When I started my mission with the American Council on Exercise to adhere to the federal Dietary Guidelines and Physical Activity Guidelines for a full year, ...and more »
Recovery, Weight Gain and Body Image
Linda’s cancer was estrogen receptive, meaning that the presence of estrogen could promote the growth of cancer cells in other parts of her body. To combat this, in addition to undergoing surgery to remove her uterus and ovaries, she started taking a medication called anastrozole. Among the litany of potential side effects is weight gain, specifically male-pattern (that is, abdominal) weight gain — just what every woman wants to hear.
Bilateral mastectomy. Recovery. A battle with depression that delayed the start of radiation. Thirty radiation treatments. Recovery. Reconstructive surgery. Hysterectomy. Oophorectomy. Recovery, recovery, recovery.
The physical toll of the cancer itself was obviously substantial, but the ongoing treatment brings its own set of challenges.
Linda’s oncologist recommended she take anastrozole for up to 10 years, and noted that that weight gain is all but inevitable. Her body was changed, through surgery and through medication, in ways she had no control over. She had a new body composition, one with limitations, and that was hard to accept.
For the past year or so, Linda has been participating in circuit-training classes where the trainers are aware of her limitations and modify exercises to help with her balance struggles and upper-body weakness. She likes the classes but has been inconsistent, largely because she finds it very difficult to stay motivated — understandably so — when there are so few signs of improvement. Sure, she feels better when she’s attending classes, but it’s tough to work hard and eat right when the numbers on the scale are creeping ever upward.
The American Cancer Society reports that body weight, physical inactivity and poor nutrition are all related to increased cancer risk. By changing her lifestyle, Linda may be reducing the chance of cancer recurrence.
Daniel Green and his wife at a Relay for Life event Jennifer Mesk PhotographyFinally, Progress in Post-Cancer Weight Loss
As a result of the work I’m doing, Linda has made some small but important changes to her own eating routine. She’s added more protein (specifically a mid-day high-protein snack) and removed some fat from her diet. She has no concrete plan, but watching me eat healthier meals, and feel better because of it, has helped her eat better than in the past. She’s also become much more consistent with her workouts, in part, she says, because she sees me working so hard.
The effects, I’m thrilled to say, are beginning to show. She’s been slowly losing weight, excitedly walking into my office some mornings to report another pound gone. She went down a dress size and is on the verge of fitting comfortably into those too-small jeans that anyone who has struggled with his or her weight has hidden in the back of the closet.
This is no small victory for Linda. And these are exactly the types of extended effects that I was hoping this project might have on my family.
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