I’ve been struggling all my life with accepting my body. At 50, you’d think I’d be able to look in the mirror and like what I see. Over the years, I’ve worked with many clients to do just that, yet I’m a failure at it myself.
I was almost there, though, when I got very sick 18 months ago. After two months in hospital on tube feeding, I was discharged weighing 20% less than when I’d arrived but with 10 lbs of fluid in my belly. (When your liver doesn’t work so well, fluid retention is an unfortunate result.) Imagine “gaunt” and “pregnant” at the same time. For several weeks, I had no mirror handy, so I couldn’t tell how my body had changed. Loose skin hung from me, making my swollen belly all the more pronounced. Needless to say, my first look in the mirror did not end well.
For that first year as I tried to regain strength, I ate with cautious abandon for the first time ever until I returned to my B.C. (before cancer) weight. In other words, my diet was healthy, but I ate more of those foods than I would have in the past.
When I arrived home, J. had bought me some clothes from racks I’d always ignored. Extra small leggings? Kid-sized underwear? Shirts clung to the swollen top half of my body and pants fell off the bottom half. Once I got past the gaunt phase, I relished my longed-for thin body, although I still looked pregnant. Still, I knew it was kind of sick for me to revel in the svelte parts of me that were the result of a critical illness. Every shopping expedition was an ordeal because clothes didn’t fit. Maternity clothes would have, but I couldn’t get my head around shopping with mothers-to-be.
To this day, now that I’ve returned to my pre-hospital weight, my body proportions are vastly different than before. There may be no such thing as being kind of pregnant, but there certainly is looking kind of pregnant. Medication keeps the “baby” smaller, but sometimes that’s not enough. Since my blood transfusion three weeks ago, I’ve ballooned for the first time in a long time.
I’m booking a procedure to remove some of that fluid. (No details or pictures, don’t worry.) I used to earn frequent flyer points for these bookings, but not over the past year as everything has been flowing smoothly, if you catch my drift. Really it’s quite shocking to lose 5 or more lbs after just a few minutes of intervention. Forget diet pills or calorie restriction! Try my method!
You might think my near-death experience would have rid me of such body preoccupations, but no. I remind myself that being alive is more important than my body shape. I tell myself there’s no point wasting precious time worrying about such trivialities. I try to convince myself that I’m the only one who cares. Sometimes I even believe myself. That is, until someone asks me if I’m pregnant. So what if I look a little pregnant? Someday I’ll say that and mean it.