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Tamoxifen Tummy Blues

If someone told me I would be dressing like Maude or Mrs. Roper at any point in my life, I would have laughed hysterically. But alas, four years after having breast cancer, I am looking for tunics on Amazon that will cover my bulging Tamoxifen Tummy.

What is a tamoxifen tummy, you ask? If you aren’t familiar, let me share. Anyone who has had breast cancer and is on tamoxifen knows only too well what that means. It’s a medication used to treat hormone-receptor-positive estrogen breast cancer. It reduces the risk of recurrence by 40 to 50%, so it is wise to take it if you don’t want to live the rest of your life looking over your shoulder waiting for that horrible call after your quarterly blood test. “It’s baaa-ack.”

When my oncologist first prescribed it, he said I would be on it for 5 years. Due to new studies, I’m now looking at 10 years. He tells me about the various side effects….blood clots, stroke, heart attack, and weight gain. “Huh? What? Did you say weight gain?!” He couldn’t believe that the other side effects didn’t phase me as much as the weight gain. Really? Is that so surprising?

At the time I began the medication, I was at a comfortable weight. I was able to fit into my jeans with confidence. I didn’t realize I was gaining weight… until I tried on my jeans and they didn’t fit. What a fiasco. I literally could not pull them over my hips. I hopped, wiggled, and groaned loudly, but no luck. My fat jeans went back in rotation. But even my fat jeans were tight and uncomfortable! Not only that, they seemed to push all the excess from my thighs, hips, and tummy up over the waistband of the jeans creating a horrendous muffin top. What to do, what to do? That is when my quest for the perfect clothing to hide and camouflage began. Move over, Mrs. Roper.

Back in the day when fashion was tight and tighter, I would dry my Sergio Valente’s in the dryer for over an hour so I could achieve that “painted on” look. I would lay on the bed, suck in my gut, and use a needle nose pliers to get the zipper up. Today, I don’t dare stick my jeans in the dryer. Now I do the squat, lunge, and stretch dance to loosen them up to alleviate the bulge effect.

So, I’ve spent a lot of time and money on undergarments and clothing that tuck, compress, cinch, flatten, and hide. My favorite go-to is the tunic. Or, as I say, the tamoxifen tummy tunic. It’s a long blouse that poofs out at the bottom so your butt and hips are not in open view. Sheer genius, that fashion designer! Thankfully they sell them everywhere or I wouldn’t get out much. At this point, I am more self-conscious of the weight than I am of the mastectomy scars. The shame, insecurity, and lack of confidence have immobilized me at times. One would think that after

going through cancer and surviving that I’d be grateful just to be alive and not care what I look like or what other people think. And yet, somehow I do.

I notice the same thing in some of my group clients. They are putting their lives on hold until they lose the weight, until they have more energy, until they have more confidence, until they are pain-free, until the fear of embarrassment goes away. They are living a life based on what the future holds, and unable to live life in the here and now. There’s so much life to be lived now and it’s a shame to put it on hold until you’re back in your size 3’s.

The support, understanding, and compassion that comes from being part of a community of women going through their own cancer journey is a powerful tool to help navigate these murky waters. We all want to love and be loved. The feeling of isolation and loneliness can be very painful and hard to get unstuck and move forward. I’ve witnessed and participated in some beautiful transformations. It’s truly inspirational.

Instead of focusing on how our bodies seemingly failed us, what if we partnered with it and celebrated all that it has done and continues to do for us? For instance, this body that I am so hard on is the one that:

●  Gave me identical twin sons that went full term and had naturally

●  Carried me through a double mastectomy and a hysterectomy all within a month of each other

●  Gets to walk on the beach and hear the ocean crash to the shore

●  Hike in the mountains to witness trees dancing in the wind

●  Take apart my mother’s shower without any help so she could bathe safely

●  Lug in heavy groceries and bulk items from Costco so the family can have what they need and feel nurtured

●  Hug, laugh, love, and live a beautiful life.

The packaging may have changed, but the heart is still the same. Grateful for the life I have been given, the second chance I was given, and the love I receive and feel in my soul.

So I will continue with Tamoxifen because I want to live and be here for my family and for that, the medicine is yet another gift. I will honor this body that has been a warrior in many battles and take care of it so it can withstand any other battles that may come. This may be a job for the military tunic.

What in your life are you putting on hold? What tunic will you wear to get you out the in the world?

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