Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wake Up Call - You're Fat!

After our carriage ride through Central Park
Most of us have heard someone with a weight problem say: "I never knew I was that fat until I saw myself in a picture from [name the event]..."

As a former thin person, I used to think: "How can you not know you were THAT fat?" It seemed odd to me. You get on the scale and read the number. You're fat. You buy clothes and see what size you have to get to fit your girth. You're fat. How can you NOT know how fat you are? It made no sense.

This odd phenomenon is now happening to me.

I know that I am gaining weight. I know that I'm big. I've ballooned from a size 6 to tight size 16. I see 50 extra pounds when I step on the scale. Logically, I understand that I am gaining weight but for some reason, it never registered with me internally or emotionally.

I got my first dose of reality this past April when we went to Mexico on vacation. I bought several tankini suits which fit me. I knew I wasn't going to look great but I figured I looked appropriate and okay. When I looked at some of our first photos during the trip, I was horrified. I actually started crying right there on the chaise lounge on the beach. I could not believe how big I had grown.

It happened again this weekend. When I look at this picture that I posted, I am awestruck by the size of my arm. My God! No wonder none of my shirts fit me anymore! This is a real wake up call.

Starting the Belly Fat Cure before our long weekend celebration in NYC was not smart. I walked well over 10,000 steps every day with all our sightseeing but we ate and drank and ate some more. It was our 25th wedding anniversary after all! I ended up gaining 1.5 lbs.

Quite frankly, I didn't want to follow the BFC very closely during our trip. I just wanted to enjoy some quality time with my husband -- which I did.

Now it's time to get back on track.

The good news is I do not have any major celebrations or events in the near future. I have a friend's wedding to attend next month but it's a small affair. I have a few business trips between now and Thanksgiving but I will make smart meal choices on the road. Thanksgiving is the next "big thing" on my radar.

I do have an important business event the week before Thanksgiving. I will be seeing a lot of people I haven't seen in a year. I would like to be down 30 lbs. by then. It is 17 weeks away. Do you think that is possible? Rosalie lost 30 lbs. in 12 weeks. She is my inspiration!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Taking Control With The Belly Fat Cure

I mentioned in a comment to yesterday's post that I have decided to take control of my weight by following the Belly Fat Cure by Jorge Cruise. I learned of the Belly Fat Cure (BFC) through Dr. Christiane Northrup's book called "The Wisdom of Menopause." I did a little research and found several BFC success stories that really inspire me.

My favorite BFC blog is The Belly Fat Cure... PurpleRosy Style by Rosalie. I can really relate to Rosalie because we are about the same age and both love our dogs! I read her entire blog start to finish and am so inspired by her 90 lb. weight loss and ongoing maintenance. She didn't do it overnight. It took time. But she was consistent and dedicated and stayed the course the entire time. I admire her persistence.

Starting this week, I am following BFC by limiting my intake of sugar to no more than 15 grams a day and my carbs to no more than 6 servings per day. That's not much. If you have ever read nutrition labels, you will see that sugar is in just about everything. It's definitely in everything that I love to eat. A serving of carbs is 5-21 grams. I would like to do less than 6 servings a day just to speed up my weight loss.

I have joined the BFC website and received my first week meal plan. The recipes are easy to make and really, really good. I made the Guacamole Grilled Cheese sandwich for lunch the other day. It was delicious (I love guac!). Last night I made the Greek Chicken Pasta. It was fantastic and my husband really loved it.

I try to walk every morning around my neighborhood. I wear the UP fitness band by Jawbone. It does a good job of counting my steps. I could also log my food on their app but I have been using LoseIt to log my food. I have a premium LoseIt account which syncs with my Jawbone UP.

My first big challenge is coming up this weekend. My husband and I are celebrating our 25th anniversary with a trip to New York City. We'll be doing a lot of sightseeing and walking, so that's good. I know we'll be eating and drinking a lot. I plan to try to stick to low carb items whenever possible but my goal for the weekend is to celebrate and have fun. If I need to be extra-strict when I get back, so be it.

Anyway - thanks in advance if you're reading this blog!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Day 773 - The Person I Used To Be

Several people have asked me if life returns to "normal" after breast cancer treatment. I wish I could say "yes" but I would be lying. When I was going through chemo, radiation and recovering from my surgeries, I used to get really down and exclaim: I JUST WANT MY LIFE BACK!

It's so hard to go from being an active, healthy person to someone with cancer. It sucks. Big time. Now that most of my treatment is over, I have gotten my life back but it's very different.

I remember telling a friend about my diagnosis and what lay ahead. She was very encouraging and upbeat. She did her best to bolster my spirits but I distinctly remember saying: "I sure hope I recognize myself by the time all these doctors get done with me."

Life before cancer - active, healthy, 130 lbs.
Fast forward two years later and I do not recognize myself. I went from being fit and active to being this big, lethargic blob. I went from being able to wear cute clothes to having to buy plus-size, elastic waist everything. I used to wear high heels. Now I can barely walk without tripping, teetering or stumbling. I used to work out, lift weights, climb mountains and run. Now it's all I can do to walk around the neighborhood once a day trying desperately to get in 10,000 steps (I'm not even close).

Don't get me wrong - I am grateful to be alive and done with treatment. But this journey has definitely taken its toll on me. Weight gain, lethargy, brain fog, instant menopause, irritability, neuropathy in my feet... All these things have turned me into someone I do not recognize. And I miss the person I used to be. I want my life back!

Post cancer - fat and unhappy
The first step toward getting my life back - or at least some part of it - is to lose this damn weight. I have never really been an overweight person so the 50 lbs. I have gained over the last two years has thrown me for a loop. I don't know how heavy people can be happy. My hat is off to them. I can't do it. I know that everyone says you have to be kind to yourself and accept yourself. I can't. I know what it's like to be thin and active. There is absolutely nothing acceptable about this fat life. Nothing at all.

I can't do much about cancer. It's either coming back or it's not. But I can do something about this weight. I know that if I can get control of my eating and drinking, if I can lose these 50 lbs. - I will have a BIG part of my life back.

And that would make me VERY happy.

So my blog is going to take a turn in a different direction. It's going to look more like a weight loss journal and less like a cancer survivor blog. I'll still talk about cancer survivorship and things that I'm experiencing. But starting this week - it's all about my weight loss and getting my life back.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Day 747 of 1825 - Two Years Done!

This month marks two years post-treatment for me. Two years on tamoxifen with three more years of hormonal therapy.

The plan has always been to start on tamoxifen and then switch to an aromatase inhibitor. During my six-month checkup with my oncologist today, she did just that. I start letrozole (brand name Femara) tomorrow. All the research indicates better survival rates on letrozole than tamoxifen. Some research is now suggesting women should take hormonal therapy for 10 years instead of 5. I'm not ready to contemplate that just yet. Let me make it five years cancer-free and then we'll talk.

If you've ever wondered what 24 months of tamoxifen looks like, here are 24 bottles of tamoxifen lined up on my dresser - stretching from one end to the other. Yes, I've saved them all. Every empty bottle has felt like a feather in my cap. Why do I suddenly feel the urge to sing "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall?" haha!


I guess the most difficult part of these past two years has been the weight gain - 40 lbs. in two years. That's a lot of extra weight especially since I was already carrying an extra 10 lbs. when I started treatment.

But I'm not going to worry about the weight gain today. As a matter of fact, I am not going to worry about ANYTHING today. I just hit my two year mark and I feel pretty good.

Obviously, letrozole has it's side effects - mainly bone and joint pain. I have friends who have taken it and said the pain wasn't that bad. They said it was more of a nuisance than anything and they took Advil to control it. I have also had friends who simply couldn't tolerate it. I'm hoping I can deal with it and just move on.

On to Year Three!







Thursday, April 24, 2014

Day 691 of 1825 - Two Years Post Hysterectomy

This was me two years ago today. Well... not me exactly. But this is what I was having done - a total hysterectomy via DaVinci Robotic Device as the last step in my treatment protocol.

Of all the procedures I went through - core needle biopsies, lumpectomy, sentinel node biopsy, chemo and radiation - my hysterectomy was the hardest. To this day I am still feeling the effects.

And I don't like it.

I realize that menopause is a natural state for women as we age. It's not a disease and it's certainly nothing to be afraid of or ashamed of. But when you hit menopause instantly rather than letting your body transition in its own good time, the changes can be very hard to handle. At least, that has been my experience.

I don't want to sound like a complainer here. Menopause is better than cancer any day! But I will be 50 years old in just five days and I feel terrible. I feel like an old woman. An old, FAT woman.

I have neglected this blog for a variety of reasons. Mainly, I am very dissatisfied with my new "normal." I am out of shape, forgetful and more nervous about a cancer recurrence than I was about my initial diagnosis.

I wish I could report that my life returned to normal and everything is wonderful but that would be a lie. There are many wonderful things about my life, and I am very grateful! But my life is not what it was. And it is still not what I hoped it would be once I finished my treatments.

I continue to take tamoxifen every morning. As you can see from my countdown, I am about 38% through my 5 years of hormonal therapy. My next appointment with my oncologist is in June - two years after starting tamoxifen. We'll evaluate how I'm doing and decide whether or not to switch to an aromatase inhibitor. I know these drugs are not a walk in the park either.

So I have decided that during this 50th year of my life, I need to really take some serious action to get myself to a place where I am happy, healthy and less anxious. I've read my previous posts and they all say the same thing but I've done nothing about it. I am definitely in a rut and I want OUT!

One thing I did earlier this year was consult with a local cancer survivorship program. They have support group meetings, free yoga classes, all kinds of events and lectures -- everything I need to help me rebuild my life after cancer. They also recommended a licensed clinical therapist who specializes in cancer survivorship.

I made an appointment and will see her on my birthday. Happy Birthday to me! Nothing like seeing a therapist on your 50th birthday. ha!

I will try to do a better job of posting some updates. I realize there are very few of you (if any) who read this blog. That's okay. It's meant to be my own way of documenting my recovery and (hopefully) survival.

Either way, it's time for me to stop ignoring the fact that I had cancer and start reclaiming my life.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Day 513 of 1825

I received a nice email from someone who had read my blog and thanked me for sharing my experience. She said it made her feel less alone on this journey we call breast cancer treatment. Her email really meant a lot to me and prompted me to update my blog.

So how are YOU doing? I hope all is well on your side of the universe, wherever you happen to be.

As for me, life goes on but certainly not without its challenges. My greatest challenge is trying overcome my fear and anxiety about recurrence. I feel as though I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop. That's not a good feeling.

I asked a friend who went through breast cancer treatment before I did how she overcomes this nagging fear. She said that she just reminds herself that she didn't go through the surgery, the chemo and the radiation so that she could live her days in fear. No -- she went through all that CRAP so she wouldn't have to live her days in fear. Makes sense to me. And I continually have to remind myself of this fact all the time.

I also have another friend who said she would repeat to herself: "I don't have cancer today. I don't have cancer today." Because unless you get the diagnosis from your doctor, today is a perfectly HEALTHY day.

Those are two techniques I use quite often. Sometimes they work. Sometimes they don't.

I am currently on a schedule of getting my mammogram once a year again like a "normal" woman. haha! And my oncology visits have been cut back from four times a year to twice a year. I was supposed to have my mammogram this month but couldn't get in on time. So it's a little delayed. That has me nervous - of course. Why didn't I do a better job of scheduling it in advance? Geez! My next oncology appointment is in December.

I guess my biggest challenge right now (besides the fear and anxiety), is the toll my treatment has taken on my body. By that I mean weight gain. I gained about 30 lbs. during my treatment and following my hysterectomy in April 2012. I feel like a whale. The hot flashes suck, too. But compared to cancer, I am not complaining.

I have decided that one of the best ways for me to fight my fear and anxiety is to develop some sense of control over my situation. For those of us who have been down this path, we know that we cannot control very much in life. But there are some steps we can take to help us feel more in control and I am referring to lifestyle changes. Mainly diet, exercise and some kind of spiritual or meditative practice.

Here is what I know for sure:

  • I know that eating sugar is bad for me. Cancer loves sugar.
  • I know that drinking alcohol is bad for me. Women have a 35% higher incidence of recurrence when they drink alcohol, even just one glass of wine a day.
  • I know that being overweight is also bad for me. Fat cells produce estrogen and my cancer fed on estrogen. Leaner women have a lower incidence of recurrence.
  • I know that being sedentary is bad for me. Women who regularly work out and get their heart rates up in their target zone have much better survival rates than those who are sedentary.

Armed with all this knowledge, you would think that I would have given up the sugary treats, stopped drinking wine, started eating healthier and smaller portions and started working up a sweat every day.

But I haven't. And I cannot tell you why.

I feel guilty about almost everything I eat or drink. It's too sugary, it's too much, I shouldn't be drinking this glass of wine... blah, blah, blah.

Every time I get on the scale or have to buy a larger size, I chastise myself for not losing the chemo weight. I know that women who are overweight are at risk for recurrence not to mention the fact that my love life is suffering (that's another story!). Just lose this damn weight already!

So while I feel a certain sense of accomplishment for having made it through my treatment, I am still not where I want to be. I kept telling myself during my treatment that I just wanted to be healthy. I wanted my life back. I guess I still do.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Day 289 of 1825

I was at my quarterly oncology check up last week and realized that I have reached another milestone toward survival. One year ago on March 5, I completed all my treatments for breast cancer. I remember how excited I was to wrap up treatments last year. How could I possibly let that "anniversary" slip by like any other day this year?

It's easy. I have gotten on with my life. I have been very busy filling my days with things that I love to do, seeing people I love to see and generally just trying to squeeze every drop of goodness out of every single day.

One of my more exciting endeavors started in January. We do not have any yoga studios on my side of town. I decided that I was tired of driving over 15 miles each way to take yoga classes. And yoga is a big part of my life. I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands and open my own yoga studio and Avani Yoga Studio was born.

Keep in mind, I have a regular 8 to 5 day job which I love. But I love yoga, too. And I just had this passion to start a yoga community in my neighborhood. We offer three classes a week at a local preschool. I have two great yoga instructors. I am taking 2 or 3 classes each week (yay!) and have met a lot of great people along the way.

The interest level is very good so I have decided to go ahead and set up my business as an LLC and look for a permanent retail space for the studio. My goal is to have a place up and running no later than September 1, 2013. More to come!

As for cancer -- it never leaves my thoughts for very long. How can it when I take a tamoxifen every morning? But I don't worry about cancer like I used to. Of course, as it get closer to my quarterly checkups, I do tend to worry a little depending on how I feel. But generally speaking, I try to keep it in the rearview mirror.

And maybe that's why I haven't been such a great blogger. But I will try to do better!