Cancer and an eating disorder.

The worst part about the appointment I had with my oncologist, beyond the fact that I have an oncologist which still seems surreal, was not going over the pathology results. Nor was it setting up the schedule for radiation which will run Mondays to Fridays for twenty-six sessions.

The worst part was getting weighed.

Which tells you a lot, really, about eating disorders and how illogical they are and how hard they are to purge from your brain.

I did not want to get weighed. I am heavier than I am when my eating disorder is really active. I am trying, really trying to be okay with it. I am trying to learn to love this body. I am trying to focus on healthy activity without going overboard. I’m trying to “love the skin I’m in”.

It’s all still a bit of a challenge.

It’s been particularly problematic these past few weeks. I’m hyperaware about what I’m eating and pretty vigilant about portion-sizes. It’s restricting-light. Luckily, there is still no purging, although I did think about it the other day, the first time in quite a while.

My self-harm tic has resurfaced as well. Never as in abeyance as the purging, this last week saw me inflict a rather grievous wound on my face that is now quite infected, meaning once again I am wearing a bandage on my face.

This is a painful thing. Physically and metaphorically.

Interestingly, both the eating disorder and the self-harm behaviour are intimately connected to anxiety.

*

Anxiety is a sneaky bitch at times. Sometimes she is in the ascendancy and you don’t even know it. I’m often unaware of her presence even as behaviours that should raise red flags escalate. But sometimes it takes a while to know what you know.

I think the cancer diagnosis was actually kind of a blow.

I think my tendency towards denial and my habit of referring to it as “baby cancer” was hiding some seriously anxious thoughts and feelings.

*

I was not a good driver on the way to the hospital this morning. I was excessively distracted by the thoughts in my head. The drive is when I realized that I was actually kind of anxious. I figured it out when tears started falling.

I’d been “remembering” the appointment with the radiation oncologist that I was driving to. In my fantasy appointment, he told me they needed another mammogram. Then I got one. Then I met him again and he told me there was another lump. The word “mastectomy” was mentioned.

That’s when I started to cry. That’s also when I pulled myself out of my fantasizing and realized that maybe there was an element of stress to this whole thing. That maybe even “baby cancer” was a hard thing to deal with.

*

At any rate, the appointment went quite differently. There is no second lump. I also talked with the nurse pre-exam about hiding my weight from me because of the aforementioned eating disorder. They were very kind and very diligent. The secret was almost kept. Unfortunately, the doctor was unaware and left my file where I could see it.

I was able to not look for about thirty seconds. I was able to not look up the kilograms to pounds conversion until I walked back to my car. So much for resolutions.

The number is not the large one I imagine in my head that I know is wildly inaccurate but persist in worrying about anyhow. It is also not as low as my eating disorder would like. So now there are aggressive thoughts rattling around in my brain about diets and eating plans and weight-lifting and getting on the elliptical every day this week.

Luckily, my depression is up these days and the motivation to follow through on my eating disorder’s plans is weak.

There’s a positive to everything.

*

There is a slight problem with the radiation protocol. It has to do with the lesion’s location. It was on the left side, just over my heart. Apparently, radiation beams and the heart are not the best mix, so rather than one continuous dose for five minutes, I will do something he called Deep Inspiration Breath Hold. I hold my breath as they radiate for thirty-seconds. We pause, and go again, and repeat until a total of five minutes is achieved. The full lungs help protect the heart. Who knew?

*

I was unaware for several weeks that my anxiety was in full-flight. This is not conducive to a serene and productive life. It occurred to me that for people with mood disorders, a daily reality check might be a worthwhile use of time. Sometimes, it’s hard for us to understand what we’re feeling, identify what’s going on. I’m sure something similar has been suggested by some person at some time in my past.

Despite the signs, I didn’t recognize that I was anxious and I think this is due in large part to the fact that I never sat down to consider what was going on with me. It’s not part of the routine. I review my day in the evenings, a kind of meditation, but it’s a survey of what I did and a chance to practice gratitude, not a review of how I’m feeling. I rarely acknowledge any mental state beyond “I’m depressed”.

Adding the “how are you feeling” question to a daily review and really taking time to consider it is probably highly beneficial. You can’t mitigate what you’re unaware of. Knowing I was anxious earlier could have helped me ameliorate some of the behaviours that are amplified by anxiety. Thinking about how I’m feeling might have led me to analyze more carefully my reaction to the things.

It’s possible I’m not as sanguine about having breast cancer as I’ve been presenting.

Do you struggle with a mood disorder? Are you aware when it’s acting up?

7 thoughts on “Cancer and an eating disorder.

  1. I definitely try to check in with myself at least once a day to see how I am really feeling and what might be the cause. The thing is that I don’t always want to make things worse by dwelling on it, so I just brush it off for a day, two… and then an explosion happens. I think it happens less and less nowadays, but it still does.

    It might not be kind, but imagine me shaking you vigorously and telling you to stop focusing on the weight.

    Stay golden!

    Liked by 1 person

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