Skip to main content


Ocho and I drove to the City this afternoon, hoping to get into the Dale Chihuly exhibit at the De Young. It was sold out. So instead we ambled through Golden Gate Park and into the botanical garden cactus sale, where Ocho bought seven vibrant green succulents.

The stress of selecting only seven of those luscious plants must have exhausted the guy, because it’s 9 o’clock on a Saturday night and Ocho’s in bed sleeping like a rugby player.

No worries. That means I can stay up late and write about a topic that is difficult to write about—my changing body.

I was extraordinarily proud of myself after going through chemo without gaining a pound. In fact, looking back, that was a sweet time. I was flat, and I was bald. But I was loved. And I knew I wasn’t always going to be flat and bald. Those were temporary experiences.

Then I went through 28 sessions of radiation. I would arrive at the Dorothy B. Schneider Cancer Center at 8 a.m., have Tony or Wayne radiate me, apply anti-burn gel to my radiated side, and go to work. Other than getting a rockin’ good burn, the whole thing was not horrible, just fatiguing. About halfway through, I found myself falling asleep at 8 p.m. every night after work.

In the six months between radiation and reconstruction I gained 18 pounds.

I quit drinking. I buy healthy, organic foods. I eat more vegetables and fiber. I avoid the Red Vines at work. I go to 5:30 a.m. spin classes. I ride my mountain bike up, well, mountains. I do my own yard work and home repairs. One would think I would have lost those 18 pounds. The digital scale says I’ve lost three.

I put on a pair of pants for work the other day. The black capris, to my horror, looked like leggings. So, I took off the leggings and put on a skirt, the one that used to ride loosely on my hips and that now cuts deeply into my gut.

Nora Ephron wrote a great book, called “I Feel Bad about My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman.” It helped. But only a little. It may have helped more if the title had been, "I Feel Bad about My Gut: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman."

Here’s what—finally—has helped me: a sentence in an article on post-chemo weight gain on the American Cancer Society website.

Dr. Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, RD, an associate research professor at Duke University Medical Center said, “It’s not necessarily the weight gain, but the change in body composition that is worrisome.” The change in body composition is characteristic of the normal aging process. “If you look at these women in the year after diagnosis, the chemotherapy patient ages 10 years over the course of a year. Although you might think a change in body fat of 2% is not much, indeed it is. The time clock is sped up.”

Finally. Validation.

I thought it was the Tamoxifen, but my oncologist and others say that Tamoxifen does not cause weight gain. That made me a little crazy. And a little pissed off. It helps to know that chemo and chemo-induced menopause can cause dramatic changes in your body. It helps to know that chemo takes the pause out of menopause. This was no gradual menopause; this was the entire process, which usually takes 10 years, in one year.

So here’s the new plan, and it’s a simple one: I’m going to work out more and eat less. I’m going to give losing this 15 pounds extraordinary effort. And in the meantime, I’m going to try to love this new, succulent body.


Jen Ballantyne said…
Dear lahdeedah, hi, I was asked to author on a new cancer site for women/mums actually a couple weeks ago and have indeed started there with another 15 or so women. I was just reading this post and found it so interesting and I think the women who read our new blog and the women that author on it would be really interested in this. I was wondering whether you would write a post similar to this one including the information on weight gain and what the American Cancer Society has to say about it on this blog. I would, of course have to have this invitation approved by the woman who started the blog but I do not see any problem there whatsoever. Would you do it do you think. I would really appreciate it. I probably should ask you this via email but I can't see an email address for you on your blog. Anyway the blog is called, go check it out and see what you think and if you will do it let me know either on my blog or email me at jenniferballantyneatbigponddotcom
Jen Ballantyne said…
Hi Lahdeedah, me again (Jen) sorry I think I gave you the wrong name of our new blog site it actually is this:

There you go, please take a look and let me know whether you would be willing to do a post for us. Thanks heaps, Jen B xx PS: I love the way you write it is witty and clever! Great Stuff!
lahdeedah said…
Hey Lovey,

I was so excited by your invitation, I nearly coughed up my bacon cheeseburger and had to settle myself with a chocolate eclair (kidding). I would l-o-v-e to do that! I'll email you now for details. I hope you're feeling good this Sunday :)

Anonymous said…
Hi, Lahdeedah. I just found your site (Jen sent me a note!) and would indeed love to have you as an author with us. You're (unfortunately) totally qualified, and I love the way you write. All I need is an email address and an introductory post from you (many of us started last week writing about how we found out, but you're totally welcome to choose your topic) and then you can post (and cross-post; we don't mind if you post your work both here and there) as you like.

Email me if you can see my address here ... otherwise, just drop jen a note and we'll take it from there.

It's so great to meet you! (And would you pass the chocolate eclairs?)
lahdeedah said…
Dear Toddler Planet,

I've skulked around your blog before, intimidated by your intelligent writing, so it's nice to come out of the closet ;)

I'd love to join you and blog rockstar Jen Ballantyne on Mothers with Cancer.

I'll write something up about my cancer debut and email to Jen (don't see your email...)

Made my day. And by the way, Susan, I think it's very cool that you started that blog.


Katie said…
Ugh, I can relate to weight gain/redistribution. Not due to cancer treatments but what I suspect is perimenopause. Mom is in treatment for breast cancer; she started hormone replacement therapy in her 40s---early menopause. Guess who WON'T be taking HRT? Yours truly. Time to look into homeopathic remedies I suppose.....
Katie said…
P.S. does this mean that we must work twice as hard for 1/2 the results?
lahdeedah said…
Hey Katie,

So good to hear from you.

I believe HRT is one of the reasons I developed breast cancer. I was on the pill pretty much non-stop for 25 years. Without it, my periods were marathons. So I'm really happy to hear you're going to investigate alternative therapies. But who knows? You may sail through menopause.

Other than the weight gain and cognitive stuff (chemo brain and menopause wreak havoc on your short-term memory--find a permanent place for your car keys now!), it hasn't been hideous.

And, unfortunately, your math is right (for me, at least), which is why it's so important to get at and stay at a good weight. #1, it's a bitch to lose; and #2, fat cells produce estrogen (not good if you have/had estrogen-receptive cancer).

Hope you've been happy and healthy, Katie :) Give your mom my best. I'm thinking about her.
bella said…
its hard.
just hard to feel like you have a body thats not really "your" body anymore, at least not the one you are used to.
for me, it was the going through premature menopause that put on the pounds. And changed where I held weight and gained weight and all of that. It was so strange to just look at myself and see it as me, but not really feel familiar with it yet.
I hope the healthy eating and exercise helps you feel more comfortable in your skin again, and that in the meantime, you feel the love of your body and find ways to love it back. :)
Great post!
Imstell said…
Lahdeedah, Hello. Welcome to the MWC club! You're a bigger woman than I am (no pun intended). I (my self-image) couldn't stand the weight gain so I took myself off to an, gulp, obesity doctor. A year later, I have lost the chemo weight and then some. 30+ pounds, thank you very much. I had to have a proper canvas to show off the new Girls... Ha!

See ya on the new site.
lahdeedah said…
Bella! Bellissima!

Chemo definitely is the reason. Chemo-induced menopause. I am blown away at the changes. Last night I was in tears. All that bravado just washed away with it. But I'm encouraged by the above comment from Imstell. I'm going to ask her about her doc...

love to you!

Dear Imstell,

I am a bigger woman than you! But I'd like to be your equal :) Could you tell me more about your o-doc? I have a buncha deadlines looming, but I'm anxious to read more of your story, both on MWC and Can't Complain. Love how you write.

Have a good weekend.

Anonymous said…
Ugh. Am so hating the chemo induced menopause. I just found you from the Mothers with Cancer. You have a wonderfully compelling writing style. So glad you're writing with us!
Jenster said…
Hola, Friend!! I have no idea why Google Reader tells me your last post was in December. I feel like I've lost so much.

I can so relate to this post. I love what you quoted and will be copying it for my own validation.

My oncologist told me Tamoxifen doesn't cause weight gain, but it can make losing it more difficult. He could have been trying to make me feel better. Who knows??

Only I wish it was just 18 pounds for me to lose instead of 40+. It's like I'm not even me. So sad...

Anyway, I'm so glad you're going to be writing at MWC! I read your first post and it was, unsurprisingly, wonderful.

Okay. I guess I'd better go now.

Hugs to you!
lahdeedah said…
Hey throwslikeagirl,

You writelikeapro!I'm loving your posts on Mothers with Cancer. Happy to be there with you.


I'll say it again: You make me laugh and you make me think. You make me a better man.

And a rather large man, at the moment. I'm super short, so my 20 pounds is like 40 on someone with a bit more height.

You think that you're going to "get through" cancer and that your life will return to "normal." Then you realize you have all these little lingering (and new!) maladies that confirm the fact that normal is long gone.

But in this new normal, I have found people like you. And that makes me happy.

Love you!
SweetAnnee said…
Just stopping by to say hello..and hope you are well!!
love ya girl.
lahdeedah said…
Hey Deena!

I was going to email you today. I was over at your blog yesterday briefly and had to smile at the lovely photos. Of course, bald is Ok! Especially when you're dang gorgeous :) Thinking of you, and happy you're done with chemo and onto the more pleasant leg of the trip. Love you.
lahdeedah said…
Hey Deena!

I was going to email you today. I was over at your blog yesterday briefly and had to smile at the lovely photos. Of course, bald is Ok! Especially when you're dang gorgeous :) Thinking of you, and happy you're done with chemo and onto the more pleasant leg of the trip. Love you.
SweetAnnee said…
those girls..are too big!!

Popular posts from this blog

Roots: Part III

"The great gift of family life is to be intimately acquainted with people you might never even introduce yourself to, had life not done it for you." ~Kendall Hailey, The Day I Became an Autodidact

(Confession: I found this quote this morning on Quote Garden. I had to Google Kendall Hailey. And I had no idea what the word autodidact meant until I located it on

I met Ocho on Many of you probably have never had a Match date, so let me describe for you a few that I experienced:

Tom smelled myseriously of Clorox bleach and wore a fanny pack. I might have been able to handle the fumes (hey, it's a turn-on that a guy can clean his house, right?), but the strain of imagining what was in the fanny pack (Handi-wipes? Anti-bacterial gel? Latex gloves?) was more than I could bear.

Bob, who was as tall as a 4th grader, over the course of two hours and a plate of fettucine alfredo asked me 20 times if I was bothered by the fact that he was so short. Answer: No…


I love my daughter.

Last night we went to Cheesecake Factory in Palo Alto and sat at usual table by the window. We ordered our usual stuff and did our usual thing: which is to make each other laugh.

Katie downloaded the "Fatbooth" App to my iPhone and took a picture of herself that she then "fatified." Then she texted it to my fiance, Kevin, who was down in Anaheim with his son. "Look who's excited to be at Cheesecake Factory!" she wrote underneath her morbidly obese photo.

I laughed until I cried.

I have always loved Katie. I loved her when she was little: From the second she opened her newborn blue eyes and excitedly took in the world around her, to watching her drive her Smurf car--naked--in a continual loop around the kitchen and family room, to pedaling her in a Burley at Sun River Oregon, to holding her in a backpack at Costco while she whacked my head, to watching her wrap her "abba" or blanket around her neck at Tahoe to stay warm.

And …

Obon for Mrs. Edwards

I'm sitting here in my cubicle, watching the cars drive by; watching our IT manager brave the rain in a noble attempt to get some winter exercise.

And I marvel at the ordinariness of their driving and walking. I wonder how, knowing that Elizabeth Edwards died from breast cancer yesterday and that millions of women will die from the same disease, they can drive and walk with what seems like pure oblivion.

I wondered the same thing, when as a mom who had just returned to full-time work two months prior, I listened on the phone at work to my radiologist gently tell me that my ultrasound/biopsy revealed the fact that I had 10 lumps in my right breast. "Infiltrating lobular cancer," she said. Not, "Infiltrating lobular carcinoma." I listened as I stood in the corner of the stairwell by the elevator. I listened as I watched someone drop a pat of butter on the carpeted floor as they walked back to their cubicle with their lunch. I listened as I watched the receptionist…