Weight Gain & Cancer - Kia's Story
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and in honor of this month of awareness I have a guest blog post from fellow blogger and breast cancer survivor (Three cheers for her y'all) Zakia R. Greene. I'm honored Kia has chosen Curvy Girl Chronicles to tell her story. With wit, humor and passion, Kia takes us through her story of diagnosis and remission and journals the self esteem ups and downs that came with her breast cancer battle.
Weight Gain and Cancer-What’s a Girl to do!
The year 2006 was a great year for me, Zakia R. Greene: I had my second child (a boy—my daughter came 16 months earlier—I was pretty much done), I obtained my Ph.D. in neuropharmacology from Florida A & M University, and I accepted a post-doctoral research fellow position at the National Institute of Health Nation Institute on Drug Abuse. After my son’s birth, the 30 year spread crept into my world and began to teach me a lesson on body confidence. To compound that lesson, last year, at the age of 36, I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, the most common type of breast cancer (BC).
When I was asked to contribute to Curvy Girl Chronicles, I was happy but, my true feelings were quite mixed: very pleased, and nervous. Pleased because I’d recently made a bold decision to merge myself into the social media world and share my experience of being diagnosed with BC. Having an opportunity to expose my writing to a large, unknown audience is exactly my goal. In contrast, I am nervous because announcing my most personal and emotionally sensitive experience isn’t a practice I’m accustomed to; this nervousness grew when I learned of the topics: body confidence, healthy curves, & inner beauty-ah!
In the past confidence, in any area, was an element I didn’t spend too much time “stroking”. Simply put, I had lots of it. I didn’t understand why someone was insecure about a gap tooth, gray hair, dark skin, big feet, etc… I just accepted what I had (or didn’t have), and what others had as well--no big deal. In retrospect, I didn’t know that insecurities were directly proportional to lacking confidence. As my grandfather would say—just keep livin’. Post children, I gained weight-1st layer of confidence awareness exposed, then I was afflicted with BC (tumor found in my left breast)—another 5 layers were exposed!
My diagnosis was a complete surprise as I did not exhibit any of the risk factors for BC: no family history of the disease, I do not carry the breast cancer genes (BRCA 1 or 2), I do not drink alcohol excessively, I exercised regularly, and I was not over 40! I had to quickly become breast cancer aware. There are a plethora of websites with BC information; one that I found most helpful and informative is www.nationalbreastcancer.org.
Although detected “early”, the tumor was large and it was recommended that I have the entire breast removed (mastectomy). To add to this scare, abnormal cells (not malignant) were detected in my right breast. I made the decision to have my left breast removed, and to avoid potential recurrence in the right breast, I decided to have the right breast removed as well. After having both breasts removed (termed--bilateral mastectomy) I couldn’t stand straight up, my gait was a tad off, and of course, lots of stares and uneasy silence, even around familiar neighbors.
Although I constantly received pleasant compliments on my appearance “you look great for someone who has 2 children”, and once I became ill, the same “ you look great and are holding up well”, internally, I was still very uncomfortable; and my confidence in my appearance was done!
I’m in the “infant” stage of remission, i.e. it’s been 1 yr. since my diagnosis. Since healing, I’ve learned to slowly regain my confidence. It’s OK, that I gotta a big butt (as my girlfriend would say, “this is the era to have a big butt”). With all the songs, advertisements, & surgical enhancements, I guess she’s right! Having radiation therapy left a huge dark skin burn on my chest, which too is equally OK. I went from being a cancer patient to a cancer SURVIVOR, my confidence needs to shine. It’s important to be my old self and be confident with what I have.
The most important lesson I learned through this journey is to be compassionate toward others. Lacking body confidence is not to be belittled, or glossed over; it’s at that moment when someone can be encouraged. Instead of communicating through words (no big deal, you have a gap tooth), or casual gestures (shrugging shoulders), I find it's better to say, I understand what its like to have impaired confidence.
What I found helpful is being strong, happy, and accepting of my “imperfections”—try it and just keep living!
You can follow Kia's journey on her blog supercalifragilisticancerdidntstopme. Please view, follow, and be encouraged. You can also leave Kia an encouraging note here in the comments section or share your story with Breast Cancer in our Curvy Girl Diary.