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Friday, January 30, 2009

Food Issues (Blog 10)

Yes, I’ve got them. Had them since shortly after birth and have since stood idly by, yet insanely frustrated, while observing them rev, wane, stall, and everything in between. I seemingly stand from the outside looking in as they’ve overtaken nearly every aspect of my life during my pre-teen, teen, and college years. That, my friends, is what we call VICTIM MENTALITY. That, too, is what Judgmental Sarah calls Among the Worst Qualities a Person Can Have. Judgmental Sarah can be so, so, so…….judgy sometimes. I look back to those eating disordered years of self-induced starvation and vomiting with shame and embarrassment, recalling all of the unnecessary drama and ensuing hospitalizations inflicted upon my unwitting family and friends.
And yet, how ironic that things have shifted at such a perfect 180 degrees on the axis of health and weight issues. Here I sit, drinking wine as my digestive tract simultaneously tumbles in revolt of food and salivates at the mere thought of it. 
Skinnier days: wearing size 2 shorts in summer 1999

After college I unsteadily began the path of recovery as an adult—a totally different thing than that of a minor under her parents’ care and without any tangible responsibilities. For about three years, a tall, skinny Sarah maintained a size 4-6, then felt the weight creep up to a 6-8. By grad school, I was in a healthy, although unhappy, size 8.  Out of grad school I can only describe myself as visibly and adequately fed, and during my first year of residency/work I was delighted when, with little effort, the weight began to fall off. HARK! I thought. All I needed was a change of pace for 20 lbs to melt away, an even easier process than actually joining a gym or counting calories. I started getting such comments as: “you’re losing weight!,” “have you been working out?” and “another Lean Cuisine???… a burger!” and relishing every moment. Right around March when I attended a work event in Dallas (and thus ate greasy, trans-fatty conference food smothered in sauce), I noticed that my appetite was as healthy as ever yet I strangely managed to maintain my shiny new figure. Odd but, hey, who am I to question these things?!
When I was diagnosed in September, my doctor told me that the size of the tumor indicated that I had probably had cancer for about 6-8 months. Doing the math, I realized that my malignancy infiltrated my body around February. She also asked about certain tell-tale symptoms such as night sweats, frequent illness, and…..weight loss. Checkmate. I resigned myself to the probability that my 20 lb loss wasn’t a wonderful, albeit hidden, gift from the Brannon genes whatsoever; instead, it was cancer. During that first appointment, I was also given a DVD to view about what to expect during treatment (although one might recall that I was so drugged from the bone marrow aspiration that I have no recollection of the entire DVD watching experience). One particularly “hefty” segment (get it???) of the video regarded weight GAIN during chemotherapy and the common misconception that cancer patients tend to lose weight. Prior to advanced biotechnology, most cancer patients did lose weight out of the sheer inability to tolerate chemotherapy. They spent all day, everyday, fighting a battle of wills between the physical need to eat and the strong desire not to. For many, it was akin to having the flu for 3 to 12 months straight. Now, with the blessed advancement in medications such as those designed for highly-emetic (read: pukey) cancer drugs which INCLUDE steroids, not wanting to eat is exactly the opposite concern.
Now that I’m shot full of miraculous chemo poison every 14 days, I can safely say that the offending steroid makes me want carbs. For the first two days post-chemo, I am somewhat okay. That means that I have chemo every other Wednesday and typically don’t get sick until the following Friday. From Wednesday afternoon until Thursday night I crave spicy, salty, and breaded--namely Mexican and Indian--food. After indulging this knowledge (and counterbalancing it with regular apples, grapes, bananas, salads, peas, and broccoli), I started to steadily gain weight with each passing appointment. “274 lbs,” the Medical Assistant would cheerfully announce in my head--and not in reality--as I obediently stepped off the punishing scale for the Moment of Judgment.
And yet I write this with the knowledge that every side effect is an indication that the chemo is working. In all seriousness I muse: How completely selfish of me to ask for anything more.
For the next 3-4 months I am at the mercy of my doctors, nurses, medications, and overall treatment protocol. That means that I have to accept everything that goes along with those components which, in turn, means that I will gratefully eat my Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners with the hearty exertion expected from only the most hardcore chemo patients. 
Hey, go big or go home I say…..

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