right. You know, you can’t force it.
Tammey Grable-Woodford: Right.
Cat Phillips: I mean, obviously, but when you get that glimmer of, ok, I think I’m ready to get to know this new, physical being of mine. Take it slow and just, you know, obviously in your own space, safe space, private space, and, um, get to know yourself before you jump into anything uncomfortable with a partner, um, that, that you’re not quite ready for.
I think it’s first and foremost; you got to get to know yourself and see that you are worthy of experiencing joy and pleasure and happiness, and that you are worthy of self-love and self-acceptance. It’s it’s, it’s not easy. It’s definitely not easy. And you know, for me, um, it was discovering my purpose. I think a lot of people get to this point where you realize, I mean, all of the silver linings, right?
Tammey Grable-Woodford: Right.
Cat Phillips: Where you’d say like, Oh my gosh, it’s not ideal. This is not what I would have chosen, but especially with the Sexy Soul Search, when that came to me like a bolt of lightning, It’s like, this is my purpose! I get, I get it now. Yeah. You know? So, um, so it it, it’s such a gift. It’s like, ok, if I hadn’t gone through all of that, I would not have been, you know, awoken to everything that I know now. And the belief systems that I now have and how much I adore and appreciate myself and my body for kicking ass over the last ten years, you know,
Tammey Grable-Woodford: Yeah!
Cat Phillips: We’re, we’re worthy of so much. We just need to get out of our way and let it happen. And, you know, sometimes we, we think in too much,
Tammey Grable-Woodford: We do. And sometimes I think we also place that externally, right. That, that validation. And so really getting to know yourself. And I’ve said before on previous episodes, when my medical oncologist said to me, you know, many people say that, you know, breast cancer is, it was amazing for them in the end.
They, they, you know?
Cat Phillips: Isn’t that wild. That’s so wild. I get it. Yeah.
Tammey Grable-Woodford: I will tell you, as a newly diagnosed person, I probably never wanted to throat punch a doctor as much as I did at that moment. Right. Like, so. Because it doesn’t make sense.
Cat Phillips: No, it doesn’t.
Thriving, not “surviving.”
Tammey Grable-Woodford: It’s a long haul, right? That’s, you know, I say cancer is a marathon. It is not a sprint. And the people who are there sending you flowers and cards and loving on you when you are first diagnosed and the people who are still with you years later, you know, not every, not everybody makes it to the finish line, and that’s that’s ok.
That is absolutely ok.
Cat Phillips: I think that’s why I prefer the term thriver than survivor. Cause we don’t really ever survive it. It’s ongoing. It’s even if we’re in remission ten years; it’s still part of you, the experience, the some of the fears, all of that. So you have to thrive through it, you know, you’re not merely like, Oh, I survived it, I’m done.
No, you’re still thriving.
Tammey Grable-Woodford: That is such a great point. It really is never behind you. And you know, not only are you daily reminded of... for the most part and I I’m five-plus years out. And you know, so yes, there might be days where, you know, my reminders now change. My reminder is I, I love my tattoos, and I’ll see my tattoo. And I’m like, wow. You know, I’m thankful for those tattoos. I love them.
Um, But it is still there. And with that comes to your point of mental health, you know, it’s not just the trigger of what we’ve been through that initial diagnosis. There’s also the ongoing scans, the ever-present possibility of it returning, people, asking those questions of, so, you know, are you and remission, are you cured?
Are you right? And my answer is always like, well, I’m good today, right? Because I there’s...
Cat Phillips: Yeah... it’s an ongoing process. I always. Say it’s an ongoing process. It’s not, I mean, that’s it because even if, if you don’t have recurrence for years, hopefully, you’re still doing the maintenance. You’re still doing the things you’re treating your body while you’re doing all of those things to keep you well. So it is ongoing, always
Tammey Grable-Woodford: Right, always.
So what I also love, and one of the reasons I really wanted to bring video to the guest episodes on the YouTube channel is that there are so many of us who... well all of us, as we’re thriving through this, you look at “pink-tober,” which I will admit is my least favorite month. And I’ll probably have an episode on that in October...
Cat Phillips: and that’s my birthday month, and it’s always like, I know I’m with you. It’s all good.
Tammey Grable-Woodford: But the images that we see. Right? So I think back to when I was newly diagnosed, and I think back to the images that came to mind that were the images that, that I was familiar with when thinking about cancer.
And then the reality of that secret, not so secret club and finding so many people who were alive and living vibrantly in this diagnosis and is it was so eye-opening.
And so to see that, honestly, truly people could bump into either one of us on the street, never know.
Cat Phillips: Never never. Yeah. That’s so true. Yeah, absolutely. It is. It’s. Yeah, it’s amazing how far we’ve come in so many ways. So really?
Dance like no one is watching.
Tammey Grable-Woodford: Yeah, it really is. It really is. Ok. So let’s talk about, we talked a little about redefining, sexy, and getting in touch with self. What did you find was the most powerful thing about the exercise of dancing and especially naked in front of the mirror. Tell me a little bit about that why, for that?
Cat Phillips: Yeah. I mean, I think that that really. It seems so silly, and when you’re doing it, it’s like nobody else is watching you. Go for it. And how fun once the music, hits and you and I... I move my body in ways... I mean, I do it often, actually. I do think I’m to a place now. I’m not saying I’m completely a hundred percent. It’s again an evolution. Everything is evolving.
But I’m at to a place now where. It’s like, this is me. This is the new normal, this, I don’t even honestly remember what I look, what my body looked like before, to be honest. And like you, I got tattoos and different things. So it looks completely different than I ever did before my diagnosis and, um, and it is just who I am.
And so it’s so empowering to rock your body. Like to just be proud of it and say, this is who I am. I’m gonna move; I’m gonna dance. I’m gonna do everything that my body allows me to do in this moment because it thought through so much, and it deserves it. Like it, you know, it’s gotten us, our bodies have gotten us through thick and thin, and we deserve to not only, you know, treat it well on a physical level, but to speak kindly.
So if you’re standing there and you’re saying, Oh, you’re ugly. I don’t like that. You’re poor body. I mean, it has done so much for you, and it’s in a place right now that you’re still alive. So give it the love and the care and the nourishment that it deserves and speak kindly to it. That is one of the most important things that I do.
So when the bathroom dancing naked in front of the mirror, I’m appreciating all that my body has done for me. I’m like, you know, it’s, it’s perfect.
Tammey Grable-Woodford: It is.