Yesterday I stepped on the scale for the first time since being discharged from the hospital. Over the four weeks I was in hospital, I lost around 7 lbs. Not an unhealthy amount for the time I was in there, but a lot for a person who spent the majority of their days lying in bed. The nurses and doctors weren’t concerned. When you have cancer, weight loss happens. Yesterday I noticed I’d lost even more weight, bringing my total up to 10 lbs. And I’ve been eating a lot since being discharged!
I’d been trying to shed a few spare pounds for months. One would think this would come as a pleasant side effect of being in the hospital and on chemo. But it’s not. I don’t want to lose weight. I am terrified of looking sickly.
Over the years, I have worked really hard at improving my self-image. Throughout my original weight loss and efforts to eat well and exercise more, I really learned to love and appreciate my body. Even when I gained some of that weight back, I could still look in the mirror and like who was looking back at me. Not a lot of women can do that, and that ability was one of the qualities I was most proud of. It took many years to get to that point.
But cancer has thrown my self-image for a bit of a loop. I’ve learned it is one thing to look out of shape, and something entirely different to look in the mirror and see a legitimately sick person looking back at you. Thinning hair, tired eyes, dull skin, shallow cheeks. That is an image I am not ready to deal with.
Mind you, after only two weeks into treatment, I definitely don’t look sick. Hell, I probably won’t ever look that sick. Because, you know, the cancer is shrinking, and I am technically getting better.
This will certainly be a new challenge for me. To learn to love my body even when it’s full of bruises from the needles and blood thinners. Even when my nails are flaking, my skin is dry, and the inside of my mouth has sores. To still want to treat it well when the room is spinning and it feels like someone is taking a jackhammer to my skeleton. To still appreciate everything my body does for me, even when the cells inside insist on growing at a rapid and deadly rate.
Never did I think I’d be upset to watch the scale go down when I once tried so hard to fit into my skinny jeans. It’s hard to resist from thinking that my body has failed me, even after all the work I put into it. But really, it’s all just a learning process of how to work with it, and still love my body despite all it’s been through. I can’t say I’ve tackled this hurdle entirely yet, but do know that I don’t plan on giving up on it.
This is why one of my big goals for the month of August is to increase my level of physical activity. Walking, light indoor cycling, stretching, light strength training. Nothing strenuous, but all things that will help my body prepare and stay strong for treatments. The other goal is to get dressed, do my hair, and put on make-up as often as possible. Even though I technically can, I prefer not to lay around in my peejays all day.
And just to prove to you that I am still eating well, behold, my Monday dinner:
That would be Spanish rice with chicken and veggies, and homemade cornbread with cheddar cheese. Who knows what sort of cravings I’ll have after my second chemo treatment today, so I wanted to make sure I got a good meal in beforehand.
For the Spanish rice, I used this recipe as the base. I also added smoked paprika, garlic scapes, broccoli, beans, leftover roast chicken, and subbed some of the rice out for quinoa.
Now, let’s talk about the cornbread.
I’ve been looking for a good cornbread recipe for a while. Most of them are too sweet for my taste. Many recommend adding creamed or frozen corn, but honestly, I don’t like the whole corn kernels in the bread. Others just have too much flour.
Instead I followed this recipe from Chef Michael Smith. I not only love him because he’s a Food Network host based out of the Maritimes, but also because none of his recipes have ever steered me wrong. Instead, this recipe has you cook the cornmeal in a milk mixture first. No flour, just a bit of brown sugar, and no clumps of vegetables. It was perfection!!! Oh, and clearly I made it in a loaf pan as opposed to a cast iron skillet.
I didn’t want to blog about this until everything was for sure for sure. But then, my blog is my outlet and I want to update all my friends with this news, so what the hey. If you’re reading, you’re on this this roller coaster with me. So if things change, they change.
As most of you know, I have been in the hospital for exactly three weeks now. I came in with a blood clot, which turned out to be caused by a large mass in my chest, and I haven’t been able to leave since (minus that one road trip to an out of town hospital).
From the beginning, all the doctors knew it was lymphoma. I’m not a doctor, so I can’t tell you how they knew this. But I suspect the CT scan was in line with how cancerous lymph nodes are expected to grow in the chest.
It was my family doctor who told me and my parents the news that night three weeks ago. The same one who treated me as a baby. He sat next to me and touched the centre of my chest, “The scan showed a large mass in your chest.”
I was immediately transported to another world. When people hear “cancer” they automatically think “death.” But that’s not where my mind went in that moment. I just knew that my current life as I knew it was over. I was now living the life of someone else.
My family doctor described lymphoma as two types – Hodgkins and non-Hodgkins. The former being the very treatable kind with an almost 98% survival rate (a term I hate, “success rate” is better). The other kind, well, we’d come to that hurdle when and if we needed to. It gave me a glimmer of hope. Something to hold on to in an otherwise new, unknown, bizarro universe.
I had a needle biopsy on my chest the following day. A biopsy by the way is not just a long needle. It’s more like jabbing, sometimes a little drilling, and very unnerving to see go into the caverns of your body. Days later I found out that it didn’t result in enough “good” cells to make a proper diagnosis of lymphoma type. It was still yet to be determined if I had the good cancer, or the not-so-good cancer.
The next course of action was to put a scope into the base of my throat and grab larger chunks of the tumour in my chest. A more invasive procedure that required anaesthesia and a longer recovery time. I anxiously awaited diagnosis for a few more days. Further tests showed by stomach, pelvis, brain, heart, and bone marrow were all clear. Happy days! But then I was once again told they didn’t get enough good cells to make a diagnosis. Very unhappy day.
For the third try, the doctors decided to go in and get a cancerous lymph node in my right armpit. This was the final attempt before doing the unthinkable – going into my chest and grabbing a piece of the tumour where it’s most active – around the main vein that goes into my heart.
The lymph node surgery was last Friday. They removed just one lymph node the size of a large marble. Or rather, a bouncy ball (that reference is for my co-workers). Everyone said it had to result in a diagnosis. No way a lymph node that size wouldn’t. I thought they were being falsely positive at this point. Call it a faulty personality trait, but I never try to set myself up for disappointment.
To make a long story longer, I got my diagnosis. Three long weeks of wondering if it’s that treatable kind or scarier kind my doctor talked about on that first night.
The pathologist still has to sign off on the report, and I still don’t know what kind of chemo I’m getting, but I still have to share this news. It’s Hodgkins.
That means I can start chemo in the next couple of days and start actively working towards getting rid of this disease. I will share the information on chemo once I know it. Unfortunately this does not mean I am getting out of the hospital right away. In fact, I could be here for a few more weeks. But I won’t get into that right now.
Really, I just want to say thank you for your prayers, your good vibes, well wishes, emails, gifts, and spirit dances. I feel like this is the one hurdle of many, and I just cleared it. Now it’s time to keep running forward and I’ll keep flying over those hurdles as they come.