Numbers …

I’m gaining weight. It’s not a big deal. It’s only a few pounds (7!) but I think the steroids and the fact that the chemo is putting me into menopause are to blame. Plus I can’t be as active as I was before chemo because I’m so tired … and ARGGGHH!!

It’s messing with my head. 🙁

I’m really struggling to feel comfortable in my body at this weight. I’m a petite 5 foot 1 lady and a few extra pounds on me (especially 7) feels uncomfortable.

This isn’t a post about fat-shaming or about how I’m not fitting into a cookie cutter mold… It’s about how I feel in my body in this moment.

screen-capture-14The last 6 months I’ve had to deal with some radical changes to my body. Having the mastectomy has been a total mind shift and I am slowly starting to accept my scar. But it’s not easy to love something that’s brought you so much anguish.

Then I lost my hair. Ok. Deal with that.

Then my skin and nails started to get weird with the chemo. Skin discoloration, dryness and now this stupid weight gain is making me feel crazy self conscious.

I’ve maintained a pretty steady weight for most of my adult life. I feel like it’s a healthy weight for me and it feels like the weight I should be.

Truth be told … I never weigh myself. I had a bit of an obsessive/compulsive issue with the scale. In high school my parents got a digital scale (oooh fancy) and I started weighing myself 8-10 times a day. It became a bit of a problem … so I stopped weighing myself.

I weigh myself once or twice a year (when I visit my parents and their dastardly digital scale) and I’m always about the same. I feel like if I can fit into my pants and I feel comfortable in them … I feel like that’s the weight I should be.

Here’s the problem. Every-time I go to the cancer center for a check-up they weigh me. I ask them not to tell me what I weigh but then my high school compulsion kicks in and I cheat and look. The scale is steadily on the rise and it’s freaking me out!

I can’t change my eating habits because I’m finding it difficult to eat. That Red Devil chemo killed my appetite/desire for food so I have to make sure that when I do have an appetite that I’m putting quality food in my body … and the occasional perogie. Ha ha.

I’m trying to increase my activity not just because of the weight but also because it makes me feel better. Pre-Cancer I used to walk from work and back home every day (3 km) plus we’d go hiking on the weekends, etc etc … now I’m lucky if I have the energy to walk 5 blocks. I have managed to do yoga every day for the last 2 weeks so that’s exciting for me. My body is so happy to stretch.  🙂

I know that weight is the last thing I should be worried about but I can’t stop thinking about it. That scale has triggered my 1980’s body issues and I’m feeling yucky about myself but it’s not just about the weight. My eyebrows are falling out. My eyelashes are almost gone.screen-capture-12

I bumped into a neighbour from my building in the hall the other day. She said “Is that you Sarah? You don’t look like yourself.

And she’s right …

So now I don’t leave the house without putting on a make-up mask. I don’t want anyone to see what I really look like because I look like someone who’s really sick from chemo (yes I know I sound crazy).

I caught a glimpse of my un-made up face in the mirror last night and gasped. I look like a ghost. My face is slowly disappearing and I don’t recognize who’s looking back at me anymore.

The person I feel like on the inside is not the person I see on the outside and it’s freaking me out.

I know this is only temporary. That once the chemo is over and I can start moving/exercising/hiking/eating/living my normal active life again that this phase of my chemo will seem like a tiny blip.

But here. Now? It feels just awful. 🙁

BLARGH! I’m losing my mind. I feel like a dink of even writing about any of this … it’s such a minor issue in the grand scheme of things but it’s bothering me. Anyone out there have this experience? I’d love to hear from you.

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17 Responses to Numbers …

  1. Savannah says:

    You’re such an inspiration. And you certainly don’t come across as a dink!!

    I know exactly where you’re coming from. I did three rounds of oral cytoxin (chemo) last winter to treat my SLE. I also started menopause last year at the nice old age of 22. Sometimes it’s hard to feel even remotely feminine. Your constant bravery and openness about your struggles have encouraged me and made me feel less alone.

    Wish there was more I could do or say.

    <3 Savvy

  2. Maria says:

    Ah Sarah, I wish I could give you some support from experience, but the truth is I have no idea of how it is to be you right now.

    It is frightening and frustrating when you feel that your body is working against you – like it’s become your enemy in some weird way. I do know how that feels. And sometimes well-meaning words from the people you love (e.g. “You’re always beautiful to me”) don’t really help.

    The only thing I can think of to say is that your body must be working insanely hard, with everything that’s been thrown at it. It may need to have this externally-manifesting freakout as much as your psyche sometimes needs to break down and have a good cry when the emotional stress is too much.

    I hope that other people who’ve been through the same as you can give you practical advice for this. I can only offer some good wishes and love.

  3. HI Sarah,

    First, I want to tell you that I have your books; they were the first vegan cookbooks I ever bought.
    I read through them, and cooked through them. They are splattered, and stained, and their backs are broken from so much use, but they still rock! 🙂
    You wrote somewhere in one of them about how veganism is a journey, and something about people worrying about losing their “vegan points” if they don’t adhere to some self-induced, socially judgy, strict, diet. For some reason, that really resonated with me, and I have never forgotten it, b/c it really helped me to not be so hard on myself as I found my way out of eating meat/cheese.
    For me, it was a message about acceptance, and not being so hard on ourselves as we venture into more compassionate waters.
    SO: thank you for writing those books! 🙂

    NOW: You should not ever feel bad for the way you feel. We live in a culture that tells us, as women, that certain things are “normal” and certain things are not when it comes to our looks/weight/image/self-worth/etc.
    Even though most of the women I know and love tend to march to the beat of their own drum, and routinely tell “social norms” to fuck off, when facing changes like the ones you are dealing with, its hard to NOT feel that we are being stripped of our own norms, whatever those are.
    Its normal to want to keep your hair, your eyebrows, your eyelashes, your breasts, your usual weight. Its part of you. When those things are going away, even though it might be temporary, its normal to feel the loss of them. Its not vanity. They are part of your body. It’s ok to mourn them. It’s ok to be pissed off.

    I cannot relate to cancer, but I can understand the weight gain thing. 3 months ago I had spinal fusion surgery. I have a 5 inch scar across my lower belly, and since I cannot really move or excercise to much, I have turned into a complete Jabba the Hutt. I am THAT fat vegan.
    I fucking hate it, and the extra weight feels like a fat body suit I am dragging around. I recently looked down while typing and realized that one of my chins can now touch part of my neck.
    Not a good look or feeling.
    The only thing I can do is walk. Blech. I want my mountain bike. I want to run. I want to hike.
    Fuck walking.
    Thats my inner wanna-be-athlete talking, but its the core of truth for me. I know it will pass and I will get back to all of those things that I love. Its going to take time though. I try to tell myself to be patient and focus on putting good things into my body so that it can heal from the inside, and be ready when the time comes. Some days that works and some days it doesn’t. Some days, I just drink some wine, cry, eat some chocolate chip cookies, and feel infinitely sorry for myself.

    What I am trying to say, is to be kind to yourself. Be forgiving, and love your body. It is working hard to try to get back in balance. Our minds don’t always play nice though, and thats when you have to tell it to just shut the hell up, and focus on your body’s healing.
    You will get through this and you will be stronger for it. As bad as it sounds, sometimes amazing gifts come from terribly trying times. Hang in there.

    Daphne Medina

  4. Maria Wimmer says:

    Do you think focusing on those issues might be, in a weird way, an escape from all of the unbelievably heavy emotional/ spiritual stuff you have been dealing with?

  5. ANNA-LEE SANTANA says:

    Hey kiddo, you are dealing with the same issues I did and I still am. I always weighed 102 lbs. and now 5 years later I am up 15 lbs. I just deal with it. Hey we are alive. And yes I looked around at everyone hooked up and thought hey I look just like them. I DID NOT want to look sick so every morning no matter how sick I felt I would put on as much makeup on and a wig and forced myself to go for pedicures and manicures. Made sure didn’t catch infection from that. The doc one day said to me – do you know how sick you are because you sure don’t look sick and I answered back – yes I do. I did not want to lay in bed and think about the whole ordeal so I just forced myself. My family has forgotten what I went through but there is not a day that goes by that I don’t forget. WE ARE STRONG SO DON’T FORGET THAT. And just get rid of the clothes that don’t fit and buy new ones. I still can’t believe I was a size 00 before all of this. I LOVE YOU.

  6. Sarah says:

    Try reading “When Things Fall Apart” by Pema Chondron. Reading it again myself for the third time. This book has gotten me through some rough times. I think it could help with your loving kindness towards yourself while cultivating the warrior inside at the same time. It can help pull you out of that black hole of negativity that looms, ready to eat your lovely self up.

  7. viki says:

    everything we do, feel, experience in life IS a big deal, to us. We are none of us perfect, or immune to pain. You have no idea how amazing you are, in the way you deal with this, share this, expose yourself. Blog away lady!!! As a fellow vegan you have always been someone I admire, and I have always checked out your Fergus pics. You inspire me to not be petty, small or cruel in any way, and that is something!

  8. Jo says:

    I think, and always have thought, that you’re amazing. You’re my hero. Our feelings are real, no matter what those feelings are. You may look back and think that you were silly to focus on the physical stuff because, hey! you’re healthy and alive!, but don’t discount your feelings right now in the moment. We may not have all been through cancer (or whatever else) but we’ve all been in that moment of feeling gross/fat/ugly/skinny/sickly/etc. and we’ll all feel gorgeous again, even for a moment. Know that you have so many people pulling for you and wishing you love and all the best that we can give you. Keep your chin up.

  9. Mallory says:

    Don’t dismiss how you feel. It’s all a part of the process. And really, regardless of why it’s happening, not recognising yourself can be difficult and triggering.

    This situation is temporary. This doesn’t make it any easier now and so sometimes it’s nice to hold onto what’s good and still to come. I hope you continue to communicate, to process, and take care of yourself.

    You’re lovely. Hold on.

  10. Taylor says:

    Oh, Sarah. I’m so sorry you are struggling with these body image issues on TOP of chemo. When it rains, it pours, huh? I used to be obsessive about the scale in high school as well, and eventually had to stop weighing myself as well! Other than the doctor’s office and an occasional peek as a guest in someone else’s bathroom, I try to steer clear as well. If you are prone to obsessive-compulsive thoughts (like I am), body image issues can be a TOTAL nightmare. I have not been where you are exactly, but I HAVE been there. Yuck. It’s a dark, dark road. I’d love to offer you some wisdom about “loving yourself unconditionally” and all that jazz, but it just doesn’t seem to help when you’re feeling so crappy. That’s why I love the word “willingness”. When I’m in a funk, I like to say to myself: “I’m willing to see this differently.” And when even THAT feels too far-fetched, you can try, “I’m willing to be WILLING to see this differently.” ! And guess what happens?! A tiny little light shines through. You may not see it instantly, but it does come. It’s gentle. It’s like: you’re not letting go of the bad thoughts, but the bad thoughts start to let go of you. YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. Love and Light, Taylor

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  12. Debbie says:

    Hello Sarah

    I have been a admirer (and user) of your cookbooks since the first one was printed. (Actually without a table of contents, remember) I actually received it as a gift from my mother and regifted it back to her when I purchased one with a table of contents so she has used it herself all these years making great vegan dishes when I go and visit, so we both are blessed with a copy. I also own your other two cookbooks and your APP.

    You were at the Toronto Vegetarian Food Fair one year and I watched a demonstration you did (you make spice cake with tomatoe soup). I so much wanted to go up and say “hello” but my nervousness held me back. I was in awe of you. As the years have gone by I followed your blogs and have come to feel like a distant friend. (I did submit a recipe to you and you published it in La Dolce Vegan. I even was mentioned as one of your new friends in the “Inspiration is Everywhere” intro in your book.

    What I want to say is that you are such a warm authentic person and I have grown from reading your intros in your books, especially your first book where you talk about your disordered eating and when your lets stood straight and your thighs had a whole in the middle and that was great , you see I too have lived with disordered eating and it is a dark whole that I have climbed out of and now live in the light. (You were the first person I read about that touched me your personal courage and strength) I believe that you absolutely still have that same courage and strength today. The picture that you took and have shown on your blog is “beautiful” and you are beautiful inside and out. You have shared another story that is touching so many lives in a beautiful way. You are showing how human and real that you are and are not afraid to display it.

    As with your weight gain. It only makes you more of a beautiful woman, that is the honest truth. Look around. You see woman of ALL shapes and sizes. Size does not equate contentment or enjoyment in life at all. Some skinny women are content, some are miserable , some larger women are miserable and some are lovers of life and beautiful inside and out. “Women do have Curves” and this makes us different than pre-adolescent girls. I am no longer a waif and am a 51 year old curvy woman who at exactly 50 years of age hit menopause and became even curvier. Same eating, same exercise and my body just went curvier. Was I hearing voices, maybe for about a few mintes and then I said “enough” to them. I am enjoying my body and what Mother Nature is giving to me (as menopause is part of Mother Nature). I donated my clothes to the second hand store and bought some that fit more comfortably, even a new swimsuit. I am sharing my story with you as I pray that you see that you are not alone. Never alone. You have many many sisters out here and I am one who will tell you that you are beautiful, gifted, kind, caring, talented, and loved.

    Your hair will grow back honey, your skin will feel better, your appetite will reappear and your energy will return. Sending you a hug, Debbie from Goderich, Ontario

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