This is not something I talk about much because…emotional. I shaved my head recently and then saw a pic of my mom posted from a recent family get-together which prompted me to create this collage.
A bit over 10yrs ago, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had to have a partial mastectomy and suffer through months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, hospitalization and hair loss. She fought…and won!! The cancer went into remission.
Unfortunately, about a year ago, my mom’s breast cancer returned. She had a medical incident that presented in symptoms that mirrored a stroke. I remember the call from my aunt (a nurse by trade) telling me that they were at the hospital (my dad and both of her sisters were with her). The breast cancer had come back and metastasized to her groin, abdomen and brain.
The cancer and the treatment have intensely changed my perspective of our relationship. My mother has always been strong, active, vital; she’s always been the caregiver. Seeing her weakened by the treatments, unable to eat and losing weight, unable to get up and move around unassisted has been difficult for me. I think it’s been particularly hard since we live in different parts of the state so I can’t be there everyday. Add to that, worrying about my dad who is older and not in the best of health and being unexpectedly thrust into a role as primary caregiver; it’s a lot for us all.
In the midst of it all, the picture of my mom didn’t make me think about all the changes in our lives, the treatments and the care. All I could think of is how much I love my mom’s face. I love all of the ways my face resembles hers. I think of all the lessons she’s given me to prepare me for life. I think of how much I love her and want her to feel as cared for and loved by others as she has made others feel; she deserves that.
The cancer is not gone but she’s on the mend. Treatments are done, tumors are shrinking and she’s regained some of her strength but she still has a long way to go to recovery but she’s here and I am thankful for everyday God blesses us with.
The other day, I let my daughter take my picture. They were full length pics which I hate. Most days, I feel uncomfortable in my skin so when I look at pictures, all I can see are the imperfections. My daughter is a good hype-woman and one of my biggest cheerleaders so I let her take the pic and I actually felt cute. I decided to share and talk about extreme weight loss highs and lows from my perspective.
I used to weigh 226.796kg (500lbs). Here I am 150lbs down. I realize that is quite an accomplishment; it’s the smallest I’ve been in about 15yrs. You know what I see when I look at this picture? 70+lbs of loose skin in my belly, thighs and arms. That was one thing I didn’t know to expect with extreme weight loss; some days it bothers me more than others but I’m always aware of it and it makes me more self-conscious than when I was heavier. I am not a fan of the jiggly bits I have now that were solid when I was heavier.
Here is another picture my daughter took…
I have always been curvy and now that I am smaller, I do notice that my waist is more pronounced and my butt and hips are more shapely. My thighs are super jiggly from the excess skin but it is what it is. I know that will change as I continue with my cardio and strength training.
I notice that my face is slimmer as well as my neck. What is most important is that I feel better; not getting short of breath walking from one room to the next, little to no joint pain and just an overall feeling good. I’m definitely not where I want to be but I wouldn’t change a thing about my journey.
I’ve wrestled with writing this post for about a week now. I’ve been pretty transparent as it pertains to my health and weight loss journey but it’s still a struggle to put myself out there sometimes; too vulnerable and exposed. I find it to be both frightening and cathartic. I worry that people will feel like me sharing is giving them permission to comment on my body; it doesn’t, but they will and it is what it is. Ultimately, I decided to share because I am damn proud of myself. Plus, if my sharing helps motivate even one person then I will be happy.
July 31st was my 3-year surgi-versary; the anniversary of having my adjustable gastric band placed. There are those that think a surgical intervention makes losing weight an easy thing; that is a big misconception. Surgical intervention is a tool; diet and exercise is still a vital part of reaching my health and wellness goals.
As my weight loss journey continues, I focus less on the numbers on the scale. I know that I have lost quite a bit of weight although I still have a hard time convincing my brain of that fact. But as I was looking at old pictures and preparing this post, I was encouraged to focus on the feelings from then and now.
I was 497lbs at my heaviest; now, I weigh…less.
I don’t think I was unhappy when I was heavier but it was definitely limiting and I was for sure uncomfortable…always uncomfortable. I couldn’t breathe very well, moving around was cumbersome and painful and my joints were always swollen and aching. My doctor at the time was always telling me I just needed to be more active but that wasn’t my reality. Walking from the house to the car often left me winded. I would try to walk for exercise but a 5-minute walk would result in excruciating lower back pain as well pain and numbness in my hips and legs. I did find a water aerobics class which was awesome for being able to get some exercise without the weight and pressure on my bones and joints. Now, I can do my 1-mile walk in the mornings without thinking twice about it. I’m able to bend down and tie my own shoes which I couldn’t do previously. My only aches and pains are from a hard workout.
Adventures with my wife are a lot better now
One constant is that Tomi has never loved me any differently through all of my physical and emotional changes. She’s always been consistent and my biggest cheerleader. I didn’t stop doing things just because was heavier than I’d ever been. I still fixed myself up and put on a brave face when Tomi and I went out. It wasn’t until I started making moves toward my surgery that I truly expressed to her some of my feelings and experiences of navigating life in a fat body. It was eye-opening for her to discover that the thought of going out to eat was super stressful for me. Why? What if the chairs have arms? Not to mention I was convinced that people were watching to see what I ordered and how much I ate. I love to dance but going dancing meant I may get through one song but then we’d spend the remainder of the night sitting at the table and nursing a drink. I think the hardest thing to share was that I considered breaking up with her because I wanted her to be able to go out and be able to have the life I felt like I was holding her back from. Now that I am smaller and definitely more comfortable in my skin, my bravery and sense of adventure has kicked into overdrive. I am saying yes more because I’m not in pain, I’m less apprehensive about what people will think and I can advocate for myself in a way that doesn’t bring extra attention and embarrassment. We go on hikes, ride gondolas and I can sit in a camp chair without the fear of it toppling under my girth. It might sound like a small thing but a very big deal for me.
I’ve always had a love/ hate relationship with pictures. I love the idea of capturing memories but hate the idea of capturing the truth of how I look. I’m slowly but surely coming around. I am working on loving my body through all the phases of my journey. Just like before my weight loss, I still have a hard time loving how i look with and without clothes but I must admit that now, I have more good days than bad. My brain sometimes doesn’t register the changes my body has undergone which is when pics are helpful. I am feeling good about being able to buy clothes off the rack and sit where I want and go on hikes and dance the night away. Most importantly, I am proud of myself for putting in the work.
For those not in the know, June is my birthday month. I’ve always loved celebrating my birthday, being with those that I love and who love me back and most importantly, reflecting on the year I had and focusing on the year to come.
Well, this year feels different. I have been/ am working on me; spiritually, mentally, physically & emotionally. I have been on a long journey with regards to my physical health. I have been more focused and putting in the work with diet and exercise and I am feeling myself a little bit 😉. I have worked on loving myself through every phase of my journey which is not always easy but, I’ve found, very necessary in my process and progress. I am feeling more confident, but not the fake confidence of my past. You know, the feigned exuberance often used as a defense mechanism to keep people from trying to dig too deep? Just me? Well, I feel good now, better than I’ve felt in years and my shine…it’s like I can’t turn it down. I gotta shine no matter what!!
I’m not where I want to be but I’m definitely on my way. Do I hate working out? Absolutely!! But I love the way I feel afterward. Some days, it’s hard to love what I see in the mirror as my body changes. But, even on the difficult days, I look at myself everyday in a full-length mirror and I tell the woman that I see there that I love her and that though the journey is hard, she is worthy and worth it. I took a picture of myself on our recent trip to Vegas and I struggled with whether to share it. When I first took it, I loved it but then slowly started to pick myself apart. Well, FUNK THAT!! I can look at myself and see my blemishes as battle scars; that means I have survived many battles and I have so many things to be thankful for. I can look at my body, see the imperfections and find beauty in the fact that God allowed me to carry a life in my womb. I’m thankful for that. I am strong and all my parts are in good, working order. I am thankful for that. I have soundness of mind (most days). I am thankful for that. My spiritual foundation is strong and continually nurtured and growing. I am thankful for that. Most importantly, I feel all the feels about all the things. I no longer try to numb my feelings with food, drink and other forms of camouflage. I am thankful for that.
So, as my birthday approaches, I revel in all that I have learned and continue to discover about myself. Here I stand in all of my glory ready to shine, no matter what.
I’m not sure if I’ve discussed previously the fact that I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. Originally, I had hyperthyroidism but then I had a chemical ablation about 20 years ago.
Well, among the many symptoms of a dysfunctional thyroid gland is hair thinning and hair loss. There are time where my hair comes out in my hands or sometimes fall out as I remove my headscarf in the morning. Sometimes, I lose patches or whole sections of hair. I take medication to do the job of my thyroid. Among the side effects of the medication is, you guessed it, hair thinning and hair loss. Of course, I have other symptoms associated with my lack of a thyroid like skin issues, difficulty regulating my body temperature and my medication causes frequent urination and excessive thirst and dry mouth. But hair loss is definitely the most visible
Since it is something I’ve dealt with for more than 20 years, I have no real attachment to my hair. I’ve shaved my head several times over the years because of the shedding and missing patches; it just is what it is. I’ve never felt like my hair is what makes me beautiful; it’s more of an accessory.
I am also a fan of wearing wigs and braids to change up my look.
The reason it the hair loss issue has come up for me now is that I’ve been trying to grow my hair out; and its been growing well. Well, after an adjustment to my meds, I’ve lost a large patch of hair on the side of my head. I can do some camouflage so it’s not noticeable but no more of my go-to headband. I’m going to have to go this weekend and get a haircut. Usually, I would just shave my head but I decided that I’m going to go for a stylish cut since it’s just coming out on the side so far. I’ll make sure to post pics of my new style 💇🏾♀️.
I have had a lot going on!! This has definitely been a time of growth, change and renewal in many areas of my life.
I quit my 9-to-5 🙃. I didn’t have a new gig in place when I made the decision to quit but one presented itself once I hit ‘send’ on the email. Though I will miss the regular interactions with some of my peeps, I know it was the best decision for my life. One very funny discovery was the amount of selfies I took at my desk over 3yrs (about 70 that I found in my phone). As a parting gift, I picked some of my faves and gave everyone a collage.
I’m putting more time, energy and resources into my side hustle; my business as a wedding officiant/singer-for-hire called Absolutely, I Do. I’m working on my webpage, social media page and a few other loose ends. I’m just doing my homework because I don’t want to put out just anything.
And finally, I’m at a point where I have the time and energy to invest in getting back to taking care of me. I haven’t been eating or exercising like I should and have gained 10lbs in the last 3 months. In order to get back on track, I’m going to reset my body by going back to the beginning and do the liquid prep diet I did prior to and just after my surgery. I’m going to start with 2 weeks and then reevaluate. I’ll get 90g of protein via my protein shakes (with greens), increase my water intake, homemade broth, herbal tea. Plus, I’ll get back to incorporating at least 30mins of cardio/day; probably by walking the dogs. It’ll be good for me and them. Tomi will be joining me for my workouts so we can both get our healthy on.
Often when I’m out, I’m reminded (in this case by a large, knotted bruise on my hip & butt) that many public places are not inclusive when it comes to fat people. Some people don’t like that word as a descriptor but I’m a lot less sensitive about it than I would’ve been two years ago at the beginning of my weight loss journey. Insert whatever word makes you more comfortable; I call a spade a spade.
I went to a sporting event this evening with a group and the seating was less than desirable for my height of 6ft and for sure not comfortable for my girth. I felt a bit like I imagine it would look to put a 10yr old in an umbrella stroller. You just pictured it and laughed…good. In years past, this situation would have sent me spiraling into despair. I would have asked for the car keys and professed to be A-OK. I would have sat in the car balling and then went home and stuffed my feelings down my throat in the form of excessive amounts of fatty food and beverages. Because let’s be honest, emotional eaters aren’t shoveling in salad 🙃. In all honesty, a couple of years ago, I would’ve avoided a group outing like the plague. But I digress.
Today, and many days before today now that I think about it, was different. Today, I created a different outcome. I was with people who value my emotional safety (that’s important) which helped me to maintain. Granted, I did not get to enjoy the game sitting with my group but I managed to find a comfortable space for myself and folks came and checked on me. This past couple of years has been such a journey of self-discovery and a few things I’ve gotten really good at are allowing myself to process through my feelings, transparency in expressing those feelings when needed and making sure I am comfortable in a space.
I find it interesting that here I am almost 2yrs post-op and down 110lbs and still having a hard time in a lot of spaces because of my size. I’m not saying that sports/concert venues, restaurants and modes of mass transport need to cater to me as a heavy person by posting this. I’m just pointing out what most people take for granted because it’s not something they ever have to think twice about. Do me a favor and take just a second to think about your friend or family member who may be a person of greater size the next time you breeze through a turnstile, slide easily into a booth at a restaurant, sit unobstructed down into a chair with arms, sit in a folding chair. No, you’re not responsible for decisions anyone has made or actions they have taken to make them heavy. But maybe taking just a moment to think of these people in these situations and the countless other situations that come up to remind them that life isn’t kind to fat people, you might choose to show a little extra grace and a little more kindness; both really contagious and worth catching.