The Last Word On Body Weight

Seeing as I used to be a healthy living/fitness/weight loss blogger, I thought it might be fitting to address the weight issue surrounding my treatment. While I lost a lot of weight during my month in the hospital, I have managed to gain it all back and then some since beginning chemotherapy.

I have said a lot of times that being sick, like real sick, will change a person. Well, it has also changed my perspective on weight gain and weight loss. This is why you don’t hear me talk about it as much anymore, nor will I blather about it too much in the future.

I first started blogging in January 2009 after losing close to 30 lbs. Not a substantial amount of weight to lose, I know. And to be honest, it wasn’t really that hard. Most of the extra weight was brought on by too much beer and nachos, followed by a period of perhaps excessive restriction that accounted for losing those final 10lbs.

After the weight loss, I threw out all of my larger clothes, vowing to never get to that larger size again. I had completely overhauled my life and habits, and saw no reason why I would ever gain the weight back.

Well, once I eased up on my more restrictive habits, I gained 10-15lbs of it back. I was bummed, but honestly the freedom to eat and drink more normally was way better than any size on a pair of jeans. So while I missed my old body, my new one was good enough.

What I could have never predicted was that I’d get an illness where weight would be the least of my worries.

Since beginning treatment, my exercise habits have dropped to almost nothing. Walks or mild sessions on my indoor recumbent bike are all that I can handle. No calorie-scorchers here. I’m home all day next to a stocked kitchen. I’m bored all day and cooking in the kitchen is my favourite entertainment!

Finally, there’s the drugs and all their side effects. None of which have affected my appetite to the point where I can’t eat, just to the point where “health food” sounds the least appetizing (or digestible). Namely, the steroids make me feel hungry all the time and come with the lovely side-effect of “puffiness.” Especially a puffed up face.

Those who know me in real life know that I complain about the weight gain and puffiness fair bit. Mostly because my clothes don’t fit. It’s hard to not feel like a sick person when flannels are all I can manage. Future Susan is at angry Past Susan for throwing out all those old clothes!

The real reason why I don’t blog about it however, is that this experience has taught me that gaining some weight back IS NOT A BIG DEAL.

Who fucking cares.

I’m alive. I’m beating cancer. I’m not morbidly obese. It gives me some wiggle room in case I’m hospitalized again and experience a dramatic weight loss. And let’s face it, I’m already almost bald anyways.

I mean, it’s not like I’m sitting here with a bucket of KFC chicken saying it’s okay to quickly gain mass amounts of weight. Because to me, health is always a top priority.

But at the same time, I don’t know why I used to be so paranoid about gaining some of it back. It’s not the end of the world. Cancer has taught me that it’s more worthwhile to learn to appreciate my body for what it currently looks like, than to spend that time disliking it and trying to change it. Weight gain, scars, and bald head included.

It helps that I have an end date. As of this week, I have five more weeks until my last chemo treatment and until I’m off the steroids. I’m hoping some of the weight will come off just by virtue of finishing the drugs and feeling healthy enough to start exercising again. I’m not sure if I’ll bother trying to lose the rest. I think I may ditch the “back to shape” programs and just live my life in a healthy way that will prevent the cancer from coming back. But most of all in a way I can enjoy it. I’ve already lost six months to cancer, I don’t want to spend any more months of my life being a slave to anything else. Vanity weight included.

This past weekend was a good example of living and enjoying my life with cancer. It included a two hour walk on my favourite local trail with the dog.

Whole wheat pancakes.

Indian take-out!

Clockwise: garlic naan, basmati rice, dal makhni (black lentils), chicken dilbahar (with spinach and mint), chicken tikka masala, and onion bhaji (like a sweet onion patty – my favourite on this plate!)

Nanaimo bar.

A Canadian specialty for those who don’t know. A graham/chocolate/coconut layer, custard butter icing, then melted chocolate.

Food trivia!

Watching Buster play to his heart’s content with a golden retriever puppy, then steal his bed.

And hanging out with my best friend, Meghan.

We’ve been best friends since grade 1 and lived together in university. She’s off getting more educated in science-y things, and explained to me why eating the above Nanaimo bar with my current food restrictions could kill me. Thanks Meghan! Now I know how the smokers at the hospital feel. Getting off the chocolate has been rough. Especially when there’s no weight loss to show for it, har har har.

Posted on November 14, 2011, in Cancer, Weight Loss and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 72 Comments.

  1. Oh Susan. There’s a beautiful lesson for all of us in this and your story. Thanks for sharing.

  2. oh susan, i freakin love you! To me, this is HEALTHY! the outlook on life and how we live, not a number. And to be quite honest, your so called puffiness looks more like full beauty to me.

  3. Your perspective is so refreshing. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in ourselves and our weight. I know I do. But you’re so right in that there are so many more important things to worry about. As long as you are doing what you need to do to stay healthy, well that is all that matters.

  4. I kinda like the puffy face!! Means you’re not emaciated and sickly looking!! What a great outlook on HEALTH for anyone, not just someone with cancer.

  5. I’ve had this exact conversation with a friend of mine. I haven’t done a lick of exercise since I’ve been sick, I’ve put on almost 20lbs and have had to buy new clothes! Gotta love that prednisone, geez.

    But you’re right – perspective does matter. What’s a few pounds in the face of survival, right? I make it a point of duty to smile at myself every time I look in the mirror…even with my chubby cheeks! :-)

    I’ll go back to the gym after all my treatment is done, but mostly because I’m too cheap to buy a whole new wardrobe, I just want to fit into my old clothes!! And a healthy lifestyle is important for later in life.

  6. Susan, you rock.

    And you’re adorable, even if your cheeks are puffy ;-)

    That is all.

  7. Amen Susan. This is such a blast of perspective I will fully admit to needing, and I’m sure it resonates so loudly with others too. It is NOT a big deal, in the grand scheme, absolutely not. It is so easy to get wrapped up into it and worry and stress and get down, but it’s just not a big deal. It happens, for whatever reason, it happens. And that’s okay. I need to remember this more. And girl, you look beautiful, you have the most beautiful skin! Seriously.

  8. :) really that is all I can say. You make me smile, everyday when I read your blog :)

  9. Wow. That was a dope slap of reality that I know I needed to hear, and I’m sure many other bloggers needed to hear too. You are ABSOLUTELY right – who the eff cares about a few pounds? Being healthy and happy is far, far ,far more important. You are fighting (and beating) a nasty disease and are working hard to stay strong and balanced and optimistic. You are beautiful and an incredible inspiration. I need more of “you” in my life!!

  10. OMG do I love you! “Who fucking cares” is perhaps the best line I’ve ever seen on a blog! :)
    You are too smart for your own good – and that makes you awesome! Also – yum I want those nanaimo bars – and I want to come over and play Foodie Fight with you – k? :)

  11. You know I agree and understand this 100%. The minute your body is compromised, and I mean truly compromised, in any way, you really reevaluate what is important. And isn’t a scale number, a jean size, or the number of canned beverages you refer to your abs with.

    Have a great week dear and keep fighting!

  12. I’m glad your not too hung up about weight and appreciating the fact that you are alive and kicking some serious cancer ass. Everyone reacts differently as far as weight. My dad lost so much weight, but my mom gained (mostly water bloat type of weight from the roids I suspect). My dad has no taste for bread which he used to practically live off prior to chemo. He loves milkshakes now and french fries more than ever. I dunno dude, cancer, treatments, etc, it all does weird things. But in the end, its doesn’t matter.

    Winning Foodie Fight? That MATTERS!

  13. First, losing 30 lbs IS a substantial amount of weight and quite an accomplishment. :) That being said, your current outlook is the healthiest outlook anyone could have about weight. Cancer gives us a deep dive into that little thing called perspective, doesn’t it? Your beautiful smile shines so brightly, no one can even notice the “puffiness.” :)

  14. This post kicks ass. Thank you for this.

  15. You are beautiful, and you glow. You are acquiring such great wisdom for such a young gal, and I know it will serve you well for the rest of your long life!

  16. I think you look adorable and happy! It’s a great pic of you and your best friend! Not puffy at all! :)

    The past few years I’ve reached an acceptance about my weight. I am a bit heavier than I should be but not obese by any stretch. I seem to stay this weight no matter how much or little I eat or workout so apparantly my body is happy at this weight. Also it’s nice to be able to eat a few cookies while watching tv or go out for steak and eggs without worrying about gaining. Once upon a time I was about 30 pounds thinner but could not maintain it without being extremely restrictive. I’m so much happier with less restrictions!

  17. Susan- thank you for your lovely, reality-checking post! I’m 7 months out of my treatment for Hodgkin Lymphoma and Oh My! how I struggled with my 15 lb weight gain! Despite my return to my very active, healthy lifestyle- the last 10 just don’t budge- and I’m constantly debating myself how “healthy” it is to be so focused on them. (Living in uber-thin Los Angeles seems to compound this problem!) Thank you for your candid perspective and reminder of really matters… your words are a joy to read!

    • Weight gain is SO common for Hodgkins! I’m surprised more people don’t know about it, my past association with chemo is that it made a person rail thin. So not true. But being able to eat is much better than not being able to eat. Congrats on being 7 months out – happy to hear you were able to get back to that active lifestyle!

  18. Susan, weight really is not even close to a priority for you now. And really, weight never should be *the* priority for anyone unless it is leading to health problems. Focusing too much on weight can really mess with one’s mind. I think we often try to live too hard to media ideals, even though we inherently know they aren’t feasible for the average person.

  19. Love this post!! I’ve kinda been stuck in the same way of thought about trying to restrict my diet JUST to look good in a pair of jeans, being healthy is way more important than looking “skinny”. You couldn’t have said it better!
    Love the new hair by the way!! and good luck with the next 5 weeks of treatment! You can do it!

  20. It’s such a hard thing…a coworker of mine was diagnosed with stage 4 uterine cancer last Thanksgiving. Before that she was always trying to lose weight. She’d do fad diets and restrict her food for a few days and then fall off the wagon and eat her normal way. She was obese. After the chemo and radiation started she lost over 100 pounds in 6 months. It was absolutely shocking to see.

    I think when you’re battling something like cancer, weight loss and gain doesn’t matter. It becomes less about being a certain weight and more about trying to be healthy and win the battle.

    Hang in there. Blogs and people evolve. It doesn’t always have to be about weight loss.

    • Exactly. And it’s not necessarily about fat acceptance either. I’m a big believer that if you make healthy decisions for your body, it will fall into its natural healthy size. It’s just that size is usually bigger than what a person’s ideal vanity size is. So much energy is put into losing weight when it might be better put towards learning to love your body the way it already is!

      • Very true, Susan! For a long time I was beating myself up for not being able to lose those “last few pounds.” I was fit, active and eating pretty well. I was enjoying life but focusing on how I couldn’t lose 4 pounds. I finally realized that THIS is probably what I am supposed to weigh. I think less about that 4 pounds.

  21. Three things:
    1. That indian food looks delightful.
    2. I feel so sad for anyone who has not had a nanaimo bar – they’re my favorite.
    3. Thank you for this beautiful message. I lost two babies halfway through my pregnancies. It sucks to have to lose the pregnancy weight when you don’t have a baby to hold in your arms. Honestly, one of the greatest things holding me back from trying again is that I struggle with knowing that I will most likely be on bed rest with my next pregnancy, and maintaining my current fitness level will be next to imporssible. But, I’m forcing myself to realize that worrying about weight is *not* worth postponing the dream of building a family. And I get pretty darn angry at this culture for putting that idea in my head in the first place!

    • You know, it’s strange because when I talk to other cancer patients, the biggest complaints are about gaining weight and losing hair. I think big life events (like cancer and miscarriages) are just too big and too scary for our brains to process, so we latch onto these silly things like weight gain to worry about because we in part can’t deal with the bigger issue at hand. Lots of love and good luck to you! xo

      • Susan, I think that you hit the nail on the head. In my heart I know that it’s not about the weight. It’s about the fact that it is easier to worry gaining weight than it is to worry about whether or not my next pregnancy will be successful. It’s also more normalizing, because not everyone understands pregnancy loss, but almost everyone can relate to wanting to feel better about their body.

  22. Such a great post Susan, people put way too much pressure on themselves to weigh a certain amount when as long as they are in a healthy range it really doesn’t matter. <3

  23. Really enjoyed reading your blog. Thanks.

  24. Crazy Cat Freind

    Amongst all the intelligent comments that I will cease to surpass I must say that your post/blog makes me feel good/better about myself. It gives me hope. I know you are a real woman who has real struggles but you are so grounded and intelligent – a diamond in the rough!

    I have been struggling with my weight A LOT! I lost a fair amount of weight by exercising and being wiser on snacking choices but after about a year and a bit stress really got to me and I gained a fair amount back and some (20 lbs some!). Everyday I wake up and stress about my weight, I wear the most ridiculous outfits just to hide the shear fact that I am heavier then ever. I try not to meet friends I know since I fear they’ll look at me and think about how much I have changed for the worst. Everyday is a hard struggle of fat! I am sure this adds to my weight loss struggles being in a constant state of stress and just wanting to hop back into bed as oppose to facing the world and myself.

    Your blog reminds me that there is more to it all then being “Jane Doe the CHUBBY” and that a day wasted is truly a day taken from one’s life.

    *big hugs*
    Crazy Cat Friend ;)

    • Trust me, I know what it’s like to wake up every day stressing about weight too! It’s no way to be. I can’t believe I let being chubby steal so many days from me. It’s a struggle we put on ourselves, and realizing that it’s one that isn’t necessary is SO freeing. That’s not to say I still don’t get bummed out when clothes don’t fit, but the mindset is certainly different, and the stress significantly less. The best way to show people that gaining a few pounds is not a big deal is just to go out and be our fabulous selves. I was way more lame when I was skinny and hungry anyways ;) xo

  25. Hi Susan, what a fantastic post. You have put life, and a few extra lbs I’m trying to lose into perspective. All the best for your day, hope you feel strong and well, and that you have a couple more of those Nanaimo bars!

  26. A-freaking-men. That is all.

  27. Thanks so much for sharing. It’s very easy to get caught up with the number on the scale. I really appreciate your insight!

  28. You posted this just in time for me.
    I’ve been working on my ‘bikini body’ in preparation for my Anniversary trip to Maui in Feb 2012. I’m healthier and more fit than I’ve ever been in my life and I’m proud of it…however I’ve been really beating myself up about that little extra “flub” around my mid section, which in fact isn’t that bad at all…
    In your words…who fucking cares! I’m going to look damn good in that bikini, “flub” or no “flub”!
    Thank you for reminding me that life is about so much more!

  29. This was amazing, thank you so much… you have taught me so many lessons, and made me really think about things in a different light!

    5 weeks – wooooooooooooooo piece of cake after what you’ve been through *fingers crossed*!!!

  30. Your words NEVER cease to impress, inspire and amaze me. Never.

  31. You’re encouraging girl. Life IS more than a pants size, it’s about living.

  32. “I think I may ditch the “back to shape” programs and just live my life in a healthy way that will prevent the cancer from coming back. But most of all in a way I can enjoy it.”

    Sounds like a wonderful, healthy way to go about it. I really admire your strength and your outlook on everything!

  33. I’m speechless. This is an amazing, inspiring post!

  34. Susan you are amazing. Your outlook and wisdom on life is just…too encouraging to put into words. <3

  35. Wow, you truly are an inspiration. I agree with you 100%! You have your head in the right place, most definitely. You know what’s important and you aren’t dwelling on the numbers on the scale. Who cares?! YOU ARE FIGHTING and that’s what matters most. My hero.

    I LOVE Nanaimo bars!!! I am a Canadian and I didn’t even know they were too! Were they invented in Nanaimo, BC? Haha :D

  36. Love, Love, Love it!

    I totally understand where you are out right now. There is nothing that I hated more through my illness than the puffiness and the way those darn steroids made me feel.

    So glad to hear that it will be over before you know it and change your life for the better forever! I can already tell that it has and Susan you truly are touching so many other peoples lives and also those that can relate by knowing that they have been there.

    Loved reading this today, you are such an inspiration! You are in my thoughts and prayers!

  37. You have an awesome attitude, Susan!
    From what I’ve heard, you’ll feel so much better once you’re off the steroids, and by then since you won’t need them – you’ll feel amazing.
    It’s nuts how quickly one’s perspective can change – or be changed, rather. I can’t believe how strong you are though, you’re amazing!

  38. I so prefer to watch (er, read…) quietly in the wings about your fight, but even I was moved to pick up a pen (or, in this case, keyboard) and write. Susan, you amaze us all. Your courage and determination to beat this horrible foe is beyond any words that I can jot down. I do have to say this, though- When you started blogging in 2009 after losing close to 30 pounds, it WAS a substantial amount! Dear heavens, woman! Don’t be so difficult on yourself! :) Thank you for sharing your journey- from the beginning, “unsubstantial” 30 pounds, until now, as you battle cancer. You inspire us all!!!

    • Haha, thank you! I guess any weight loss is laudable, especially when you can recognize unhealthy patterns and change them sooner rather than later. I will say though – I dropped the first 6lbs by cutting out beer alone! :P

      • As a Sailor, I have to say I’m aghast that someone would willingly give up beer! :) If that isn’t willpower, then I have NO idea what is!

  39. It is amazing when we look at life thru another person’s eyes & perspectives as you wrote about above.. life is fragile & man, you smacked us in the face it & reality – in a good way – learning for us reading this! :-) Thank you!

  40. what puffy face?? you look amazing! numbers mean everything. it all comes within, and you are so strong and beautiful inside and out!

  41. You’re so refreshing. Amen to ‘who fucking cares”

  42. Your perspective is always so impressive. It always was and continues to be.

    You know, when you mentioned the ‘possibly too restrictive’ maintenance to be where you wanted to be: I think that is soooo common. Just about everyone I know who’s lost weight, whether 30 or 100 pounds has done that- they always seem to go just too low for what their bodies really want. I know I did. I simply blame myself for taking on board society’s ideals.

    Oh and curses to you and the Young girls- you all got me on a mission to find out about those Naimomomo bars (?!too lazy to look up name). I even watched a video on how to make them! Would it be terrible if I made a slightly less caloric version as you know I must tweak any recipe I get my hand on :-)

    • “Naimomomo bars” baaahahaha. They come from the city of Nanaimo in British Columbia, and feel free to lighten it up! I bet you could add some krispies to the bottom and a sugar-free pudding mix for the middle layer.

      As for the losing weight thing – I totally agree. That’s why I never had my clients choose “goal weights” when I was training, because they ALWAYS chose numbers that were unrealistic for them and their lifestyles. And numbers people will get so hung up and that goal number and obsess over it until they get there.

  43. Love this post, love Nanaimo bars, love Buster stealing another dog’s bed (that is such a Cav thing to do), and love your slightly fuller cheeks (makes you look younger)!

  44. First off – you go girl! In my opinion, 30lbs might not have been a lot of weight to lose in the grand scheme of obese people in the U.S. BUT I’m sure it brought you to try new things? As far as living healthy, I think you are right on track and you are doing exactly what anyone should be doing. You are inspiring and I wish you the best, weight is the smallest thing in the world, and like you said, you’re not eating KFC and weighing 300lbs as the next contestant on the Biggest Loser!

  45. What a wonderful post Susan. I think you are glowing and so beautiful in that last picture! You look happy and positive and I think that is amazing despite all the hardships you’ve recently faced.

    I wrote a post about giving up my obsession with weight last January and have spent 2011 really trying to focus on FEELING good and eating what I like and not the number on the scale. It’s hard, and sometimes the feeling that I need to lose weight creeps up again. Thanks for this reminder that there are many, many, MANY things that are more important!

  46. You are truly amazing. I think everyone should hear your story. We all get too caught up in being happy five pounds from now or when we can fit into a certain size or when our hair grows to a certain length. You are right. Why not just be happy now?
    You are truly an inspiration.

  47. Thanks for your wonderful post, Susan. You know I wish you nothing but health and to beat this cancer and kick it in the butt!!! Pancakes with honey or syrup drizzled on top and all :)


  48. fortheloveofkale

    Gorgeous outlook on life, Susan. You’re an inspiration!

  49. This post resonates with me on many levels. Thank you so much for writing this. You are beautiful inside and out and numbers on the scale hardly matter when you know you’re living healthy. Adding to physical health you will also have gained a healthy perspective from all of this. That’s a very important part of fitness right there.

    I have fought long and hard over my vanity pounds, but my mother’s cancer taught me many lessons, and while it has taken me years to fully learn them, I think I’m finally beginning to understand what it seems that you already know. You rock in so many, many ways!

  50. Susan…oh Susan my love! I just caught up on all your posts, and all I want to do is give you a great bit giant hug! Your last posts have been so revealing to me on exactly what someone with cancer goes through each and everyday, and I just am so proud to call you my friend with the way you are so honest, positive and real about it all.

    This post was especially beautiful…thank you for such a needed reminder. We all need to stop criticizing and start appreciating. GChat soon, pleasssseeeeeeeee?

    Love you so much,

    P.S. New York post-cancer? Or anywhere…when you beat this thang, it calls for some travel!

    P.P.S. Your writing has been so lovely as of late <3

  51. I still struggle with that feeling a lot of days, that I might gain back the weight I have lost, but it’s still nice to hear your message and be reminded that I shouldn’t stress so much about pounds. Caring about what I put into my body is way more important than how much I weigh.

  52. Just checking in to see how you are doing…..I hope you are felling ok.


  53. I wish more women could have this attitude. I battled pancreatitis a couple of years ago and dropped 30 pounds to a very, very unhealthy weight. Sure I could fit into size 0 and 2 size clothing. All my friends were so jealous. What they didn’t realize is that skinny is not all it’s cracked up to be when you can’t enjoy life or eat what you want, when you want. It has forever changed my life. My diet is severely restricted, however, it has taught me to enjoy a plant based diet. Enjoy wholesome food and simple flavors and see that as long as I am eating healthy, my body will fall into whatever size it needs to be.
    Thanks for a very inspiring read! All the best with your health!

  54. Hi Susan,

    Thanks for writing this post. I’ve been on prednisone (I’m assuming those are the same steroids you’re currently taking) twice, once with a 6-month round of light chemo (for lupus, an autoimmune disease). Just wanted to say that I can totally relate to this post and I’m so glad you were able to put my feelings into words.

    Stay strong. Prednisone sucks. Chemo sucks. Cancer sucks. But you’re freaking amazing.

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