Less than 6 months ago I was in, what I would consider for myself, fantastic shape. I was muscular, toned and svelte. I worked hard for it, but honestly, not that hard.
I did either bikram yoga, running or boxing 6 days a week. It took dedication, but it wasn’t hard. In fact, exercising was often my favorite part of the day.
And I wasn’t eating ‘clean’ or any of that nonsense. I was eating like a normal person. I tried to err on the side of healthy, but I certainly ate half a pizza when duty called and always finished my kids’ leftover food, which was inevitably cheese, butter or grease-based.
Whatever I was doing was working because my body was showing my dedication to exercise all while being able to eat as I pleased.
Guys, it has been 6 months. SIX MONTHS! And somehow I have turned into a potato. That spilt screen photo above is an actual photo of me. I am a walking, talking tuberous starch.
I know what you are all going to say here, ‘Grace, you’ve been battling cancer! Cut yourself some slack! And we all think you look beautiful!’
(Here is me covering my ears and yelling, ‘LALALALALALA,’ because I don’t want to hear it.)
I feel physically disgusting. I have put on more weight than I even initially thought. The scale and I have been avoiding one another, but when my fat-pants felt snug today, I had to force myself to face the music. It was not pretty. I am closer to my top pregnancy weight than I am to my goal weight.
Six months. In six months cancer has taken me down to fat-pants town. But cancer didn’t do it alone. I allowed myself to eat like each day was my last on earth, even though I knew it most certainly was not. I allowed myself to get sloppy. And that is where I now stand. Mayor of Fat-Pants Town in the Province of Sloppy Potato.
My body has been changed on a cellular level by the chemo. My body has been changed on the physical level by mastectomy and hair loss. My brain has been changed on an intrinsic level by the pain of coping. The change of my actual everyday appearance in my clothes adds insult to injury.
I am not saying I want to look like Gisele (I do want to look like Gisele, duh). I am saying that I want to look like me. The ‘me’ I worked hard for before I was sick. The ‘me’ who wore all the clothes in my drawers and closet. I want to feel confident when I leave the house and I feel the opposite of that. I want to hide.
Now I am a ‘me’ that I don’t recognize. My breasts are gone and have been replaced by imposters and quite a few of my staple clothing items no longer fit my body. It is a constant reminder of who I was merely six months ago and who I am forced to be now that I have been robbed of so many things I thought were mine for life.
This all brings me to now. I am done with chemo, I am almost done with surgery and I am unhappy with what I see in the mirror. I am a hacked up, puffed up version of the cute girl who posed flexing in the mirror with confidence (I am cringing a little at that btw) this spring. It is like I got on a waterslide in May and was just spit out this week into a waaaaay different pool than I expected.
Again I know what you are all going to say, ‘You’ll get back there Grace!’ Will I, though? What took six months to undo will surely take far more to piece back together. And remember that I also have quite a few physical limitations now. I can’t exercise in the same ways I did before, due to the lymphedema in my arm and the weaknesses that were created from multiple surgeries.
You might also say, ‘But Grace, you got through cancer and are now considered cancer-free. Why do you care so much about how you look, you vain monster?’ You are correct. I shouldn’t care about how I look, but guess what? I do. I want to keep up with the Joneses, who in this case are all the beautifully sculpted suburban moms I keep company with. I want to look beautiful to my husband. But instead I am hiding in giant clothes and avoiding eye contact with most everyone I meet.
The question becomes how to make the changes I want to see in my body. Do I go against what the docs say and just bust my (bigger) ass in the gym? Do I cut my food intake in half and deny myself what I consider to be one of the greatest joys of living, eating? I just beat cancer so I could live. What does ‘to live’ mean to me now?
Maybe it means new jeans that don’t make me feel like a polish sausage. Or maybe it means I stop eating the delicious, mouth watering, glorious pizza.
I don’t have the answer. I just know that this potato would like to morph into an elegant fingerling garnish and not remain in tater tot status for much longer.