My last post on “Day 1”, had me brimming with positivity. I was ready to go back to the studio and the gym. I was going to hit it bald, because I thought that I was strong enough. Due to the fact I had put on a total of 10kg in 15 weeks (which is an incredible rate and not very good at all!), I was willing to head in and exercise. Even though I knew that everyone who knew me in the gym and pilates studio, last saw me as Aly who was lean, fit, muscular and crushing it. I had to start somewhere.
Heading to the pilates studio wasn’t as scary for me, as I went when it was quieter, and a few of my colleagues were there. They were very happy to see me, and very supportive. We talked about my weight increase, and how that I was in a better place mentally and that I was coming back to work on my rehabilitation and strength. I felt good, and loved, and supported.
Then, I went to the gym. The first time I went was on a Sunday with The Rock. So I felt that with my Husband there, I could do this. All I did was walk on the treadmill at various inclines. Only for about 20 minutes. One of the Personal Trainers there who didn’t know that I had cancer expressed surprised at my new look, but when I told him my story he was full of support and well, felt very bad for my situation.
A few days later…. I went back to the gym. I felt strong, I was by myself, and I was bald, and yes, I was looking fatter than I had ever been. Plus, I didn’t have a prosthetic so I was flat on the right side of my chest. But, no bother, I wasn’t fazed. During my workout, a PT who knew I had cancer waved hello at me across the room as he was working on his client, an elderly man who had a stroke. I felt happy.
Then I lay on the bench press using only light Dumbbells (because my pecs were seriously weak, and given that I had all that fluid build up in the area I’m being very cautious not to overwork it). Another PT walked by. This guy, let’s call him CPT, was the first PT I had shared my story with months ago. So he knew I had BC, he knew I was going through chemo and he knew my hair was falling out. Then I stopped going to the gym for about 2 months. So I was eager to say hi to him again, because I was proud of myself for coming back, and okay I’ll be honest, I was looking for something along the lines of “good to have you back” type of comments from him.
Instead, as I lay there, he walked past and said “hey you’re back” (which was a good start). Then, he said something that made my whole world come crushing down.
“You’ve put on a bit of weight eh?”.
What does one say when someone says that? A few that come to mind are :
- Sarcasm – oh really I Hadn’t noticed
- Anger – well F*** you buddy
- Shock – oh! (Nothing else to say).
- Shock and overcome by ingrained politeness – “actually I’ve put on quite a bit of weight” said very softly…
Mine was the last reaction. I completed my bench press then stood up and felt, simply put, a huge burning rage inside of me. What person, especially a person in his line of work, who makes people fitter, healthier and better about themselves, feel they have the right to mention to anyone that they’ve put on weight? And let’s not forget that CPT knew I had cancer and the whole shebang. He knew. Did it make him feel better as a fit personal trainer to belittle other people? To make them feel bad? Did he think it would win him a new client? I certainly don’t want a PT who will constantly remind me that I’m a fat loser of a human being, and the only way to make me a better person would be to do as he says.
I was so close to bursting into tears, all my confidence shattered. I left the gym, tail between my legs.
Then, as one does after something like this happens, I got angry. And I had all these great comebacks that I should have said to him. Alas, I haven’t seen him since. I’m likely to bump into him today when I head to the gym. Do I ignore him? Or do I say something? I’m leaning toward saying something. And if I could have my stage, this is what I’d say.
“CPT, you don’t know me. You may know that I had breast cancer, and that I was having chemo that left me exhausted and my hair fell out. But this is what you do not know.
You don’t know that I developed an infection in my right breast.
You don’t know that I have had 7 procedures in 4 months.
You don’t know that I’ve been depressed and suicidal.
You don’t know that my chest is deformed and I used to cry in the shower at the sight of me.
You don’t know that I couldn’t look at my bald head in the mirror for months, avoiding my reflection as much as I could.
You don’t know how tired I’ve been where walking 100 m had me out of breath.
You don’t know that I’ve been on antiobiotics for nearly 3 months, and that the antibiotics with the chemo have messed up my taste buds.
You don’t know that because of that, I was eating a lot, to try to make my taste buds feel better.
You don’t know that I’m not oblivious to my obvious weight gain.
You don’t know, how much courage it took me to step into the gym that day.
And, you don’t know, that with those thoughtless, cruel 8 words you said to me that day, that you have no idea how much it hurt me.
What do you know? Nothing. So don’t say those words to me ever again. And think before you say something similar to another human being, or your clients, as words hurt much more than anything physical you can do to them. As a PT, you lack empathy. And for that, I feel sorry for you.
You’ll see me at the gym, bald, looking a bit fat, but over time, I will be stronger, leaner and my brain and soul will be so rock hard and solid that you nor anyone else will be able to hurt me with unkind words”.
That’s what I’d say.