You know recently, I went through a long, difficult cancer journey. Nearly a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer of the tongue. This resulted in multiple surgeries over a very short few weeks, hospitalization, radiation, chemotherapy and re-learning basic skills like eating and talking. It wasn’t an easy journey, but I stepped out every single day in faith and honestly, I still am.
A few weeks ago, something absolutely crazy happened to me. I was walking into a store with my teenage daughter when my jeans slid down over my hips at an alarming rate. Now thankfully I was wearing a long shirt and had fast enough reactions to halt what could have been a really embarrassing situation, but it did result in me finally realizing that I probably need to buy new clothes. I’d been putting it off because I didn’t want to spend money on clothes when I’m still losing weight. My daughter elbowed me and said, “Mom, it’s probably okay to get a new pair of pants now.” So I did. And I was over the moon delighted to buy slacks that were TEN sizes smaller than what I wore a year ago. TEN! That’s huge.
You see, a year ago, when I was diagnosed, I had an unhealthy attitude about food. I ate often and I did not eat healthy portions or healthy recipes. I excused everything with some reason it was okay. I had a bad day or I had some great news and wanted to celebrate. I did not eat well. As a result, I was obese. I admit that fully. I know now and I knew then that I was overweight. I hated pictures of myself and I often hid from the mirror. I didn’t want to see my overweight body.
So then I got cancer. And I lost weight. It’s going to happen when you’re unable to eat for six months. It’s also a natural side effect of radiation, chemo, and sickness. I lost a lot of weight. Nearly 80 pounds at this point. And I would be lying if I said I weren’t happy about that. Was the method a good one? No. I’m not advocating that anyone use cancer as a weight loss method. That’s silly. It was a miserable terrible journey and I was horribly sick for a lot of it.
However, relearning how to eat has also reset my bars. I look at food differently. Drastically differently. Right now it’s not a pleasure to eat as much as it is exercise. I have to analyze every portion and see if it’s something I even CAN eat. Many foods are still off of my menu because of pain, difficulty in eating or unhealthy side effects. Then I need to figure out my energy level and how to approach it so I don’t tire my jaw, tongue and neck out too much. I’m not complaining by any stretch! A few months ago, tasting food wasn’t even an option for me. So every bite is a blessing and I rejoice in it. It’s still not a healthy attitude toward food. I’m obsessed on the other side of things with all of my analysis and weighing what I can and cannot eat. However, I know that this is just the swing of the pendulum and I’m praying that I can come to a healthy middle ground soon – where food isn’t exercise but it’s not my constant indulgence either. Something in the middle would be fabulous.
That weight loss….it’s bothering some people that I delighted in buying clothes 10 sizes smaller. Like, it’s really bothering them. Enough that I got several messages, texts, and emails admonishing me to NOT be happy about an unhealthy weight loss. I was told that it’s wrong to rejoice in something that was so unhealthy! After all, it’s not a good way for anyone to lose weight, so I shouldn’t promote it as such. (Seriously – if anyone is out there and wants to ‘catch’ cancer in order to lose weight, I’d like to suggest that therapy would be something they strongly consider.) The whole attitude and response stunned me. I mean, I’m not saying anyone should go and get cancer in order to lose weight. And I’m not saying that being sick, unhealthy, or not eating is a good choice either. But I am saying that when each and every day – sometimes each hour or moment – is a monumental struggle to do simple things like breathe without throwing up or sit up without losing consciousness, then fitting into slacks you haven’t worn in over a decade is a victory. And it’s one that I’m going to rejoice in.
I don’t, in any way, believe that God allowed me to have cancer to lose weight. I believe that through my cancer journey, one (just one!) of the lessons I learned was my unhealthy relationship with food. And that has changed. I rejoice in that and at this point, I’m not going to apologize for it. I admit that I’m not thankful for cancer. I wish I wouldn’t have needed to go through that. But I will be thankful for the lessons I’ve learned and I will work each day to apply them to my life in the right way.