It seems to be hip to not make resolutions which is why I’ve decided to make a New Year’s resolution. After all I’m very concerned about being a trendsetter rather than following the trends. Actually I don’t care whether anyone follows me. Others may march to the beat of their own drummer, but I’m standing off to the side playing the hurdy-gurdy, which is really the only instrument I’m capable of playing. I’m that musically inept. I realized I should just give up any musical ambitions when I couldn’t even play the didgeridoo. Now before I hear from all those angry professional didgeridoo players let me clarify that it’s like the piano: it’s really easy to play, but difficult to play well, but that’s another story.
I understand why making resolutions has kind of fallen out of favor. Do you even remember the resolutions you made last year? I think they’re like “the check is in the mail” or “yes, I’ll respect you in the morning” or “club soda will get that out”. Most people, I think, make resolutions under duress. They feel pressured to come up with something to show they’re really intent on putting in some effort in the new year and then they fall off the wagon or slip out of the harness or whatever the appropriate metaphor is within a week of the new year starting.
As part of being hip I’m going for the ultimate cliche in resolutions: I’m going to lose weight. Not surprisingly this all goes back to my cancer diagnosis. It’s now more than a year and a half in the rearview mirror, but when I check my rearview all I can think is that objects appear larger than they should. It doesn’t help that not too long ago I was struggling to fit into a pair of jeans and the button above the zipper popped off, pinged off the wall, and hit me in the eye. This is really a resolution I should have made last year, but I’d been through a lot in 2014 and went a little easier on myself in 2015. Maybe too easy. And it’s not like I wasn’t aware of this even a year ago. During my last round of chemo I looked at a picture of myself and thought there were two of me, and that one of us had swallowed the other.
Everybody else who’s had cancer since before Hippocrates has lost weight, but me, being the iconoclast who marches to the tremolo of his own didgeridoo, had to go and gain it. The worst part is that two days after my diagnosis my wife put me on the bathroom scale and even though I hadn’t been on the scale in months I knew what my normal weight was. The cancer had eaten away at me to the tune of almost ten pounds. That actually sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? Cancer is when your cells suddenly go beserk and reproduce like rabbits on fertility drugs and even if they’re drawing resources away from other parts of the body you’d think things would at least even out. Maybe I’ll ask Hippocrates about that later. Anyway my wife decided to fatten me up. She said, “I want you to eat like a Hobbit.” If you haven’t seen or read The Lord Of The Rings Hobbits typically start each day with breakfast followed by second breakfast then elevenses, lunch, afternoon tea, and I don’t know what comes after that but basically the life of a Hobbit is an endless buffet. The problem in those early days is there wasn’t a buffet in this world that could tempt me. This was not the cancer or even the chemo, which I’d barely started at that point. It was the stress of being diagnosed with cancer and not knowing what chemo would involve. Facing an uncertain future I was metaphorically and literally shrinking. Then the anti-nausea drugs kicked in and suddenly my daily schedule ran something like this:
9:15am-Breakfast (Six pieces of French toast smeared with chocolate spread and crushed pecans)
10:15am-Second breakfast (Two sausage biscuits)
11:00am-Elevenses (Granola bar smeared with peanut butter)
12:00am-Lunch (Liverwurst sandwich, chips, milkshake, cookies)
2:00pm-Afternoon snack (Another milkshake, or maybe a can of smoked oysters or an eight ounce bag of almonds)
Dinner would be cobbled together from anything edible that was left in the house. I think one night I ate an entire bag of flour mixed with soy sauce, a can of vegetable shortening, two sticks of butter, a package of hot dogs, and a block of frozen spinach. At least I hit all the major food groups.
It didn’t help that in addition to turning me into a vacuum cleaner with teeth the chemo made me really tired and gave me an allergic reaction to sunlight so there was no way I could keep up my regular level of exercise. My wife tried to get me to exercise and I tried to listen but it was kind of hard to hear her over the constant sound of chewing.
Cancer is the gift that keeps on taking. I didn’t just lose parts of my body to the disease. I lost my health, my happiness, my ability to say I never get sick and my belief that I have no allergies. I lost my hair and while it’s mostly come back it’s thinner than it was before. I just wish the rest of me were too. I could just accept that this is how I am now, but I refuse to let it define me. I am who I am, and I’m determined that this time next year there will be less of me.