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Seriously? I Have Cancer and I'm Gaining Weight?

There was a time when I thought that if you had cancer, especially late-stage cancer, you would be skin and bones. You would "look sick."

Well, that certainly has not been the case for me. I was tall and thin for at least 85% of my life. I took pride in my flat stomach. I didn't have to do anything to earn this physique - my metabolism took care of it for me. I could and did eat anything I wanted. I didn't live a particularly healthy lifestyle. I preferred fried food to baked, I did and do love red meat, cooked medium-rare, please. I didn't like many vegetables and fresh vegetables were just not something I bought. I always worked lots of hours at a desk job. There wasn't time nor energy for very much exercise.

All this changed in my late 50's

That all changed when I reached my late 50's. I don't know why, but my metabolism did a complete about-turn on me. Suddenly, every morsel I put in my mouth put pounds on my body. I began eating better and exercising more. The pounds didn't go away. Finally, a month or so after I turned 59, I went to the doctor to find out why nothing I was doing to lose weight was working. I suspected I had thyroid issues.

A thyroid issue became lung cancer

That doctor visit was the one where I learned I had lung cancer. I wasn't (and still am not, except for required treatments) a doctor goer. In fact, it had been 10 years or so since I had last seen a doctor when I went in to find out about the weight gain. I thought I was in great health when I finally made the appointment so, in a very real sense, the excess weight saved my life. It got me to go to the doctor.

Coping with the weight gain

If I thought I was overweight back then, I was in for a big surprise. I've packed on another 40 pounds over the six years I have been treated for lung cancer. I try not to worry about it or care that I am almost twice the size that I was for a lot of my life. At least I am alive.

While that may be true, my self-image has suffered tremendously. And, no matter how much I fuss about my weight, my oncologist is not concerned. In fact, early on when I developed hypothyroidism due to my immunotherapy treatments, it took several visits where I vehemently complained about the pounds I was packing on before he did a graph of my weight and saw that I had indeed put on 20 pounds in just a few weeks.

Treatment trade-offs

A year or two ago, I took Lyrica for some pain I was having in my shoulder. I gained 10 pounds in a couple of weeks. I stopped taking the Lyrica. I decided I would rather deal with the pain than the extra weight. The problem is that even once I take care of whatever is causing the gain, like beginning a thyroid medication or stopping the Lyrica, the weight that I put on stays on.

Recently, I began itching badly, so badly in fact that I was scratching my skin off. My oncologist said it was probably caused by the immunotherapy. He wanted to prescribe steroids to treat the problem. I refused. They might take care of the itching problem, but I wasn't willing to pack on another 10+ pounds. I would rather itch.

I am grateful that I am alive. I am not, however, grateful that I am quickly approaching blimp size.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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