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The Voice of People With Breast Cancer


Our Voices Blog


By Cindy Needham

Adapted from a blog originally posted in 2016 on Cindy’ Needham's website, Thrive the Climb. Cindy is also the author of The Pink Mountain, a book that helps breast cancer patients through breast cancer from diagnosis, to treatment and beyond.

I have been struggling with my body image these last 8 weeks. The funny thing is that it’s not with the two scars I have running across my chest. I have actually adapted well to that change, even with my right scar being lumpy and misshapen. What I have been struggling with is my weight gain thanks to Tamoxifen. Without estrogen, my mid-section is taking on the appearance of a barrel. A barrel made of pudding, with an oatmeal crust! Having always been fit and healthy, I am finding myself disturbed by this body morphing of mine.

Why is “just” a 14-pound weight gain getting me down? Well for starters none of my clothes fit me! I have two pairs of shorts that, thankfully, have enough spandex in them to stretch out and accommodate my expanding frame. My t-shirts still fit because they were all large enough to house my lovely ta-ta’s when I had them. These 14 pounds have found their way to my torso. A week ago, I was walking past a mirror and I could see my belly hanging out over my shorts. I felt a lump form in my throat and my eyes welled up. A voice silently cried within, “what is going on? How come this is happening to me? What is my lesson in all of this?”

Well, a few days later, while camping, I was sitting by the lake and got answers to a couple of those questions. The night before, while enjoying a beer, I noticed that I could almost balance the can on my “estro-belly”. While I was sort of amused, I was also feeling that lump form in my throat again and heard a voice say, “This is NOT you!”  Throughout the night I woke up wondering, which voice I was hearing. Was it the shenanigans of Shade (my ego) or the wisdom of Blaze (my spirit)? Is it my ego, trying to keep a nice-looking body, while my spirit wished I would accept the “new me” gracefully? Or was it my spirit wanting to stay fit and healthy while my ego continues to enjoy eating and drinking whatever it wanted? The answer I got, sitting by the lake in that quiet moment, came at me loud and clear.

My ego, Shade, was trying to stay in control and was trying to come through the back door by pretending that it was concerned about me not accepting who I am. It was enjoying the freedom to eat and drink the high calories of spring and summer. It has been the voice whispering, “It’s ok you deserve a break. Estro-belly is now a part of your life. The sooner you accept this, the more content you will feel.” The voice saying, “this is not you”, was My spirit, Blaze. How do I know this? After all, “acceptance” is something my spirit would say. The difference between my ego and my spirit is that my spirit asks all the tough questions. Shade (my ego) likes to go unchallenged, while Blaze (my spirit) knows that for the soul to evolve it needs to dig deep, shift perspectives and see life from different angles so we can consciously choose how we show up in life.

In that moment of solitude by the lake, I was able to meditate and tap into the wisdom of my spirit and I listened to what it had to say. I am feeling restless and am having trouble accepting this change because I haven’t kept my word to myself. I haven’t been eating properly or exercising. How can I get control over my estro-belly if I continue eating chips and chocolate, while drinking beer like water? How can my muscles grow and get stronger when its only challenge is opening a bottle of wine?

My spirit spoke the truth. I haven’t actually done anything proactive to help stop the morphing of my mid section. The level of summer fun with food and drink that I used to get away with, isn’t working with Tamoxifen. My ego loves coming up with excuses for my hurting body, so that it can continue running the show. If I keep listening to it, a year from now I will be 30 pounds heavier and will be lost in the shadows of someone I’m not.

I have exactly two months before I see the oncologist. That is eight weeks to give myself a fair shake at taking back control of my estro-belly and learning how to live a healthy life with Tamoxifen.

Is this change in direction going to be fast and easy? No, but as long as things are moving in a healthy direction, I will stay on Tamoxifen and continue on with the adventures of “Tamoxipause”.

It is time to get a plan in place, get my feet moving and make a difference in my own life. As Einstein stated, “The definition of insanity is doing the same things over and expecting different results.”

I Cindy am a strong, fit, healthy, vibrant woman!