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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