Daze of My Life: Skinny!?
Daze of My Life
If I ever felt like Robert Di Niro (which would be never), it was recently when my co-worker, Winslow, called me skinny. She couldn't have been talking to me, could she? But since it was she and I speaking on the telephone (and it wasn't a conference call), it had to be me. Granted, I've lost weight, chemotherapy has an affect of doing that, but skinny?
If there's an adjective, disparaging or otherwise, that I haven't been called in my entire life, it's skinny. In fact, growing up, my nicknames (most often given to me by my older brother, Richard) almost exclusively had to do with my girth. Other than being called by my first and middle initials, K.B., I was called a variety of synonyms for fat: Fatso, Goodyear Blimp, Endicott "Chub" (after a former Massachusetts Governor, Endicott "Chub" Peabody; he wasn't skinny either) and my personal least favorite, corpulent. Look it up in the dictionary/thesaurus, my brother did; it means fat.
So for me to react, literally, when anyone calls me skinny, is beyond any sense of reality or proportion I've ever known. It's simply not relevant, accurate, possible, etc. However, as a cancer patient, surviving through six days of six-hours of chemotherapy (every three weeks) over the course of 15 weeks, give or take, will, as many of you might already know, dampen your eating enthusiasm, you might say. Food begins to matter less, sort of. Its unique taste disappears or worse, changes. Food you used to love now inspires zero interest. Food you never thought to eat becomes food you tolerate because it tastes no different (no worse) than the food you formerly loved but now only ingest as a matter of need/routine. And so, the passion for food is gone. The lust for food is gone. The desire to eat diminishes as the taste and flavor of food likewise diminishes.
Combine this disappointing change in your senses with the depressingly low energy level you're progressively struggling to maintain - a direct result of the chemotherapy destroying your red blood cells (in its battle to destroy the cancer cells) and causing anemia in the process, and your interest in food; physically, mentally, emotionally becomes practically nil. And unless you're incredibly diligent or disciplined, the result is, you lose weight. It's not exactly an ideal scenario for a chemo/cancer patient since your body needs sustenance/energy to fight/destroy the cancer but the demands on your body during this time can be overwhelming. As such, forces beyond your control (or so it seems) make it extremely difficult to maintain your weight.
And so I've lost weight. But skinny? 215 pounds is not skinny. Sure, it's 20 pounds that I've lost in the last three months, and perhaps 40 that I've lost in the last 30 months (due to a pre-diabetes diagnosis in Sept. '06), but 215 is a long way from skinny (especially so if I told you my lack-of-height). Heck, it's even a long way from the weight I've listed on my driver's license.
And though I'm hardly a shell of my former self, I can certainly appreciate and respect the perspective of friends and family members who've seen the changes, I'm not exactly shriveling up to nothing.
But neither am I "around" 250 pounds anymore.
Such is life as a chemo/cancer patient. I just hope its cheating death as well.
Kenneth B. Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.