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.)


Gisela said...

I so love your blog!! I am not ER/PR +. I gained weight. and feel much like you do.. so p;ay that fucking card all you want!! You rock crazy ass!!

Torey said...

Hey Tash,
I'm sure this seems totally random, but I come across your blog posts every so often from my facebook newsfeed. First, the things that I first notice in those pictures - the beautiful smile and smiling eyes - must still apply. Second, as a dietitian I am shocked that you are subsisting on 300 cals/day! If you ever want to talk about other ways to try to lose weight, consider me at your service. I really believe the body holds onto its calories for dear life when they are so scarce. Anyways, you know you best, but if you want a second or professional opinion, I'm here.

Kim said...

I feel your pain Tasha. I look at pictures of me and wonder who the hell that person is. I miss that person. Now I am left with a shell of person that I used to be and I am not sure I like this new person, still figuring that out. I admit to throwing out the cancer card because sometimes life just seems so unfair and damn it we deserve a break somewhere, somehow.

n54th said...

This is a heartwrenching entry, Tasha. But you started out in a goddess body. Now you're about on par with the rest of us. All of us have our bodies betray us eventually. But your brilliance, strength and wit are helping us understand your struggle, and they will take you much farther in the end.


Molly said...

I read that comment and was waiting to see if anyone would react or if I was missing seemed incredibly hurtful and insensitive to me. Anyway, I am glad that regardless of what cancer has done to your body, you have come through this with a strong and healthy attitude and a good heart. I do like to think that my sister would have done the same if she had survived hers.

Roadie in Vancouver said...

You neglected to mention that not only were you HOT but smart and sassy too. Now its hot flashes but still smart and sassy, so 2 out of 3 ain't bad. We love your balding persona regardless.

As for the Alps, let me tell you honey. I train and I train and can barely consider doing a sprint triathlon that little kids and their grannies do, while you're doing Ironman, climbing the Alps and fighting the IRS all at the same time.

Finally, one of the many reasons we read your blog is that there is no sugar coating, it's the real deal. Yes, life sucks and how much lemonade can a person make?

Honestly, I don't get those people who don't get what happens with cancer patients. Then again, till I read your blog, I was clueless as well as to the burdens post diagnosis and treatment. You educated me and I'm sure many others.

Love you!!

tctill said...

Well, I met you for the first time in, what, March? And for what it's worth, I still think you're hot! And looking at these pictures, I think you're every bit as lovely now -- like somebody else pointed out, it's evident in your eyes, your smile ...

Also, just so you don't think I'm "blowing sunshine" or whatever, yes, you did look a bit thinner in these pics (frankly, in a couple of them, I would say "unhealthily" so, but maybe that's just the angle of the photo). I honestly didn't think "fat" when I met you -- it never even crossed my mind!

That said, I sure understand what f***in' cancer does to us. You capture that so well in your writing!

Play that cancer card for all it's worth!

Men who call us frumpy = ugggh! My husband said that me once, clueless to the meaning of the word. I still haven't let him forget that one. ;-)

And, 300 calories a day? That doesn't sound right. I'm no dietitian, but I've been to a nutritionist, some of my dearest friends have ED's ... I've read the teen novels ;) .... I'm pretty sure that eating so little isn't going to help matters much, that it will just make your body go into "starvation" mode, which will make your body cling to excess fat even more if I'm not mistaken. You should listen to your friend Torey. :-)

Caroline said...

Fat? Nope. Newly voluptuous? Definitely. :)

I totally get the frustration of gaining weight as I've struggled with it my whole adult life. But you just gotta rock the body you have. Really it all boils down to strategic elastic placement.

Accelerate said...

I think your still hot!