Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Not Quite Incredible Shrinking Woman

Speaking of weight, I'm surprised and cautiously optimistic about my recent slow but steady weight loss! I'm almost afraid to mention it in case I jinx it!

While I lost weight with some of my chemo drugs (FEC, to be specific), I gained weight on the other (taxotere). Overall, I gained 10 to 15 pounds during the course of my cancer treatments ... caused by a combination of chemo, steroids, inactivity. Fifteen pounds is considered the average weight gain one might expect during cancer treatments. Now that cancer treatments are over, I have the responsibility for losing what I gained. Oh joy! It's important for many reasons to maintain a healthy body weight. Women who maintain a healthy body weight are less likely to have their cancers recur. That's one of several incentives.

I have been struggling against weight gain for the past 7 years. It just slowly started creeping up on me after never having had to worry about it before. I've never had any particular problems with overeating or eating too much high-calorie junk. When I made concerted efforts to lose weight, I found it very hard. I could muster the will power and stick to it for a good, long time but even then, I could only lose a little weight and then I would plateau and it seemed like no matter what I did, I couldn't lose any more. This was one of the reasons I was seeing my doctor at the time I was diagnosed with breast cancer. He told me to "get more exercise", which was frustrating to hear and I knew that wasn't the complete answer.

Since having breast cancer and learning a little more about hormones, I've learned that weight gain and a drop in metabolism can be symptoms of estrogen dominance. That explains some of the problem if not all of the problem. I learned about estrogen dominance when I was researching my breast cancer, after getting the pathology report that indicated that my tumour was very high in estrogen and low in progesterone. In other words, I had an estrogen-fed tumour and had too much estrogen in my system, which is why I will now take estrogen blockers for the next 5 or more years. Read this short article about estrogen dominance and weight and how balancing your estrogen can not only help you manage your weight, it might also save your life (from breast cancer ); something I wish I had known a few years ago. If I had, I might not have developed breast cancer at all. I should also say that estrogen dominance isn't typically recognized by mainstream medicine and is more in the realm of the naturopathic doctors. I haven't met any mainstream doctors that give a hoot about balancing hormones, except for cutting my estrogen AFTER breast cancer, but from the personal experience of being a woman, I know hormones figure into almost everything. I do believe it's a fine balance. I believe that recognizing and treating estrogen dominance in the first place can prevent some breast cancers.

Since there's no turning back the clock to "prevention", here I am in treatment and doing what I have to do to live. Maybe someone out there will see themselves in my symptoms prior to breast cancer and perhaps prevent themselves from getting breast cancer. That would make me very happy.

Back to weighty things ... I was dismayed to learn that the drug I'm to take for the next 5 years (tamoxifen) can cause weight gain in much the same way that birth control pills can. It felt like just another kick in the boob. But so far that hasn't been the case for me. Not yet anyway. In fact, I've been slowly and steadily losing weight, which is making me SO happy! I can hardly believe it! I've lost at least 5 pounds in the past two or three weeks. And I'm not even trying! That's the surprising part! Previously I would have gained weight drinking water and eating celery! This is too good to be true! I haven't been cutting out breads ... or mayo ... or cheese ... or butter on my potatoes ... or chips and dip on special occasions (such as Olympic hockey games) ... What's going on?! How can this be?

I have no explanation. Maybe if I understood more about estrogen and my other hormones but from what I'm reading, even though estrogen dominance can cause weight gain, so can decreasing estrogen (as happens during menopause, which is where cancer treatments have put me). I find all the hormone information just too difficult to understand. It seems very complex.

Here's a possible theory for my new ability to lost weight. Vitamin D. Was I previously unable to lose weight because I was Vitamin D deficient? Read this article that links increased Vitamin D levels to weight loss. Could it be that just upping my Vitamin D is allowing my body to shed some weight? At last? Remember (I find this hard to keep in mind) ... Vitamin D3 is not actually a vitamin. It's a hormone. Then why do they call it "Vitamin D" instead of "Hormone D"? I don't get it! Well now I do, because I looked it up and found it here. It seems that it was in the early 70's that scientists discovered that Vitamin D is a hormone and not a vitamin:
"One of the reasons vitamin D was a puzzle to scientists for so many years was that it was initially misidentified as a true vitamin, that is an essential substance that our bodies cannot manufacture and which therefore, can only be obtained from our food. But, unlike essential dietary trace elements, such as vitamins A, B, and C, which humans must get directly from food, vitamin D can be produced in the body through a photosynthetic reaction when the skin is exposed to sunlight. The resulting substance is only a precursor, however, which must then undergo two transformations--first in the liver and then in the kidney--to become the biologically active substance the body uses. This active form of vitamin D is a hormone, chemically akin to familiar steroid hormones, such as the sex regulators testosterone and estrogen and the stress regulator cortisol."
Whatever the reason for my recent miracle weight loss, I don't understand it and I'm afraid to get too excited! It's too bizarre! I just hope it continues for a while longer! I would so love to feel like my smaller self again! If I figure it out, I'll let you know. If you have any ideas, please share.

Just think ... if I start adding more exercise to the mix, at this rate I would be slimmish again before next fall! That would be too much to hope for. I know it.

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