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The Weight

September 28, 2013

Weight gain has been an ongoing struggle for me since my diagnosis. I’ve always been skinny, and my initial illness, surgery, and 11-day hospital stay in March 2011 caused me to drop about 15 pounds. Though the subsequent six months of FOLFOX chemotherapy didn’t make me too sick, it did affect my appetite; after the end of treatment in late 2011, I plateaued around 107. I was overjoyed, then, when I suddenly started gaining a couple of months later – in less than three months, I was near 115, more than I’d ever weighed in my life. I felt happy and healthy, had started playing ultimate frisbee again after an eight-year hiatus, and was in remission and confident I had conquered cancer.

My sense of reality crashed in May, however, when I discovered that the rapid weight gain had been not due to health, but rather to my traitor ovaries which had turned into softball-sized monsters inside of me. Surgery to remove them in June took me back under 100. By October 16, when I had the shake-and-bake surgery, I was up to 104 – though the doctors had hoped I’d do a better job of fattening up before the procedure. I begged for TPN (intravenous food they’d given me during my very first hospital stay, which I told visitors was breast milk) in the hospital, but while my oncologist agreed, my surgeon refused. It was at least a month after the procedure before I ate – and kept down – a full meal, and my weight went down to 90.

And until a few months ago, I’d been stuck in the 90s ever since, fighting to break my way back into the triple digits because, as my cousin kindly pointed out, “the 90s haven’t been cool in like 20 years.” So I was overjoyed when, on May 5th of this year, the two-year anniversary of my first chemotherapy treatment, I tipped the scales at 101.6 pounds.

But as I prepared to report my success, new roadblocks emerged. Just a few days after registering in the triple digits for the first time in over six months, excruciating pain in my throat, chest, and back that was most acute when I swallowed made me put eating on hiatus. I called my GI doctor to ask for an endoscopy; his nurse told me it was likely reflux and called a prescription antacid into my pharmacy. I was not convinced, and knew that my new pounds would fall off immediately if I did not start eating again soon. Luckily, my oncologist and infusion nurses know me well. One look at me when I arrived for chemo infusion was all it took for a nurse to realize that something was seriously wrong. Instead of chemo, I was given intravenous painkillers and sent to the emergency room. I ended up in the hospital for most of that week, but finally got the endoscopy, which found a carpet of ulcers covering a 10-centimeter stretch of my esophagus. This diagnosis required a two-week diet of liquid dilaudid, viscous lidocaine, and as many calories as I could get through other liquids that made it extremely difficult to maintain – much less gain – weight.

Once I got rid of the ulcers, however, things have gone a bit more smoothly. Although biweekly chemo still reduces my appetite and makes food less appealing by altering my taste buds, I am determined to continue the upward trend.  I’m still under my pre-cancer weight, but have gained a few more pounds (which hopefully my next CT scan on October 4 will confirm is thanks to fatty, proteiny Greek yogurt, and not to cancer cells taking over my organs and multiplying at an exponential rate). I’d post photo evidence of my new, heavier self, but I’m afraid you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

I was hoping for a Gillian Anderson-like transition out of the 90s (for those unfamiliar with her progress, she metamorphosed from Agent Scully into a woman), but I’ll take what I can get. Onward and upward!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Katie permalink
    September 29, 2013 9:38 am

    good luck! fingers crossed for the scan this week–love the gillian anderson metaphor!

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