With the advent of another month of Cancer Awareness, not to mention the premiere of the movie 50/50, I thought I should set a couple of things straight for the sake of me and my cancer peeps. First on the list: breaking a stereotype. Welp, here it goes: cancer patients can be chubby.
Yes, let it be known that modern day chemotherapy often causes patients to gain weight, not lose weight—especially if you’re on the younger side of the life spectrum, like myself. Turns out that the steroids/various meds that help prevent violent projectile vomiting also cause fatty tissues to duplicate like double stuffed Oreos, while simultaneously increasing your appetite when you feel good. As a cancer patient, had I known this earlier, would I have taken the projectile vomiting route over the double stuffed Oreo route? Would I have chosen a life of sleeping by the toilet bowl to prevent some harmless weight gain? Well, that’s just ridiculous. I’m a 23 year old female with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The most important thing is to feel better and get better. But to answer your question– yeah probably.
Just kidding. That was just a plug to get you all to think I’m the mastermind behind @whitegrlproblem… or was it?
Anyway, hearing the news that cancer patients can get chubby was naturally a shock to me, probably one of the biggest shocks I’d experienced since The Santa Claus Incident, one of the darker periods of my childhood. Second place on the shock-o-meter would have to go to the time I discovered that cancer, unlike Santa, was indeed real. Because the doctors told me I had it, and all… But I digress.
Upon realizing my pending weight gain, I rode the shock wave for a little while until it plopped me in Bum City, USA. Shorty was bummin’. Mainly because I had already told many of my friends to make way for the gaunt and skinny Katie 2.0—a new, hot, older version of my 17 year old, 120 pound—albeit cancerous—self. Cancer sucks, but at least I’ll lose my college weight, right?! Wrong. Luckily, my shock and dismay only served to further ignite a call to action from deep within. In other words, I am officially joining, dare I say spear-heading, the rebel forces that hope to one day crush the often stereotypical, sometimes mythical Hollywood creature that is The Cancer Patient.
You know who they are. They are the elegantly gaunt, milky skinned, perfectly bald actors and actresses who have helped to maintain this ultra-skinny cancer persona for years. Susan Sarandon in Step Mom, that girl in My Sister’s Keeper, even Mandy Moore in A Walk to Remember. The list continues. I mean, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the main character in 50/50, already has the whole frail Cancer Patient thing going for him, so you can bet your bottom dollar he will only serve to add fuel to the fire. And while it is true that, yes, this persona used to be the norm for all cancer patients, things change. That’s right, Mr. Spielberg, times they are a-changin’. Times are a-changin and medicine is a-changin. Cancer patients can get chubby.
So how am I going to break this widespread notion that all Cancer Patients are tiny and rail thin even in the present era? I’m glad you asked. Actually, I’ve already been traveling along the Selfless Road to Weight Gain to End Cancer Patient Stereotypes for a few months. The funny thing is, though, I didn’t even know I was on the road until now. Physical roads have never been my strong point, thank you Google Maps. Metaphoric roads, however, are totes my thing. Life is a highway, and ya better believe I’m gonna ride it. So it was weird that I didn’t actually realize how selfless a road I had embarked on until the first pit stop. Being selflessly selfless is what we call that, my friends.
Before I continue, I should probably inform you that the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, sometimes referred to as “Spa de la Chemo,” is also a built-in Weight Watchers. Every time you go in, they take an accurate account of your weight and record it in your very own excel spreadsheet. So, after about 4 months of doing chemo/weight watchers, I decided it was time to see if my weight had fluctuated from June to September. Partly because I was curious, and partly because this spreadsheet was 3 months and 29 days longer than any previous attempt I’d made at recording my weight. So, there I was in the middle of saying “I mean, even the muffin top I feel right now is probably just in my head, right? Crazy meds” when the nurse chimed in with, “Wow, you’ve gained over 10 pounds already….but no worries!” Yeah. No worries!! Only 3 more months to go!! You can still eat sushi with your girls if the sushi is vegetarian and covered in brown rice!!! Kisses!
But seriously, I was not actually worried. Even when my doctor explained the whole dealio, predicting that we were probably lookin’ at a total 20 pound weight gain, I took it all in stride. Yes, I now know what I have to do. Now, when people tell me “You look good!” when they really mean “You’re balding, but at least you’re plump! I thought you’d be frail! Awesome!” I must maintain my heroic stance, smile, and say “Yes, I do look good. Thank you.” This is my mission now, my destiny: To shatter an age old image fueled by Hollywood and, um, real life. I choose to embrace this weight gain—not for myself—but for all the lymphoma patients out there who also feel like inflated poop. Pass me that hamburger. I’m ready to become a martyr for the cause. Can’t say the same for cancer itself though, kinda want to beat that.