I have struggled with my weight my entire life. I am that person who has to watch every calorie that I intake and do twice as much exercise just to maintain my already heavy weight. After being diagnosed with breast cancer I fell into a bit of depression. I was scared I was going to die of cancer. Scared Aiden was going to have to grow up without a mother. Scared of the unknown. I turned to food. I was also a cigarette smoker for years and I quit cold turkey – it’s not a good look for a cancer patient to be out smoking cigarettes, in my opinion. I replaced one bad habit with another – food.
The waiting felt like it was going to kill me. I had to take test after test and wait for results, then wait my surgery date – all while the cancer continued to grow inside me. From when I was first notified that they “may have found something on my mammogram and I needed to come back for a repeat mammogram” in January 2016, to being diagnosed with triple-negative ductal carcinoma breast cancer on Feb. 18, 2016 to the MRIs, bone scans, BRCA tests, CTs, appointments with my primary care doctor, oncologist, breast surgeon, plastic surgeon, and everything else in between, I finally had my bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction on April 20, 2016. During those four months, I pretty much just went to work – at my office job where I pretty much sit all day – and then after work went home, took care of my son and assured him I was good and everything was going to be just fine, then showered, laid on my couch and ate. I had to be strong and professional all day at work, go home and be strong for Aiden; it was mentally exhausting. In my solitude I spent a lot of time crying and eating. I wanted to smoke, I wanted to drink, I didn’t do those things, but I did eat.
I ended up having a lot of complications with the expanders and ended up having four surgeries in a five-week period, the fourth was having the expanders removed because I needed to start chemo and all the issues and infections were interfering with my ability to begin my treatment to get rid of my cancer once and for all.
When I opted for the bilateral mastectomy, it was because I was getting reconstruction at the same time … now, that was no longer the case, which really messed with my self-esteem – not only had I gained a ton of weight, but now my chest looks like Frankenstein because I had been cut into so many times in such a short period of time. It wasn’t that bad, but at the time, that’s how it felt to me.
I kept gaining weight while I was laid up recovering from surgeries. I had a bit of hope that the chemo would make me lose a little weight. And … nope. I actually GAINED weight on chemo! I know what you’re thinking … “How in the world do you gain weight on chemo?” Menopause, that’s how. Yes, you read that correctly. At the age of 35, my TAC chemo treatment put me in an early menopause – apparently that’s a side effect, one that I was personally not aware of. At the time, none of my doctor’s knew if the menopause was temporary or permanent, turns out, about seven months after finishing chemo my menstrual cycle came back, and honestly, it’s been a year and a half since my cycle came back and my body is still completely out of whack and not regulated. My period comes at random times and it’s like, “Oh, ok. We’re doing this today.” And the cramps came back in full force and were debilitating! It makes it hard to plan – or do – much of anything at all.
But anyway, although I was too sick to eat, and honestly didn’t want to because everything tasted disgusting – my first few treatments everything tasted like metal, my next few treatments everything tasted like salt, and my final treatments everything tasted like chalk (think the chalky aftertaste of milk of magnesia). The taste just stayed in my mouth, food and water tasted like it, I didn’t enjoy anything and absolutely did not want to eat or drink. Plus, I was extremely sick all the time and couldn’t really eat or drink if I wanted to – which lead to two 5-hour days at the oncologists office after each of my chemo treatments, getting an IV through my chemo port of fluids and anti-nausea medication.
By the time all that was said and done, I had put on an additional 58 lbs.! Every time I’d go to my oncologists office and get on the scale and weigh in the scale would be higher and higher. I would cry. I didn’t understand how it was possible because I was hardly eating and what I did force myself to eat and drink didn’t hardly stay down at all. I was sick and in pain most of the time and I didn’t have the physical energy to do much of anything.
When I finished chemo and got my all-clear from my oncologist I began focusing on my diet and exercising. I began walking daily and doing my best to make good food choices. I even started doing Couch to 5K and was slowly turning back into a runner. I lost about 20 lbs. and was feeling better. Then, it was March of 2017 and it was time to try the breast reconstruction again. Which led to a few weeks of being laid up after surgery and a lot of physical restrictions, so of course, I gain a few pounds back.
I got the momentum up again and began my program and diet again and lost the weight I regained and lost a few more lbs. and then busy life happened and I didn’t have as much time to devote to working out and eating right, but I did ok at maintaining my (heavy) weight. Then it was Sept. 2017 and time for part two of the reconstruction, so surgery #6 on my chest and laying up recovering from surgery, more physical restrictions, I gain a few lbs. back again.
When I recovered from that surgery, I got serious about my weight loss. I had almost died of cancer – I DO NOT want to die – or have medical complications – due to my obesity.
I began working my primary care doctor, a health coach, and a dietician and recommitted myself to exercise. I said I was serious at first and I lost 27 lbs. but I was stuck there. I couldn’t get below that insanely high weight and it felt like I never would. Then, I completely committed myself, and got very strict and serious about what – and how much – I’m eating and drinking, and exercising … and since my absolute highest weight, I have lost 82 lbs.!
However, I didn’t really start tracking my weight until November 2017 – after all my surgeries, so when people ask me how much I’ve lost, I say 55 lbs. I figure I was stuck at a certain weight for around a year, so I use that as my “starting point.”
It is a daily challenge and struggle, but I remain committed to this new journey and this new me! My only regret is that I didn’t take a “before” picture. I definitely plan to take one soon, so I can do some side comparisons in the future when I get closer to my goal.