Unplanned weight gain is not usually discussed as a side effect of cancer treatment, but when it happens, a patient can experience other possible negative effects.
For cancer patients, weight gain is usually not a result of increased muscle, which can be a good thing, but of increased fatty tissue, which may lead to chronic inflammation. Excess body weight is linked to an increased risk for other serious medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and circulation problems. Extra weight may also make it more difficult to perform usual daily activities such as grooming, shopping, cooking, and cleaning. A higher body weight may also require larger doses of medications.
Three women reflect on how a diagnosis of Hodgkin lymphoma changed the way they think about motherhood
By Sarah Mowat
We were having lunch with friends recently. The kids all went off in different directions, attempting various perilous toddler style ‘mission impossible’ stunts. My husband, Nick and I have a sweet and shy three year old, Evie, and a wild and wonderful almost 2 year old, Isobel. Whilst observing this nail biting display of toddler theatrics, we discussed the realities of parenting; the beauty, love, worry and exhaustion that intertwine and add a whole new meaning to our existence. One friend, suddenly exclaimed, ‘How in the world did you do this whilst going through cancer treatment?’
I was diagnosed with stage 2 Hodgkin lymphoma when Evie was about to turn two and Isobel was nearly 3 months old. It was undoubtedly hard having cancer thrust into our lives while trying to navigate the world as new parents, but we accepted help, and the memories of fun times still overshadow the chemo and tear-hazed ones. In fact, it was having the girls love me so wholeheartedly, in spite of my comically receding hairline, milk-free breasts and scarred neck, that gave me the strength to get through treatment with a smile. Fishing duplo bricks out of the toilet is a great distraction from chemo weariness.
Evie and Isobel serve as a constant reminder for me to embrace the present – to live, love, laugh, cry, be kind and explore. After my first post chemo haircut, Evie’s unimpressed reaction ‘It’s not so good mummy’ was a hilarious and somewhat refreshing reaction in contrast to the overwhelming flow of compliments I’d received from kind hearted friends. On Mother’s Day last year, Evie picked a bunch of dandelions for me. Seeing her standing proudly, mud across her face with a small vase of weeds made me feel overcome with appreciation. It was the first Mother’s Day she had been old enough to pick her own gift and I felt so happy to be alive. It was not long after that I received the news I was officially in remission.
The experience of being a mother with cancer seems to peel away most of life’s expendables, leaving such a bare, exposed love for the girls that it actually makes this parenting business a little more primal and simple. As Mother’s Day comes around, it symbolizes another year of their childhood I have had the good fortune to experience. As they grow, so does my gratitude for the medical professionals, researchers and organizations such as The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) who pave the way for progress in the treatment, patient care and ultimate search for a cure for blood cancers.
Sarah Mowat lives in St. Charles, IL, with her husband, Nick, and their daughters, Evie and Isobel.
What is AML? What research is underway? And what resources are available to patients?
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society recently joined up with Patient Power and the MDS Alliance to host an AML Awareness Day and answer those questions.
The April 21 webcast was moderated by Carol Preston, host of Patient Power, an online portal offering cancer information for both patients and professionals. Preston is also a chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) survivor.
The panelists were Ellen Ritchie, M.D., of Weill Cornell Medicine/New York-Presbyterian, an AML expert; Lee Greenberger, LLS chief scientific officer; Vonnie Sullivan, an acute myeloid leukemia (AML) survivor; and Beatrice Abetti, director of LLS’s Information Resource Center.
Recognizing that survival rates remain low and there have been few changes in the standard of care for patients with AML over the past 40 years, the panel discussed the importance of focusing on improving outcomes.
“The lack of new drugs underscores the need for research to find new therapies, which is why LLS is making so much effort in this area,” Greenberger said.
Sullivan was diagnosed four years ago, and is among those rare patients to have achieved an enduring remission. She recalled that the most difficult part for her was telling her young children she would be in the hospital for four to six weeks while she underwent chemotherapy treatments. She acknowledged she is fortunate.
“A lot of people I have met along my AML journal have not been as lucky,” she said.