A woman's worried expression is reflected on the surface of a weight scale on a tiled floor.

Weight Struggles With Bladder Cancer

More often we tend to hear of people struggling to keep weight on while going through cancer treatment. Chemo and radiation can cause lack of appetite, nausea, and fatigue, all contributing to difficulty maintaining weight and proper nutrition. Conversely, some individuals may experience weight gain and bloating from being on the steroids that often come along with chemotherapy. Then there is me. Fairly significant weight gain, and it is solely from trying to navigate nourishing a “healthy” body.

Before my bladder cancer diagnosis

I know that sounds odd, but hear me out. I was anemic, iron deficient, and had a massive tumor for a very long time (albeit unknown to me). My incredibly high white blood cell count meant I had a resting heart rate that sat at a minimum of 90 bpm and often in the 100-115 range. That is the equivalent of exercising around the clock, every day, for nearly 3 years. Prior to when we think my cancer took off, I had a little extra weight on my body. This meant my weight loss prior to diagnosis wasn’t very remarkable. However, I quite literally burned off calories as quickly as I took them in.

Losing weight rapidly after surgery

Then came getting very ill, being diagnosed, and having a major surgery, followed by several complications in recovery. I lost 25 pounds in a single month. We can estimate I lost somewhere in the ballpark of 60 pounds in 2019. So naturally, my nutritionist and family just wanted me to get any calories I could to try and maintain weight. I had to eat calorie-dense foods to maintain my body and get on track to handle my cancer treatment.

A weight swing in the opposite direction

Let’s move forward to a year later, and I now have the exact opposite problem. Between drastically changed hormone levels, my immunotherapy, and an incredibly low heart rate now, I very quickly regained the weight I lost and then some. The drastic 60-pound weight swing has left me in a very strange place with my body image and with my relationship with food.

A new relationship with food and exercise

I now need to be very deliberate with what I eat and how much. I also have to make a point to get in regular exercise. It has been a difficult year of creating a new relationship with my health and nutrition through the lens of actively treating my cancer AND having an ostomy. For whatever reason, we now know that I have a very slow metabolism and I need to take care that I do not put on any more weight. In fact, I am working with my medical team to lose weight in a safe manner as I am currently not in the best weight range for my height.

Getting my body into cancer-fighting shape

I’ve talked before about how the changes to my body both from weight loss/gain and my surgery have dinged my self-confidence. Now taking on the health aspect has been a challenge I wasn’t expecting in my cancer journey. My new goal is to slowly and safely reduce my weight, increase my physical activity, and put myself in the best fighting shape to continue my immunotherapy. My team says I need to look at my body like an athlete, and I need to train and fuel my body to fight my cancer.

Work with your medical team

If you are noticing weight loss or weight gain without trying, it is definitely worth asking if there is someone on your medical team who can help you work on your diet and physical activity. Sometimes maintaining weight or losing weight while fighting cancer isn’t just as simple as changing what you eat. I rely heavily on the professionals on my team to help me navigate this new aspect of my cancer battle and honestly wouldn’t know where to start without them.

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