Posted on October 7, 2014
This was me, on my 40th birthday, 3 and a half years ago. I didn’t have cancer.
I was the fattest I’d ever been, nudging 130kg, and a size 26. And I was miserable. We went to QLD for my birthday, and I remember worrying on the way to the airport whether I could still get the plane seatbelt done up, or I would have to ask for an extender. I managed to get it done up, but it was an effort. I could go on very few rides with my daughters as I could not get the harnesses done up. My hips hurt all the time, I was worried I would break chairs if I sat on them, and I wasn’t living anything like a full life. I HATED myself. But I felt like I had done everything I could, in this lifelong battle with my weight. Every diet, every shake, every appetite suppressant, duromine (legal speed), which stripped the weight from me and had me manically cleaning the shower at 4am in an attempt to get tired enough to sleep, but I put it back on just as quickly as soon as I stopped. I was seriously considering a gastric bypass, but feared losing one of the only things I felt I had in my favour – my gregarious nature, often fuelled by alcohol, and long lunches and nights entertaining on the deck. And if I didn’t have that, what did I have? Also, by all intents and purposes, I was healthy. I had birthed four children without any of the problems often experienced by obese mothers, and any tests taken by doctors subsequently, to try and show me the strain my weight was putting on my body, proved to be perfectly normal.
This is me today, at 43, with stage 4 cancer:
In the two years preceding my diagnosis, cancer ate me from the inside. The weight came off slowly, and i did not get on the scales, so I didn’t know how much I was losing. The weight loss ramped up in the last few months before I was given the news, but again, I didn’t think much of it. I was studying full time, raising four children, I was too busy to sit around and eat. I also totally lost my taste for wine, which I used to drink in copious amounts on Friday nights. That in itself should have made me realise that something was seriously wrong!
I realised something was really wrong just before my colonoscopy, when the doctor told me to get on the scales, and I realised that I had dropped 26kg from my 40th birthday weight…without even trying. Now after a few operations, chemo, nausea, loss of appetite, and having enough intestine removed that it makes me feel like I’ve had a gastric bypass, my weight loss hovers around the 32 kilo mark. I’ve gone from a size 26, to a size 18, and as a result, I have developed a real passion for fashion, makeup, hair, and shoes. I wear these things so much better than I ever could have before, and I’m loving every minute of it.
Of course, it is surreal to be told how well you look, when being ravaged by stage 4 cancer, and it’s various aggressive treatments. But the thing is, it’s true. Outside of operation pain, and some pretty extreme chemo sickness, I am in the best shape I’ve been in many years, and my weight caused me to feel far more shit than cancer ever did. I returned to QLD in March and looked in awe at all the extra belt I had after I did it up. Any chance I get to take a theme park ride with my children, I take it. I don the bathers and I swim with them, and I soak up every chance I have to grab life with both hands. In fact, if I didn’t live in fear of that life being taken by cancer, I’d probably be the happiest I’ve ever been.
Cancer is a formidable foe, but I am learning to make friends with it where I can. It’s given me confidence, and most of all, it’s given me courage. I no longer fear the person I really am. Because chemo didn’t take my hair, I took a deep breath and had a go at a hairstyle that I have wanted to try ever since i had a girl crush on Marie from Roxette! And best of all, it worked, and it will now be my forever hairstyle. I’ve always wanted a sleeve tattoo, and as a remission present, I am getting one, because bugger it, the way I choose to express myself is about me, not whether it pleases anyone else. I’ve got very little time for bullshit (though in truth, I never had very much), and there is one thing I NEVER do anymore – anything that I don’t want to! My time is too precious for that. I’ve developed a lot deeper friendships that I ever allowed myself to do in the past, and I have offered them a vulnerable side to myself that has very rarely been on show. I have written about things like my experience of childhood sexual abuse, and even bigger, I have put this writing out into the public domain. The rich reward for this was finding a solidarity with other people, finding that I was not alone in my pain, and a gratitude from some readers that they found the same thing. I’m a far better person post cancer than I ever was before, and I am really starting to like myself. The goal now is to stay around long enough to find out who I can become, and what I can achieve, as I’m really quite curious.
A very dear friend once told me that there are positives to be taken from all of life’s journeys, even the bad ones, and I’ve found the silver lining that has been offered by this one – a chance to become the very best person I can be.
So cancer, really……thanks. But you can fuck off now!