Monday, October 3, 2011

Chemotherapy and Weight Gain

Chemotherapy is what I consider one of those necessary evils.  No one would purposely do something to make themselves crazy sick, unless the end result outweighed the side effects.  In my case I could follow the treatment plan of my oncologist and come out with a fairly decent chance of survival.  Or I could skip Chemo and have an 85% chance of recurrence within five years and only a 57% chance of living five years. I was 38 and had a young son at home.  The chemo was looking pretty good to me at this point.

As I contemplated chemotherapy I never in my wildest dreams imagined gaining weight.  I always pictured someone thin and frail.  But, for women with breast cancer, going through chemotherapy more often than not, causes weight gain.  Myself I gained 30 lbs.  There are several reasons why women can gain weight.  One is the amount of steroids.  Steroids help to keep the nausea at bay, and I was happy to have them. Another reason is the sudden shift in your metabolism.  Chemo can, and usually does, stop your cycles, putting you in what can be (or not) temporary menopause. Along with these add the fact that most foods don’t taste the same and if you are like me, all I wanted (or could eat) was comfort food.  Not to mention I didn’t feel well enough to keep up with any type of regular physical activity.

Sadly the weight gain can add more than just unwanted pounds.  Let’s face it, at this point one's self-image can be in a pretty fragile state.  I just had surgery to remove both of my breasts, I now had no hair (eyebrows or eyelashes), and to top it off, I couldn’t fit into any of my clothes.  I could talk myself out of feeling to sorry for myself here, because after all my body had just went through a pretty traumatic experience.  It might take it awhile to get back to my old normal. But the lingering weight can cause more than just self esteem issues, it actually increases my risk of recurrence. And, that doesn't appeal to me on any level.

Here are a few good links to better explain the connection with weight and cancer.

Body Weight and Weight Gain 
Weight Gain During Chemotherapy Treatment 
Why Do Some People With Breast Cancer Gain Weight? 

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