The Perfect Storm
“I cannot do this, it is too hard,” I declared to my dietician, Gretchen, one dreary January day in 2017, about six months into treatment. I was done with feeling full all the time, I was tired of forcing myself to eat calorie laden food everyday and I absolutely hated how my pants were slowly but surely getting tighter at the waist.
“You ARE doing this, Sherri,” Gretchen said, careful to keep her voice calm although I saw her eyes widen in a bit of panic. We both knew that anorexia as severe as mine was typically treated in an inpatient setting, but Gretchen had faith I could do it, “what makes you think you can’t recover from this?”
“Gretchen”, I cried, tears welling in my eyes, blurring my vision, “I was dumb enough to get myself into this…this… situation, I just don’t think I have it in me to get myself out.”
“Oh sweetie,” I loved that Gretchen called me that, “you didn’t do this on purpose, you were just caught in the middle of the perfect storm”. Risk factors.
I’m finding it hard to explain here, why my cancer had anything to with my anorexia. I know it would make much more sense, to myself and to others, if I suffered more, if I had months of painful chemo treatments and breast reconstruction surgeries. But I didn’t, my diagnosis was early and my recovery, although stressful at the time, could have been so much worse. I’m aware of that and I am very grateful. But sometimes it just feels like the aftermath it created just wasn't justified.
The timing of my cancer ordeal did play a part in stirring up a big gust of my shit, stuff I had been carrying with me since childhood, things that an adult child of an alcoholic or a sufferer of childhood trauma might understand. Lifelong scars. My need for control, and structure was tested and disrupted. I was already working overtime to try and alleviate my anxiety about Marc’s drinking, our frequent arguing, and attempt to present a happy front to friends and family, and an added cancer diagnosis at the age of thirty-six with no family history just left me feeling confused and vulnerable. I have always felt secure in the fact that I had control over my body but knowing I had cancer inside of me, a growth I could do nothing about until someone got it out was one of the strongest feelings of powerlessness I have ever experienced.
And here is an interesting fact. When I got my cancer diagnosis I was, for the first time, really happy with my body. I was at a healthy weight, I looked great, I felt strong and I had absolutely NO trouble finding a pair of jeans that fit perfectly. Come on, that speaks volumes does it not? My weight also didn't fluctuate even a pound during my recovery despite less exercise (yes, I still found a way to do something, if I could lift a toddler I was going to exercise, dammit) and my friend’s amazing pesto lasagna. I had no intention of losing more weight, but I felt I had to change something. Some aspect of my life that would ensure the cancer was not going to come back, possibly even bigger and meaner. I was determined to feel back in control of my life and my body, and in my eyes, there was only one way to accomplish that.