Body Image: A CDH1+ Perspective
Updated: Aug 9
Before I get into this week's post, I want to take a moment and thank all those who have subscribed to my blog, followed along on this crazy journey, and continued to support me even through the tough times. I have continued to receive messages, cards, care packages, and love from near and far. I want you to know, I appreciate it, I don't take it for granted, and it means the world to me.
I know I am not alone in always wanting to shed those unwanted pounds, or look thinner in the mirror, or fit into those jeans that have been in the back of my closet for years just waiting for me to loose enough weight. I know I am not alone in thinking, I shouldn't eat that, or I should force myself to feel hungry more often, or I should fast the majority of the day in order to meet my body image related goals. I know I am not alone in feeling defeated when those said goals are not met, or I gain the weight back, or I miss an exercise class, or I eat too much pizza. I know I am not alone in feeling like I will never be the "size" I want to be, because of lack of time, or lack of energy, or lack of motivation, or cancer treatment, or being forced into medically induced menopause at 33 years old. I don't know why these things seem to matter in my mind, but they do. I know I am not alone in feeling that fitting into an ideal "size" would somehow change my life for the better, even though rationally, I know it probably wouldn't.
But, what if this mindset that has been engrained in me for as long as I can remember, will have to suddenly change, because none of it will be true anymore? Let me explain. After my total gastrectomy (TG) next month, I will inevitably meet all of these "size" and body image goals without even trying. At least that is very likely. I have this stupid fear that I will be the one person in the world without a stomach who still can’t loose weight...see? There I go again.
After surgery, I won't have a stomach. I won't feel hunger the same way I do now. I won't be able to logistically eat enough food to maintain my current weight. Theoretically, I won't have trouble loosing weight. My goals will shift from trying to limit my calories, and cutting back food intake, to trying to eat as much and as often as possible. I will be thinking of ways to add calories, as opposed to cutting them out. I could loose too much weight! I might not ever be able to gain weight back, like I can now. So, will my life be somehow better? Will the piece of me that is always worried about fitting into those jeans suddenly disappear? I'm not sure, but these are the things I have been thinking about as my surgery date quickly approaches.
I may fit into those jeans, or even be able to buy smaller jeans, but will I feel different emotionally? Spiritually? Physically? Will I feel weak? Will I loose muscle mass, along with fat? Will I be too skinny? What is too skinny? What will I say when people compliment me on my weight loss success? Is it really a success if I was not trying desperately to lose the weight? Also, there are people who think a TG is like weight loss surgery. Which it is not, but will they just assume it was my choice to have the surgery to loose weight?
In a society where being thin is still preferential. Will I be perceived differently?
When people compliment me on my short hair, I sometimes say jokingly, "yeah, my oncologist did it." But, now that it is getting longer and looking more purposeful, it is easier to just accept the compliment and say, thanks. Will weight loss be the same? Will I deflect the compliments at first by saying, "hey, it's easy to loose weight when you don't have a stomach," or will I just take them in stride and say thank you.
This post is just a culmination of all the thoughts swirling around in my head these days. With surgery only a couple weeks away, I can't help but question what life will be like. I know I will have a good life following my total gastrectomy. And, gastric cancer will not be a part of it! It will just be different than life with a stomach. It was the same way after my double mastectomy. I will, once again, have to learn my new normal and figure things out. Even though I am almost a year out from having both breasts and two lymph nodes removed, it is still an adjustment. So, I will have to give myself some slack, and remember that recovery takes time. Especially from something so life changing as having my entire stomach removed.
I keep reminding myself when I get worried or feel like I am making a mistake by moving forward with this surgery, that I am doing this so I no longer have to worry about my gastric cancer risk. I am doing this to live a long, happy, and healthy life. I am doing this for myself, and my family. I am doing this so that my breast cancer journey was not in vain. I am Not doing this to fit into those tiny ass jeans, although if that is a side effect, I will gladly take it.