Cancer has touched a lot of things in my life, but not my obsession with food and weight. I used to keep a lid on these neuroses more, trying hard not to ruin my daughters. But when the girls reached the truly crucial ages of 10 and 13, I blew it all up by joining Weight Watchers, sacrificing their health for my own as I tracked points and talked incessantly about food and weight. I managed to lose 25 pounds and have kept most of it off most of the past 11 years. Every New Year’s our family has a ritual of writing out our hopes for the coming year and the high and low points of the year just passed. For years my daughters’ “Low” lists were topped by “Mommy talking about points,” until they grew old enough to rebel against the ritual altogether.
But inadvertent ruination of one’s children is not my focus here. I just want to set the scene for my first reaction upon learning I had uterine cancer. Thinking initially it was the “No big deal” kind requiring just a hysterectomy with maybe a dollop of radiation, my only concern was how long I’d be laid low by surgery. “Three weeks’ recovery from a hysterectomy,” replied the doctor.
“Oh, shit! I won’t be able to hike for three weeks! I’ll gain weight!” was my only thought. (I had just spent the entire summer losing 9 pounds acquired during a month-long vacation and several late-night, at-home rendezvous with open bags of chocolate chips.)
By the next day, I knew I had the bigger-deal kind of uterine cancer. As I shared my diagnosis and crazy initial reaction with my friend Ruth, she said, “No, you’ll be getting chemo—you’ll lose weight.”
“Oh, good!” I thought.
You need to fast 24 hours before surgery, so when I stepped on the Kaiser scale the morning of my hysterectomy, the number for once did not lead me to ponder how much heavier street clothes are than nightgowns. Or whether that second helping of cake was really such a good idea. In fact, the surgeon told my husband that the procedure had taken longer than usual because it was difficult to maneuver given that “she’s so thin.”
So thin! Could I get that in writing? Could cancer be worth the steep admission price?
It’s one thing to lose the weight, quite another to lose the crazy.
In September 2012, I was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of uterine cancer. Treatment was successful, and I am happy to report that I am cancer-free and doing well. By the way, I gained five pounds during the course of chemo . . .