My post-cancer body

Arlene Lalsing talks about losing weight and her body adjustment after having breast cancer.

Arlene Lalsing (65) is single and lives in Kloof, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.

60th birthday celebration

In August 2013, I felt discomfort in my left breast. I ignored it, putting it down to the celebrations of my 60th.

A month later, it was not only sore but red with a slight lump. After a doctor’s visit, it was confirmed I had ductal carcinoma – oestrogen and progesterone hormone positive.

Plan of action

Both my oncologist and surgeon were so thorough, explaining the process and what was going on in my body. They gave me the best advice as though I was their sister.

Throughout these consultations, I was especially calm and positive. The plan was to start chemo to shrink the tumour then remove it, and then have further treatment. I was aware of the impending lumpectomy and the chance of a mastectomy. Both frightened me immensely.

Two puppies intact

I had four cycles of AC chemo (doxorubicin and endoxan). The lumpectomy date arrived and the surgery was completed. I received the best news ever – my lymph glands and cell tests were negative, and my two puppies were left intact.

I had more tests done (prodding and shoved under machines. The bane of my life!) as the surgeon felt the op went ‘too well’.

Back to my happy place

Back to my happy place (oncology unit) for 12 weeks of Taxol. I call it my happy place as the nurses’ abuse (joking) and interaction with patients was always such fun. The tests results came back and were negative; I was ecstatic.

Side effects

I was very fortunate with my chemo treatments. I had them done on a Friday morning then went to work until 3pm. The weekend gave me time to rest and deal with the side effects.I mostly slept, until my ‘screaming neighbour’ banged on my door to see if I was okay. Bless her heart.

My appetite deteriorated and I constantly had mouth ulcers.The ‘Red Devil’ would keep me awake all night.I had dark marks on my facial and nipple area caused from radiation; they have since faded due to the use of tissue oil.


I set goals and plans of action. Since I was on my own, I had no one to hear me ring the bell. I decided to keep working, but must admit there were days where I couldn’t make it to work due to lack of energy or sleep.

I found humour in myself; once the hair decided to part ways with me, I looked in the mirror and saw this frightened monkey face. But, I am in corporate so I had to look smart…a bit of make-up and a stylish outfit did the trick, with my shiny head full of bits of fluff.

I remember walking into a shop, after wrapping a scarf beautifully around my head. Once I picked up a shopping basket the scarf slipped off my head and fell into the basket. Leaving it  there, I walked proudly loving myself.

Losing weight

I had the initial fear that my body would change, especially my puppies. I am lucky that the only change was in bra size due to me losing approximately 10 kilograms.

Even though the weight loss was caused from loss of appetite, changing my eating habits – I only ate what my body wanted in very small portions, I lost my sense of taste and had mouth ulcers – I am delighted with my post-cancer body and more comfortable in the clothing I wear as well. I love all of me. My appetite is still not back to normal. I suppose this is the new normal. I mostly eat fruit and vegetables. Also, I think the hormone tablet, Laradex, has kept my weight down.

Four years of being cancer-free

I recently had a mammogram and a blood test and I am still cancer-free. I am still adjusting to the after-effects of treatment, viz. numbness in my hands and, especially, my feet, and tiredness.

It’s a whole body adjustment, which I am coping with.

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