A few weeks ago, I was walking past a window and caught a split-second glimpse of a woman in the glass; she was older and heavier than me. She looked happy, she was laughing with the person next to her. In that blink of an eye, I liked her.
To my utter bewilderment and alarm, the next blink revealed that the woman in the reflection was, ummm…. me. I was nearly unrecognizable to myself for the first time in my life. I could have more easily identified myself when I lost my hair. What happened?
Well, I got older and fatter is the short answer. The reason why may seem obvious – I got older because of the passage of time. I got fatter because I am eating too much – except I am not eating too much and time did not fly by THAT fast. After consulting with anyone in the medical community who would listen, I got the following answer – “We don’t really know why.” Great, but could I not hang on to the one, singularly truly great side effect of the last 12 months of suffering – being fabulously thin?! Come on!
A variety of reasons were listed by some brilliant medical minds as vague, yet distinct possibilities:· Early onset menopause – a scorching fact, not possibility, btw.· Wildly unsettled hormones due to aforementioned toxic chemicals.· Steroids, lots of them.· After literally starving for a year, my body is now in ‘emergency storage mode.’o Dear Body, Stop storing. Love, Ann· My metabolism is that of an ‘80 year-old post-menopausal-home-bound convalescent.’
I am six months post-treatment now. There are other rather unpleasant, but live-able side effects of the colossal amounts of chemo I was given. Just for torture, another list:
At the very beginning of this strange journey, after I lost my hair, I would run into acquaintances and even friends who would register only a hazy recognition of me. On several occasions, I had to relieve them of their obvious discomfort/embarrassment at not remembering my face. In the process, despite my best efforts, I would cry, tell them who I am and then answer the inevitable, wide-eyed “What happened?” question. It was still me then, too, however unrecognizable.
It took me a long time to realize that I am not my hair, my legs or my formerly-fabulous chemo figure. It took 44 years and a traumatic year of cancer to come to this conclusion, but there it is. As clear as the fleeting moment that I decided that I liked the fat, aging stranger in the reflection.
I am still here, thank God, and I am still me.