185. That’s My Number.



That’s my number.

It is what pops up on the scale when I’m in the doctor’s office. Or when I step out of the shower and dry my hair and use the bathroom and decide that it’s time to torture myself over three little figures.


One. Eight. Five.


Or is it 14?

Maybe that’s my number.

The size pants I have to buy because my apple shaped abdomen got fluffier and fluffier as I stress-ate all those snacks after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

Photo Credit: Mary Katherine Backstrom

Or is it 390?

Maybe that’s my number.

The size implant I think I want when they reconstruct my breasts so I can feel a little more human again.

I squeezed each and every weird gelatin blob in my plastic surgeon’s office before settling on one that quite honestly looked like all the others.

“I dunno, this one?”

The nurse jotted down some numbers, looked over my body, and left the room.

It was a bizarre place to be, sitting in an open gown, with my marshmallow tummy and stitched up breasts exposed.

Even more bizarre was sitting next to a wall covered with plastic surgery pamphlets. Each featuring a woman who was smiling in a linen shirt and, I assume, was so very happy because she had some sort of surgical procedure.

I grabbed a few brochures and thumbed through them: brow lifts, arm lifts, tummy tucks, lipo, Botox, Mommy make overs, eyelid lifts…

Did you know that your face has “parentheses” on it? Apparently, they aren’t desirable.

I always thought they were smile lines, but according to the brochures you can fill them in with medical jelly stuff and make them go away.

And then it’s like you never smiled at all!

Which is…good, I guess?

I don’t know.

With all of that reading material, it was hard not to imagine what my body would look like if I had a smaller waist. Or bigger boobs. Less wrinkles. Rounder butt. Smoother legs. Flab-free arms.

I hadn’t considered these things before…but they seemed like really good ideas.

When the nurse returned, I put my clothes back on, paid my co-pay and went home.

I stood in front of the mirror and just stared at my body.

I never realized that my arms jiggled when I waved. Maybe an arm lift would fix that.

I never realized I had parenthesis on my face. God, can you really actually smile too much?

I never considered that the veins showing under my skin were unsightly. My kids always traced their tiny fingers over them them like it was a game. I kinda liked that game until just now.

My mind was racing

What was it Sir Mix a Lot said?

“36-24-36. Hah, only if she’s 5’3!”


Thank goodness, it occurred to me that I shouldn’t care what Sir Mix a Lot thinks about a woman’s body.

I’m ashamed to say that it took a bit longer for me to realize that he isn’t the only one whose opinion I shouldn’t care about.

Y’all still with me? Good. Because I need to tell you something.

Those numbers? Those ideals? Those crazy standards that we are literally starving ourselves and cutting ourselves open to comply with?

They are all lies.

I am serious.

Who the hell came up with a “parenthesis” anyways? I have smile lines.


The world can deal with it.

This insanity that has gripped our society is so toxic that we are all ashamed of our weight, our size, and our age. We spend half our lives trying to fix ourselves with diet and exercise and surgery, like those things have any bearing at all on who misses us when we are gone.

Listen to me.

There is no formula that makes you beautiful.

Look at me.

My numbers will never add up to society’s ideal. 

I am pale, I’ve had multiple surgeries, and I weigh 185 pounds. I’m a size 14. I’m 35 years old. Do you think those are the numbers that define me?

Or is it possible they literally. mean. nothing?

I am here to tell you that this world has bumped its damn head. It’s paying attention to all the wrong things. Those numbers? They don’t add up.

There are no stats on the planet that could convey a person’s worth. There are too many undefined variables. It’s crap math and it doesn’t add up.

My pants size can’t tell you that I’ve brought two children into this world. How about that number? TWO. Pretty awesome if you ask me.

My age doesn’t tell you about my 13 years of marriage. THIRTEEN. That’s a number I’m pretty dang proud of.

My figure stats don’t reveal that I donated a kidney, or recently underwent a mastectomy. My bra size doesn’t tell anyone that I’m a breast cancer survivor.

Because, HELLO, these numbers do not matter.

They never did.

Y’all, I hope you never again look in the mirror and cry over curves and wrinkles.

I hope you never look at the scale and believe the LIE that it defines you. When society’s ideal numbers crowd your brain and break your spirit and make you question your worth, I want you to remember your good ole friend, MK.

I am here, enjoying my life—with crows feet and frankenboobs and smile lines and cottage cheese thighs.

185 pounds. Size 14. 35 years old.

And none of it matters a bit.

You and I are creations whose value cannot be defined. We are loved by God and we are perfect the way we are.

Yes. I said it: PERFECT.

Our worth is innate, It is INFINITE, my friends. And infinity is a number that simply can’t be counted.

185.That’s my number.It is what pops up on the scale when I’m in the doctor’s office. Or when I step out of the…

Posted by Mary Katherine Backstrom on Thursday, May 30, 2019


  1. You go Mary Katherine! You are perfect, beautiful and awesome! I have fought the weight loss battle all my life! I was always “the fat girl with the pretty face”! I am now approaching 72 years of age and finally realize what’s important in life. Yes, I also have parentheses!! Who caresll


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