It’s taken me two weeks to write this. Stopping and starting, editing, and rewriting parts. I have avoided writing for awhile now. I have been stuck. I have been somewhat depressed and didn’t feel I had anything that I wanted to share or worth sharing. I haven’t felt any inspiration and so I tried to focus on other things. My family, my home, my garden, my puppies. All good and worthwhile. But I am who I am at the core, even when those characteristics conflict with my feelings. Transparent, strong, hope-filled, honest and I wear my heart right out there. So I will share.
These last two years have been a roller coaster physically, emotionally and mentally. They have been hard. They have also been full of joy and treasured moments. They have been disappointing. They have been peaceful. They have been scary. They have been transformative. Some days I’m lonely, depressed, conflicted and stuck. Every day I’m alive I treasure and thank God for. I know I’m blessed. I’m happy and I have a good life.
I’m gonna get real here and share some things I’m not proud of. I’m going to share the real stuff, emotions, thoughts, and feelings that I’ve experienced and that I’m still working through.
First let me say, I know I’m loved and blessed and I am thankful and grateful for so many things. I don’t sit around sad or in a negative mood or unaware of how incredibly good I’ve got it! But the truth is these other feelings coexist as well. They intrude in my day, they sneak into my thoughts, they overwhelm me at times. So I’m gonna share them even though the good stuff outweighs the bad by far and I know that joy is a choice and most days I choose it.
Looking back to this time two years ago I was oblivious to the turn my life was about to take. I was loosing weight, again, using my daughters cookbook recipes alongside my husband. We were recording our progress monthly on her blog with pictures and updates and measurements. I had lost 55lbs in 8 months. I was feeling good. Life was good. The calm before the storm.
For those who follow me or know me, you know that August 2018 was when I went for a routine annual mammogram that revealed a mass that turned out to be invasive breast cancer. I was 46 years old. Those were some scary and overwhelming days that followed as I waited for test results, then appointments, then more test results, then more appointments. Decisions had to be made, huge decisions that would determine my course of treatment, my doctors, my insurance, my body, my life. I clung to my Savior more than I ever had before in my life. True peace and hope filled me and guarded my mind despite the struggle. I learned to trust Him without borders.
Treatment began and I was filled and uplifted by so many friends, family, neighbors and in some cases strangers who came out of the wood work with encouragement, love and support, and showed it in a variety of ways. It honestly filled me up, and some days, held me up. I had never had so many people express care and concern for me in my lifetime. Honestly, I didn’t know that many people really cared about little ole me! I liked the attention, I liked the feeling of having my “love tank” full and overflowing with acts of service, words of affirmation and quality time!
So despite the trauma my body was going through physically, mentally I stayed strong. Emotionally I surprised myself with how good I was doing, rarely shedding a tear. Don’t get me wrong, chemo sucked bad. The side effects were awful. Then came surgery, the beginning of the physical changes of removal and reconstruction of my body. Emotionally that was difficult. Physically it was the hardest thing to recover from. Again, I had angels who stepped in to be there for me. So much care and attention!
After my physical recovery and learning that all signs of the cancer had been removed, things began to change again for me. Although I knew of all the people that were pulling for me and praying for my continued healing and remission of any signs of cancer, the majority of actual attention went away. I had liked the attention. I missed the attention.
I was adjusting to a new normal. A new body. An “after cancer” life that left me changed. My love tank slowly emptied. I tried to get to know the new me and not just my physical body. Cancer changed who I was and I didn’t recognize myself. I became more introverted more protective of my heart and time. Home became my sanctuary. A loneliness set in I wasn’t prepared for. But I didn’t really want to be around people. I went to follow up care at City of Hope which included occupational therapy. I also began physical therapy due to a frozen shoulder and overall weakness.
The therapy honestly helped me physically of course, but also mentally and emotionally to understand that what I was feeling was normal. It takes time to recover from everything I had been through and I needed to give myself grace and take it one day at a time.
Well, sadly, I fell back into old comfort habits throughout my treatment and recovery, FOOD! Fortunately, throughout my chemo and surgery recovery I maintained my weight loss of 55lbs. I fluctuated up and down within 5-7lbs of that weight for an entire year. Nice! However, after regaining my health and without readjusting my diet, maintenance was no longer happening. I started to gain weight.
I was in a funk, stuck emotionally, my support had disappeared, I was alone, the attention was gone. I was coping with my body image (a new body), physical therapy, further cosmetic reconstruction and lingering side effects.
I continued to comfort myself through food. Old habits die hard!
I saw the pounds slowly creep back on but I was defiant about giving up the food I wanted. My head space would not allow me to give it up! The holidays hit and it got worse, all my favorites were everywhere. I ate bags of candy corn through the fall, Christmas cookies throughout the season. Then as soon as the Easter candy was out it was bags of jelly beans. All the while, eating whatever my heart desired. After all, look what I’d been through, right? So easy to justify.
Covid hit, physical therapy stopped, I became more of a recluse. I had not regained any motivation to cook since “before cancer.” We ordered meals in. I became more depressed each time I stepped on the scale and so I began to avoid the scale. My clothes weren’t fitting anymore, so I online ordered bigger sizes.
When I finally stepped on the scale, I was disgusted and disappointed in myself. I had gained back ALL the weight I had lost the previous 8 times! PLUS 5 POUNDS!
I was officially 5 pounds heavier than I had ever been. I felt terrible. I could no longer tell if the physical symptoms I was experiencing were really from chemo side effects, like forced (chemo induced) early menopause that brought on joint pain, hot flashes, diaphoresis, and low energy. Or was it from how heavy I now was?
I wrestled for weeks with knowing that I needed to do something about my weight and not wanting to give up my favorite foods! “I want what I want” kept ringing in my head. I don’t want anyone to know that I failed again in keeping the weight off. I don’t want to hear what I already know about how to loose weight and keep it off. I don’t want to be told to follow my daughters recipes and do what she did because she succeeded. I told my husband I wish there was a diet where they put you to sleep and when you wake up you’re thin. There’s not!
So here I am, two years has gone by. I beat cancer! My body is full of scars. I’m still adjusting mentally and emotionally to the new me which I don’t like very much right now. So I have to decide if I want food more than health. Do I want to enjoy looking at myself in the mirror or do I want to keep eating what I want and avoiding the scale and the mirror and pictures!
I started what I hope will work the best for me on Sunday. A combination of intermittent fasting and healthy organic pre-made meals from a delivery service, when I eat. (Because I know that I won’t cook.) This is different from anything I have done before. I chose it because it is what will work best for me and my current circumstances.
It’s been 3 days and I’ve already lost a few pounds, the more I loose the more it will motivate me to stick to it. I’m still working out the mental and emotional stuff. It’s so much more than just the need for weight loss at this point. I’m still getting to know the new me, the “after cancer” me. Gaining this weight didn’t help at all. I’m deciding what I will accept and what I won’t. Carrying around all this extra weight is something I won’t accept. I don’t like who I am and what it does to me physically and emotionally.
The struggle remains. It is a familiar struggle. A struggle that I have battled most of my adult life. Here is to a healthier tomorrow. Here is to making good choices, one meal, one day at a time. Here is to figuring out who I want to be and becoming that person.
I know there is hope beyond this!