35. A Blessing, Not a Curse

35. A Blessing, Not a Curse

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident

A Blessing, Not a Curse

If you’re happy, if you’re feeling good, then nothing else matters.

~Robin Wright

I listened as the oncologist reviewed the stats from my last visit. “White blood cells are looking good. Blood pressure is back to normal. Oxygen has improved. Your weight —”

“I know, it’s still high,” I interrupted, interpreting his furrowed brow as disapproving.

This wasn’t the first time I was about to receive a lecture on my size. For the past twenty years, despite all my efforts, my weight only increased — with a few exceptions. Cancer was one of them.

Before I was officially diagnosed I had lost my appetite, specifically for sweets (my main downfall), and dropped almost 10 pounds. I thought it was a miracle my sweet tooth had been cured. Until the pain came and tests revealed my tumor, which explained my lack of appetite.

Now, thanks to chemo, I was down 25 pounds. But I knew that at 5’ 1” and 160 pounds, I was still considered heavy. I was doing my best to be as healthy as possible, but . . .

“I don’t understand. I’m barely eating. Even when I manage to get something down, I throw it back up. I can’t get my weight to go any lower,” I complained, defeated.

Because that’s what I felt I was, concerning my weight: totally beaten. I’d been on restricted calorie diets over the years and if I was lucky, I lost a couple of pounds here and there. But I’d never been on a “diet” like the chemo regime of the past three months. It was a good day if I could eat a couple of canned pears and maybe one scrambled egg and keep it down. Yet, while I had lost weight, I still wasn’t losing it easily.

“Lower?” Dr. Patton said. “Oh no, you don’t want to lose any more weight. Don’t try to do that. Your weight is fine. Leave that alone.”

Wait. What?

No doctor had ever said those words to me before. I expected to be admonished like I had been every other time about my weight.

“That’s what’s helping your fight,” his nurse explained, clearly seeing my confusion.

“That’s what your body is using for its fuel right now,” Dr. Patton said. “Don’t try to take that away. It can lead to complications.”

I started crying.

The nurse, who was built like me, put a comforting arm around my shoulder.

“I know we’re always hearing how bad fat can be for health, and, like anything, too much can be bad. But in some cases, like this, fat is good. It comes in handy when your body is in starvation mode. People who are normal weight or too thin often end up having problems like organ failure during chemo. Their body has nothing to fight with. This is when it’s good to be a big girl.”

I ended up losing a total of 30 pounds during treatments. I had high hopes of maintaining the weight loss afterward.

I had always been physically active, even before cancer. That had never been one of the causes of my being heavy. Bad food choices and sweets were the main culprits. I also favored pizza, cheeseburgers and mac and cheese. Basically, I was a sucker for any high-fat, high-calorie comfort food.

After cancer, I resumed my exercise routine and even added in some new things. I watched my calories and what I ate, but was dismayed when I’d regained 15 pounds in less than a month.

A couple of months later, I was upset that I had pretty much gained back all the weight I’d lost, despite improving my eating habits. Stumped, my primary care doctor tested my thyroid. Normal. She told me to try exercising harder.

The only number I need to see is the one on the calendar that lets me know I’m alive to experience another day.

A month or so later, my three-month oncology checkup was approaching and I was nervous. Hopefully scans would reveal the tumor was still inactive. But I was also nervous that this time my weight might prove an issue.

As I’m prone to do during times of stress, I turned to my journal. Venting my feelings always helped. Before I wrote, I decided to re-read some of the entries I made during my difficult chemo periods. Maybe if I reminded myself how far I’d come, it would make me feel better.

That’s when I found an entry I’d forgotten about, one I’d written after the visit when my oncologist said to stop trying to lose weight.

If I beat this and live, I won’t ever worry about my weight again. Because I’m alive. And my size helped facilitate that. If I’d been skinny, I might be dead right now.

These days, I’m back to my pre-cancer weight. However, I’m even more active than I was pre-cancer. I play tennis, walk, and do yoga, each multiple times a week. From blood sugar and cholesterol to blood pressure and thyroid, my stats are all good. I may not look like society’s idea of healthy, but my numbers say I’m fit.

On days when I feel down about not dropping weight, I remind myself that my fat kept me alive when I needed it the most. It was a blessing, not a curse. As long as it doesn’t inhibit me from doing the activities I love, what’s the issue?

Living is the issue, not the number society says my scale should read. I was always trying to lose weight to reach some magic number that would . . . what? I’m not sure what I thought it would get me. Other than clothes in a smaller size, I had everything: a loving marriage, friends, a beautiful home, happiness, and most important — health.

So I’ve abandoned the pursuit for a leaner body. I watch what I eat, because that makes me feel good. So does exercising.

But these days I don’t bother weighing myself. The only number I need to see is the one on the calendar that lets me know I’m alive to experience another day.

~Courtney Lynn Mroch

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