01 May 2008

Being Beautiful

After my surgery in 2006, the steroids I had to take made me swell up and gain a considerable amount of weight - overnight (literally)! This was particularly discouraging, as I had just months earlier lost all of the weight that I had gained while pregnant with Katie (which was quite a bit, since I had just finished the course of steroid treatment following my radiation when I got pregnant). I was finally back to a normal weight and size, and suddenly, I was bigger and heavier than I have ever been! (And this time, I didn't even have anything wonderful - like a new baby - to show for it!!) The weight appeared so quickly that stretch marks popped out all over my body. Every time I moved, I could see new stretch marks appear, and it really hurt! Anyway, I spent months listening to everyone around me comment on how much I didn't look like myself. ("You look like you're wearing one of those movie fat suits!") I know that it was all said to reassure me. Somehow, everyone seemed to think that their comments on how drastically I had changed would make me feel better - maybe make me less discouraged knowing that they didn't think that I really looked like that. I don't know... But I can tell you that it really didn't help to hear all of the time!

Well, my first order of business after learning to walk again (for those who don't know, I woke up from my surgery with no feeling on the right side of my body from the waist down and no feeling in my left arm, so I couldn't walk or do anything without help for a while, until I learned to adapt) was to try to lose the weight. Of course, the fact that I was still taking the steroids really didn't help matters at all. By the time I finally convinced my doctors to allow me to wean myself off of the steroids, I had such a build-up in my system that it took about a year before I stopped feeling the side effects. I hadn't been expecting that at all. In the past, I had taken low doses of steroids for short periods of time to help control the symptoms of my brain tumor. But always before, it had been such a small amount that it didn't do too much damage. Sure, I gained weight and I couldn't sleep at all while on the steroids, but it wasn't to the extent that it was with the high doses I had to take following the surgery. And it had always flushed out of my system fairly quickly after I stopped taking it before.

Anyway, I have to admit that it has been pretty discouraging to try to lose all of that excess weight. You would think that, since it appeared so quickly, it would disappear fairly quickly as well. Not so. (Steroids are such a bad idea - I don't understand why anyone would take them on purpose!! I would truly rather die than have to go through that torture again - it really isn't any way to live!) I've been exercising and dieting and trying to get back to looking like me again for so long that it almost seems like forever! And it really is disheartening sometimes to think about how far I still have to go.

Lately, I've had people comment on how much weight I've lost. Sometimes, that's just as hard to hear as when they were telling me that I looked like I was wearing a fat suit. It reminds me of how huge I was not so long ago. I've come to realize that a simple "You look great!" is so much better than "You look like you've lost so much weight!" Sometimes, we just don't need to be reminded of how big we used to be. The scale still shows me at 30 or 40 pounds heavier than I was when this all started. When you consider that I gained over 100 pounds in less than a month's time, that's not too bad. But when you consider that I've never weighed this much in my life except while pregnant, it is discouraging. I am almost back to the size jeans I was wearing Christmas Eve 2005 (the pair that didn't fit me when I woke up in the morning). I'm wearing only one size larger right now, and they are getting loose - just not quite enough to go down a size yet. (Don't you hate it when you're between jeans sizes? The jeans you're wearing look baggy and make you look kinda schlumpy, but the next size down is so tight that they look painted on - how is that possible?) Anyway, I am trying not to look at the scale anymore, because when I see that huge number staring up at me, it is so depressing!

Some mornings (and afternoons, and evenings, for that matter), I still look in the mirror, and I'm pretty disgusted by what I see. I'm still a lot plumper than I want to be, I have a long way to go before I'm back to looking like "me" again. However, I was pleased to notice yesterday that when I walked past the mirror in my bedroom (in a sick and cruel cosmic joke, the Air Force moved us from one house to another just after all of the surgery and steroids - and the house we are in now has a large closet across one full wall with a mirrored door!)... Anyway, yesterday, I caught a glimpse of myself in that huge mirror, and I had to stop and stare for a moment. I was surprised to see someone truly beautiful staring back at me. Okay, so maybe I still have 40 pounds to lose. I know that I'll never be rid of the ugly stretch marks that now cover 75% of my body. Still, I'm beginning to look like "me" again - I'm beginning to see that strong, beautiful and confident woman peeking out through my eyes, and I know that, in time, maybe even soon, I will be okay.

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