When you are diagnosed with cancer there are a few things that you tend to think about. I never thought I would admit to this but in the interest of sharing and because I have no known filter; I had a conversation with my sister standing in the Leukemia Ward that went along the lines of…. “ Fuck, well chemo starts Thursday, I don’t know what to expect. I’m really scared…Hey, at least I’ll lose weight, right?!! “ ( Insert girly Hi-5 ) ..Yep, being a woman in this day and age doesn’t escape you regardless of the situation. Never the less, that was a dramatically warped sense of reality I was soon to discover.
Prior to children ( back in the day when the only thing I had to worry about was getting caught in rain with a fresh spray tan and someone else claiming my favourite bike at Spin Class) if you had asked me to name my greatest fears I would have said getting fat, waking up bald and getting cancer…WINNING TRIFECTA!! ..by early 2017 I looked like a Jenny Craig “BEFORE” picture and my worst fucking nightmare had begun. Yep, I was all of the things I was scared of and those words from that lil’ old covo with my sis “Hey at least I’ll lose weight, Hey at least I’ll lose weight, hey at least I’ll lose weight“ rang in my ears.
Now if you were to believe any B-rated, Dreamworks, Cancer clad, tear jerker movie that’s ever existed, you too would probably assume that once you start chemotherapy you turn into freakn’ Angelina Jolie, well that’s what I thought too and I was sorely disappointed. And yes, I know what your thinking..Shitsake woman, you are about to die, why are you worrying about being fat??? Well let’s face it , if I’m going to do chemo and be on my death bed, I want to look smoking hot doing it, because damn it I deserve it and at this late stage it’s the only thing that is making me get motivated to do the Chemo….oh and surviving , but hey lets focus on all the new, super cute, size 0 clothes I’m already mentally PayPal-ing. GET-IN-MA-BASKET!!
Annnnnyway…..as the weeks ticked over along with the number on the scales, so did my hopes and dreams of being a bikini model by age 40. Yep, NEWS FLASH Chemo makes you fat and not with a PH! …..HELLO DR WIKI ???? WHY did NO ONE tell me this?? there was no fine print that read “you will need a selection of floral printed Mumu’s to match your skull cap” on the T&Cs. I tried to hide from it, tried to ignore it but no Snapchat, #nofilter (but really there is a filter) , duck face selfie could deter my mind from the fact that I was going to be the size of a house before it was all over…and if I died, well they would have to dig a hole with an excavator, pick a nice shipping container and my favourite Mumu to bury me in – at least my son would be happy…he loves diggers! I’m such a cool Mum, I have machinery at my funeral.
As time goes on, not only did I start to notice the extra weight but I had to be reminded of it EVERY.SINGLE.TIME I went to chemo. There were more demoralising weigh-ins than The Biggest Loser (or is that TBL , sorry Channel 10) …and trust me the similarities don’t end there! The harsh honesty of fluorescent lighting, oversized scales and your new love for leggings. They all had their place.
So I’m losing my hair in chunks, I feel like I’ve been hit with a Fridge and I look like I had my mouth open while it happened. This is about the time people started to notice the changes and I think were quite surprised with how much weight I was gaining, so much so that I tried to subtly prepare them ( I actually just started calling myself Fat Amy – subtly isn’t my forte, neither is coming up with creative nicknames ). People who know me well, knew that my new found exterior would be my worst nightmare, so not a lot of people said anything directly to me (except for that one nurse – yea remember her). I had however come to realise over time that no matter how much we try, humans cannot control their facial expressions in the first 3 seconds they see someone. I found it amusing to watch people trying to manually remould their facial muscles to form a smile instead of the complete holy-fuck-she-is-almost-a-perfect-circle face that automatically took place – Most people looked like they were having a stroke while the transition happened, so I found it quite amusing – Bless them for trying.
A few months into chemo I stopped seeing a lot of people as I was trying to deal with the reality of the situation and I was super tired as I still was getting up to our children. Also, I was well aware of my changing appearance and although it seems silly, I grabbed onto any control of the situation I could because cancer had taken EVERYTHING else from me. It’s not easy to admit but I didn’t want people to see me like that, I wanted to look strong, I wanted to look tough, I wanted to look like I was taking no prisoners , I wanted to look like the token hot friend I had always seen myself to be. At the end of the day that was the perception I was putting out into the world but the truth is in reality I felt like a failure. It was really horrible and really demoralising because I have always worked my hardest to be the best version of myself. I enjoyed training and keeping fit, staying healthy, I enjoyed looking after myself and I worked super hard to look the way I wanted… but all of a sudden, that person I had spent all those years creating was gone, I was dying and I looked like I was dying for a Big Mac. The other side of that is I hated the way strangers looked at me, they didn’t know my story so to them I looked like I was lazy, like I was worthless and like I had a choice to look that way. It was a real eye-opening experience and one I never expected I would have to deal with while dealing with my death sentence too. To be honest I am still struggling to get rid of the weight and people still look at me that way too – its tough.
This is an important Blog for me as I feel it’s not something that is discussed and to shine a light on it as a priority could be superficial in the grand scheme of things. In fact, it no doubt is. However, self-esteem has its place in diagnosis, treatment and remission. It is the instigator in the reinventing of ourselves after we are stripped bare, for we aren’t just battling the disease but the aftermath as well. The weight gain, the hair loss and the battered confidence..it lingers on long after the support around us has diminished and yet it’s the new battle we fight to become somewhat part of society once more, to find ourselves again. Its not everything but its something.
So as the next battle begins to find my new-old self again….whoever the fuck that is….I fight on in the hope that I become the Smokin’ Hot Amy of my own B-Grade movie. Just gotta’ try keep my mouth closed around flying fridges.