Anyone who’s been through cancer knows that the experience is not just about the cancer. The entire journey involves much more, revealing even the little anxieties that had been tucked away in dark corners.
One of those for me was that I was constantly put on scales. EVERY single doctor’s visit, I was weighed. And I hated it.
It’s worth mentioning that I don’t have what most people refer to as a “weight problem”. Unless, that is, you mean being exceptionally diligent that I not put on weight. For me, weight was tied to self-worth, and in my perfectionist view, I was driven by fear of shame to keep my weight down.
Ironically, the positive side effect of this was that I became very interested in exercise and healthy eating, and that has served me well. But of course, it took a long while for all of this to shake out into a truly healthy mentality, and particularly in my teens and early 20s, my mindset was not the healthiest.
By my 50s, however, I had a great relationship with my active, healthy lifestyle.
And then I got cancer.
And all of a sudden, hospital scales were all over the place, and even not being overweight, I sweated the weigh-ins. I sweated them when I first went to see my doc about the lump, when my weight started plummeting even before my first chemo infusion (hello, uncontrolled anxiety) and when post-infusion I was retaining water and my weight crept up.
I could write an entire post (or several!) about how, while I religiously weighed myself twice a week at home, I had intentionally put off several doctor’s visits over the years NOT because I was 10-20 pounds over a reasonably healthy weight…but because I was about three pounds higher than I felt I should be. Those three or four pounds would have disappeared on my 5’11” athletic frame, but that was beside the point.
There was an “acceptable” number and I wanted to make sure I was there before heading to the doctor.
The number of cancer visit weigh-ins was staggering. Every.single.time I saw the doctor (which was a lot), I had to hop on the scale. I would purposefully not drink very much water or eat less beforehand. It DID NOT EVEN MATTER that we were dealing with a life threatening illness. I absolutely hated getting weighed in a doctor’s office and I hated what the scale meant to me – that I was somehow never good enough.
I had internalized that belief.
Gradually, the number of weigh-ins decreased. It was as if a pot that was at full boil slowly simmered down. My mindfulness practice showed me not only that anxiety was not a helpful reaction to a stressful situation, but that the slight weight fluctuations that I obsessed about weren’t apparent to anyone else. Nonetheless, I had taken them to be indicative of yet another way that I felt I had fallen short of the person I “should have” been.
And that helped me understand and begin to deal with those unreasonable and even meaningless expectations I had of myself that were still lurking in the shadows.
So now, when it’s time to go to the doctor, do I fret the scale?
Well, I still feel that twinge because it’s a deeply-ingrained habit, but now I understand where that twinge comes from. And once I get off the scale, I forget about it and go on with my day.