Accepting the Skin I'm In
Last updated: May 2023
I had a preconceived belief that people living with cancer were thin and frail in appearance; they looked sick. Most understand that chemotherapy can be brutal. It makes people sick, and therefore they lose weight. That’s the way cancer is portrayed in films, so I assumed that’s what happens.
I was VERY wrong.
When I was first diagnosed, I wasn’t at my "goal" weight (the impossible weight I will never get to) that I struggled to return to after giving birth to my son. I’m embarrassed to admit that my one positive thought was: 'I’m finally going to lose weight.'
Then I started taking an aromatase inhibitor, and the exact opposite happened. Over some time, I became the heaviest I had been. I am 5'1" and, at that time, weighed just shy of 190 pounds.
I tried reducing my calories, exercise programs, and different food choices. I lost a little but not anything to write home over. I brought it up to my oncologist. I asked her why my weight was going up and not down. I thought cancer patients lose weight. She was not amused. She implied that losing significant weight meant being at the end of options.
This or That
Have you experienced challenges with weight since your MBC diagnosis?
A different perspective
That conversation put things in perspective. While I still wanted to drop some of the new weight I had gained, I began to accept my "new" body. After all, It’s not like I was sitting at home eating copious amounts of cupcakes and candy bars.
My doc was correct. Over time, I have witnessed friends of mine at the end of options become frail and painfully thin. Remembering talking to my oncologist that day, I felt awful for saying what I had.
Ironically, I began losing weight in 2017—a lot of weight. First, I lost what I had gained from the aromatase inhibitor. Then I lost more. I’ll be honest; I didn’t hate it. However, it didn’t go unnoticed by my oncologist. I had also lost muscle mass.
Ultimately, it was determined to be my gallbladder and removed. Eventually, the weight came back. Not all of it, but enough that no one worry’s about how thin I had become.
Acceptance and gratitude for my body
That’s when I began to accept and love the body I’m living in. My treatment was working. Cancer isn’t spreading. My heart filled with gratitude, and I stopped obsessing about my weight.
No one is going to remember me because of what the scale says. But, one day, I will be remembered for my actions and the kind of person I was while here.
I feel lighter now (figuratively). I didn’t realize how being so focused on something trivial can be soul-sucking until I let it go.
I still pay attention to what I eat and try to incorporate some exercise to gain back the muscle mass I lost. But I don’t beat myself up the way I used to. I don’t judge myself by the weight I think I should be. I am not defined by what the scale says.
Until the day I take my last breath, I will be loving this imperfect body I am in.
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