How Bernadett Bled Her Way Through The May Issue of O Magazine

Have you ever wanted to call in sick to work because you had cramps, heavy bleeding, been emotionally and physically exhausted and didn’t feel like being half naked in a room full of people, where you are the main focus? I found myself facing that very situation. At a recent shoot for O, the Oprah Magazine, where I’d been asked to model lingerie for their yearly Body Issue, a testament to body love and self acceptance, but this time, I couldn’t call out sick.

 As I walked into the brightly lit photography studio, I saw the racks of nude lingerie awaiting me, as well as my co-model for the shoot, a beautiful, elegant size-zero model resembling Lupita Nyong’o. You’d think the idea of disrobing and taking full-length shots in the nude body suit they’d prepared for me would be the part of this story making me pause—hardly. As an international model, I’d been taking shots like this for more than 10 years. No, today, I was feeling vulnerable for an entirely different reason. I’d recently had two very different and serious health scares—and if I hadn’t advocated for myself with multiple doctors—I might not even be standing in the room.

 Just a few weeks prior to the body shoot, I had 20 fibroids removed from my uterus and one massive grapefruit-sized fibroid just leisurely resting on my uterus, which was putting pressure on my other organs. My doctor had told me I had many and they were all unusually big— to which my response was, “Well, that’s obvious because I don’t do anything small.”Just weeks prior to my uterine surgery, I had basal cell carcinoma removed from my back. In both instances, I’d had thought to ask for second opinions and doing so saved me further trauma. When I was diagnosed with fibroids, the first specialist suggested a regular surgery akin to a c-section, which would have left me out of commission for months. I’d thought to speak up and a different doctor was able to offer a less invasive, laparoscopic option—which had left me with five petite holes in my abdomen and recovery time had been shorter. I’d also thought to have a few other freckles rechecked that had been overlooked in my last body scan just three months ago, which turned out to be pre-cancerous.

 Still, the morning of the shoot I was sweating, bleeding and extremely anxious. While in the fitting, I was terrified I would stain the garments I was trying on. I confided in the makeup artist about my surgery in case I passed out so someone would know why. I was extremely weak and tired. I was afraid of wearing barely anything post surgery. Fearful the signs of what I was going through and blood loss would appear on the garment, I had to take extreme measures to get through the day.

 I decided to double up. I used two super-plus tampons and changed them every half hour. (A model once told me she did this and I thought she was insane). In the course of six hours I went through at least a whole box. I called my doctor to let her know what was going on and she said; “Why aren’t you in here seeing me! You should be in here seeing me! I said, “Clearly you don’t understand, it’s OPRAH!” Click.

 So there I was in a room full of strangers hired to pose in a body-conscious garment, which any other given day would be okay, but today, there was a bigger irony that wasn’t lost on me. The vulnerability I was feeling had nothing to do with outer appearance—and all to do with the fragility—and the strength—of my body itself.

In this period of my life, I am at peace with my body, but have also never been more conscious of how it works. In the past several months, I have had to check in with my body on a daily basis. How was I feeling? Was I noticing any unusual spots? Did I need to call a doctor, again? And what I’ve found is that second-guessing gives you second chances.

 That morning before I left for the shoot I sat quietly in my room and checked in with myself asking if I was really up for this day. I’ve been faced with extreme circumstances in the past which have allowed me to become stronger and allow me to tap into a energy source that allows me to in a way, push things aside (temporarily) and move on with the task ahead. This is what I did. I was asked to perform on a higher stage while I was at my lowest. As I look at the May issue of O Magazine, I am reminded that there are no coincidences. As the opening credits read: “This month we’re stepping away from the mirror to get in touch with all the amazing things the body can do—the places it takes us, the sensations it gives us, the life it lets us live.” 

 After this shoot, I learned an even greater lesson on what my body and mind are really capable of. That day, I’d found some more “unusual freckles” and in between prepping scenes I saw one in particular that looked dangerous to me. That “unusual” looking freckle turned out to be malignant melanoma—which would have gone undetected had I trusted the annual skin check my dermatologist had given me just three months ago. 

 Today, as I look at my image on page 120 I see a model doing her job, but also what my body was able to do while having been through so much trauma. The script writing on my stomach is apropos. ‘However you feel about your form, trust us: your body is more beautiful—and expressive—than you know.’ Yes it is.

16 comments

  1. Whitney Dineen says:

    You’re a pro Bern!!! I was flew to New York for a shoot with a horrible kidney infection. My reasoning, much like yours…”Clearly, you don’t understand, this is Oprah!” Love!

  2. peter di grazia says:

    No, mademoioselle, you do not do anything small. Jesus, what a harrowing story.

    Carcenogenic melanoma is how I lost my Pop. Nasty stuff but totally curable if you get it quick. I assume you had it removed.

    Well done with the second opinions. That’s a must. An informed patient is a good patient.

  3. Megan Murtha says:

    Beautifully written and beautifully thought. This should be it’s own article in O. Please send it in to the editors – it might save someone’s life. A wonderful reminder of everything that being “body conscious” should mean. You are so brave in so many ways. Many of my students follow you on Facebook and I am reminding them all, male and female, to read this post. xoxo

  4. Rachel Seiders says:

    How scary and utterly amazing. at 31 years old I have never thought to have the copious amounts of freckles I have, checked for any abnormalities. it does everyone good to be “body conscious” especially when it comes to our health. Whitney posted your link on her FB page and I will reshare it! Way to persevere!

  5. Klara p. Vajda says:

    Dear Bernadett, my dear middle daughter,

    As I was reading your blog, a number of things crossed my mind and a few of them reminded me of why I chose your name. Before you were born I imagined how will you look, knowing our family backgrounds, and also I anticipated that you will be a strong character.

    The name Bernadette comes from French and German, it means strong, brave, brave like a bear. The Hungarian spelling of your name is without an “e” at the end. Not many around the world have this name, maybe at around .0001% while there are at least 32 variatiosn of the name of Bernadett.
    I also liked the story of the French peasant girl, called Saint Bernadette.

    There is a story about you that I wish to share here. A week after your were born I took you home from the hospital in Budapest, Hungary. I arrived home with you to my apartment that was “freezing” because no one was there for 6 days, the heating was set for 40 F (at about 5 C) and it was the dead of the winter, outside temperature was about 10 F, which is approx- 12C. You were wrapped into a dawn swaddling-bands (in Hungarian mean polya) as every baby in Hungary) to keep at warm. On top of that a warm blanket covered you. We went to sleep. In the middle of the night you started to cry and on the advice of my pediatrician I let you cry about 10-15 minutes hoping that you will go back to sleep.
    No, that did not happen. You kept crying and I got up to see what was going on. To my complete surprise you were by that time half naked. You managed to get out from the “polya’ which was secured and you got rid of your diaper.

    You are strong and determined. A fighter! Now You know .

    Love you

    mama/Klara

  6. Valli Swerdlow says:

    When I read this article I am so touched by how you have blossomed since you were a little girl, with that gorgeous smile, full of love, such a dear daughter , sister and friend. A real professional, talented, a wonderful woman, a hard workier, genuine, dedicated and creative. Such a gift to follow you on Facebook and to hear of your adventures from your family. Love ya! Xxxoooo

  7. lauren says:

    what a beautiful and power story (and photo).

    love your vulnerability Bernadett. And tell me who your new derm is- I am WAY overdue for a body scan. Thank you thank you for the reminder to take care of these lovely containers that do so much for us.

    xxoo

  8. isser says:

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

    ― Theodore Roosevelt

  9. Karen Murphy says:

    You are one tough lady! Now I know what you meant when you said “I have a lot on my plate.” Thank you for sharing that story. I hope you are feeling better!

  10. Amy Grube says:

    Bernadett,
    You are such an inspiration to me, in so many ways.
    I really love the story your mom shared. Beautiful family.

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