Nutella and breadsticks. Especially Nutella and breadsticks.
Cravings: I have more cravings than a pregnant woman, though I look pregnant thanks to my steroid belly. I have gained a whopping, wait for it, stone and a half since starting chemotherapy in August but I’m just putting back all the weight the Lymphoma caused me to lose. Slowly, I am going back to how I used to be pre-cancer. Even though I hate putting on weight, it means that I am starting to get better: that’s the way I have to look at it. If my new Kardashian arse means I’m getting healthier, then pass me the Nutella. And biscuits.
And more Nutella.
Although I was really ill before being diagnosed, in many ways, I could overlook and shove my bad health to one side because I was losing weight – It was just falling off! I had lost three stones and I had never been that slim. In fact, I was thin for the first time in my life and I looked fantastic, there’s no wonder my boyfriend fell for me (I’m joking, he fell for my personality at first sight).
Before, I had always been bigger than my friends, I hated exercising and lost every race at school and I even had to do extra laps in cross country because I tried to cheat and jump over the fence as a shortcut! I was, and still am, far more in my element with a paintbrush or a glass of rose in my hand so diets never worked for me. So I just had to settle with being bigger than my friends.
Anyway, everybody was complementing me on how good I looked after losing all the weight. My confidence was sky-high and I wore anything and everything I wanted – it felt really good. I became a lot more adventurous with my clothes and traded in my glorious baggy jumpers for crop tops, leather and jumpsuits, which were all completely out of my comfort zone.
Everyone around me was asking what my secret was. How did I lose so much weight? What was my secret? Was I eating properly?
My answer: “I don’t know, it’s just falling off.”
Of course, everyone thought I was hiding something or just not eating. I did not have much of an appetite but I didn’t have an eating disorder. Lots of young people lose puppy fat without explanation.
It wasn’t until I began to notice all the other symptoms, like tiredness and breathlessness, that I figured something was wrong. Perhaps it wasn’t normal to shrink this much without eating kale and spinach or at least hitting the treadmill a few times a week. I was worried because other people were worried about me: they accused me of being depressed, of looking ill or not being myself.
Even though I lost all my weight due to my illness, the message I want to give to everybody, especially young girls, is this: even though we live in a world where human value is often placed on the way a person looks and we are judged as a whole by the way we look or what we wear, but being skinny is not the most important thing in life. It is a strange illusion to suppose that beauty and skinny means goodness. It is far more important to be healthy and to feel happy in your own skin. The lesson that I’ve learned is that being thin doesn’t always mean happiness or that you’re healthy. Losing weight feels good, but it means nothing if you’re not healthy.
Every fortnight I go to the hospital to have my chemotherapy, and I have a routine weigh-in, basically to keep track of my weight and check how I react to the treatment. Everybody reacts differently – some gain weight and others lose weight.
With my luck, obviously I put weight on, and every time I get weighed I am heavier than I was two weeks ago.
“Can I take my shoes off to make me lighter?”
“Can I take my jumper off too? It’s heavy wool.”
The nurse and I always have a giggle at my new cravings or at the stupid things I come up with.
“The next time you’ll see me, you’ll need to take down the doors so I’ll be able fit through.”
Everybody in the waiting room laughs as they hear me shout and mostly swear from the weighing room.
“Another half stone, FIDDLE STICKS.”
I’m telling you, it’s these bloody steroids that are making me fat.”
(Definitely not all the food I’m eating).
I try to take everything with a pinch of salt and am often tongue in cheek with everyone about my weight. I laugh when I can, which is, as they say, the best medicine. Besides, if I don’t laugh, I would probably cry.
And who want to be in company with a grumpy, crying bitch?
I would be lying If I said that I don’t cry; to be honest I have a good cry on a weekly basis, and I really don’t know how my boyfriend puts up with me. Sometimes it’s good to let out steam, even if it is completely irrational and because the crumble ran out. If I didn’t cry and have that moment to just let it all out, I couldn’t be my chirpy, lively self in the company of others, and I don’t want to make this period harder or more miserable than it already is – not for me or anyone else.
Weight is not the most important thing in life, and it has taken me something like this to realise. I am going to conquer this illness, even if I come out the other end as a bald, 20 stone 19 year old: I will once again have my health… and perhaps those Nutella cravings will have disappeared.
But…let’s face it, probably not.