And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
Throughout this COVID Summer, I’ve been getting hit with reminders of what was going on during this time three years ago. That was Breast Cancer Summer. Facebook reminds you daily of what was going on during whatever date however many years ago, and my reminders have been filled with the day of the mammogram tanking, the day of biopsies, the day of diagnosis, and then doctor appointment after doctor appointment. I am coming up on the anniversary of the surgery, of being tattooed for radiation, of radiation starting and ending. I was scared three years ago. And I’m scared now too.
So one thing I’ve been trying to do since January, pre-COVID, is lose weight. I joined a gym and I sat down and figured out what I could realistically eat. I have Oral Allergy Syndrome, which is exacerbated by the cancer meds I’m on. I am allergic to all raw fruits and vegetables, to many seeds and many nuts. I’ve only ended up in anaphylactic shock once, and it’s not something I ever want to do again. There are epi pens on every floor of my home and in my purse. So for a long time, I was hung up on what I couldn’t eat – which feels like everything healthy – and so I just gave up. But then, in January, after being told by many weight loss companies that they couldn’t help me, even as they advertised they could help everyone, I sat down with my own knowledge from being a weight loss counselor for several years and I decided to focus on what I could eat, instead of what I couldn’t. I can eat cooked vegetables and fruit. I began to look at my carbs and my sugars and I cut down drastically. I still have some sugar, as I believe it’s unrealistic to expect to be totally without, but anything I have with sugar has to be below a certain number of grams. I joined a gym and started working out every night at midnight. And I loved it.
I felt empowered until March, when COVID hit and the gym closed. But I kept moving forward, buying a small stair-stepper and absolutely hating it, and using free weights. The gym reopened over Memorial Day weekend, but with limited hours. After attending a few times, I just felt nervous and stressed, so I canceled my membership, bought a treadmill, and set up a work-out room in my home.
The weight is coming off, albeit slowly. I’m 26 pounds down. I feel a lot better, though not as good as I expected. The cancer meds cause joint and muscle aches, and now I’ve added working-out aches to that, and so there’s a lot of pain. But I work through it.
Now here’s something that most women will know, and most men won’t. When the female body loses weight, guess what loses weight first. It’s where there’s a lot of fat storage, of course – the breasts.
Because I had a significant partial mastectomy, my right breast was already obviously smaller than the left, because a big part of it is missing. My surgeon encourages me to have reconstructive surgery every time I see her, and every time, I say no. I’m not a fan of elective surgery. But I will admit, it’s taken me a long time to adjust to my new appearance. I tell myself it’s okay, I’m going to be sixty, not twenty, thirty, or even forty. I have a partial prosthesis for when I do public events.
But you know what? Now that I’ve lost weight, that breast is even smaller. And it’s growing smaller faster than the left breast. Even wearing the prosthesis now, there’s a difference.
Well, isn’t that just a fine how-do-you-do.
I’ve been more focused on this as we move steadily toward the anniversary of the surgery, and those last moments when my breast was whole and looked like it was supposed to. I had surgery on July 25, 2017.
Last night, after I stomped on my treadmill for an hour and then hefted the free weights, I went upstairs to take a shower. Right before I stepped in, I caught sight of my reflection in the mirror. I turned and faced myself, full frontal.
Yep. All there. Left breast, present and accounted for, smaller with weight loss. And the surgically smaller right breast, determined to lose weight faster than the rest of my body. Still misshapen. Still odd. Still…well, still there, isn’t she. Battle-scarred.
“You go, girl,” I said to her. “Keep up the good work.”
And I got into the shower, feeling just fine.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.