Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Living on the edge
I was hot once.
Really, it’s true. Attractive. A babe, even. Never had a problem meeting guys. The right guys, sure, that was a problem, but guys in general? No. I was skinny, and lovely, and liked myself.
That was before The Cancer. And FatSurly. Which kicks your body into early menopause – which means that things now work like this: as a young woman who shouldn’t be in menopause, this pill that stops the estrogen in your body means that your body is still trying to make estrogen however it can. And fat makes estrogen. So whatever you eat, your body gloms onto and turns it into fat.
At least that’s how I explain the fact that I can and do eat 300 or fewer calories a day and can’t lose weight. Seriously. A typical day consists of coffee, then maybe some cottage cheese and blueberries. And that’s it. And that whole “calories in, calories out” mantra that people love to throw around, that just doesn’t work. I’ve briefly entertained the notion of stopping the Tamoxifen, but that would be the ultimate in stupidity. Because the more hormone positive you are, the more you need to take Tamox. Some people who are 20-30% positive don’t take it, as the benefits aren’t worth the side effects. Me? I’m 100% positive. Not a lot of choice there.
So I’m no longer attractive. Far from it. And I no longer like myself. Also far from it. The difference between now and then was brought home to me yesterday, when I was chatting with a friend who’s new to Facebook, and he mentioned some pictures of me in an orange sundress that were on there. Pics of me and Stacey in Costa Rica. Back from when I was hot. Pre-cancer and pre-FatSurly. I look nothing like that now. Nothing at all. But I like the picture because it’s me and one of my closest friends – who totally gets the whole cancer thing, I might add - having a great time in one of the most beautiful places on earth, so I leave it up there. Even though I want to cry when I see pictures of the old me, and I wonder, where is that person now? What happened to my life? No wonder I don't want to leave the house. Ever. For anything.
And he told me that I looked a lot better then. Then this:
“You know, that’s the thing about cancer, that it can turn someone from a hot young woman to, well, a frumpy old lady.”
Now, I hesitated in writing this blog post, because I knew he might read this, and I didn’t want him to feel bad about his comment. Because yes, it could have been left unsaid, but on the other hand…..he’s right. So I wasn’t offended, or mad at him, especially since he’s a sweetheart of a person and wouldn’t hurt my feelings for the world. And there was no malicious intent in his comment – it was more an expression of amazement, that people don’t realize how far-reaching the effects of cancer are.
Which is my point. That most people don’t get it, and don’t understand why those of us with the Big C haven’t “moved on.” This was brought home to me the other day after I posted on FB an update after the glorious Blackhawks’ victory to the effect of “My birthday is in 2 weeks, and I do have cancer, so, if you happen to have a line on Hawks tickets, well, I’m just sayin’….”
The vast majority of my friends took that in the spirit in which it was intended, i.e.:
a) Laughing, with a “work it, girlfriend!” thrown in for good measure
b) Thinking hmm, Miss Tasha needs Hawks tickets
c) Admiring the appropriate use of the Cancer Card
One person, however, felt compelled to tell me that I didn’t have cancer, I was a “cancer survivor,” snidely adding “What is this, Make-a-Wish for adults??”
I was going to respond to that, with a comment along the lines of hey, as long as I have scars on my chest and feel like shit all the time and can’t remember a damn thing because of FatSurly which is also making my hair fall out due to the weird hormone shit and I can’t lose weight to save my soul and will probably expire of a heart attack as I’m trying to haul my fat ass up the Alps this summer, then I get to say whatever the hell I want. And who the fuck are you or anyone else to tell me otherwise?
But I didn’t bother, because I figured her comment spoke for itself. And people like that don’t get it. They don’t get that what I deal with is typical. That this is all the typical day-to-day shit that I and all my CancerChicks deal with, the stuff that people just don’t get. Other people think we should be done with this, but we can’t be. If life is a highway, we’re stuck in an endless construction zone, with nowhere to exit.
And those of us who get to take FatSurly, we’re the lucky ones. No matter how crappy Tamoxifen is with its horrible side effects, at least those of us who are hormone positive have something we can take, to try to help prevent a recurrence. And I’m lucky that I didn’t wind up with treatment-induced heart failure, that my recon surgeries have been successful so far, that I haven’t had it even crappier.
But in spite of that, I’m still fat, surly, tired, stupid, balding and scarred, with compromised lungs thanks to radiation.
Oh yeah, and I have a fucking gumdrop stuck to my chest.
And I still have a 18.6% chance of death from cancer in the next 10 years. A 31.4% chance of recurrence. Those numbers are 26% and 46.4% respectively without Tamoxifen. So I’ll play the Cancer Card whenever the hell I feel like it, thank you very much. It’s pretty much a lifetime membership.
* * * *
Last night, I didn’t take my Tamoxifen*. And today, I didn’t eat.
I feel skinnier already.
(* While this would be a wonderfully dramatic way to end this post, it’s also a bit attention-whoreish if I leave it at that, implying that people should leap in to tell me I need to take my FatSurly, that looks don’t matter, etc. and so on. And that’s not the point. So I’ll add that my rejection of FS was a one-time fuck-you-cancer statement, and I’ll be back to taking it tonight. The fasting is likely to continue, however.)