From a young age, I’ve always known I was a bit heavier and much taller than other girls. I stuck out like a sore thumb and I absolutely hated it. When I was fifteen, my mom began picking up on this dissatisfaction and offered to help me change my diet. I began eating much healthier than I previously had been and began exercising regularly. I felt healthier but after a month, I noticed absolutely no change in my body. At that point, I became extremely frustrated and began restricting my calories. Over the next few weeks, I started eating a maximum of 1,200 calories a day and I slowly began to see a difference but it wasn’t enough. I wanted more.
From there, I began eating less and less and exercising more. It became an addiction and a competition with myself. I kept trying to see how much I could exercise and how little I could eat in a day. Not long after these behaviors began, I went to my physician for a routine check up. There he found a large mass on the right side of my throat and immediately ordered an ultrasound and blood work. The ultrasound revealed a large nodule engulfing the right side of my thyroid, but my blood work showed normal thyroid levels. My physician then sent me for a biopsy. The biopsy showed no evidence of cancer but we were told they could not definitively say it was benign. I was then set up with a surgeon who would remove said nodule on my sixteenth birthday. As the nodule wasn’t causing me any discomfort, we were fine with waiting three months for the surgery but that soon changed.
A little less than a month before the nodule was due to be removed, I began running high fevers, the area became painful, and my whole body hurt; I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I slept for almost two days straight but every time I woke, I was in extreme pain. On the third night of this, my mom decided it was enough and took me to the emergency room. My pain was treated with morphine and I was then given pain medication to deal with it until the surgery. My mom was told that the pain was normal and that it was unlikely the nodule had grown. They then sent us home and told us to wait it out until it could be removed. The day after my surgery, when my surgeon and the endocrinologist met with me, they revealed that the nodule had grown to 9cm x 6cm and it was fully encapsulated. The nodule was completely wrapped around the central nerve and the main artery in my throat.
It was extremely hard for me to eat during recovery as my stitches were extremely sore and it hurt to even move my throat. I lost an additional thirteen pounds during recovery which caused my mom to become extremely aware of what I was eating. Due to this, I began eating more and I was unable to exercise, which essentially pushed me to become a vegetarian. My disordered eating behaviors weren’t totally resolved but they were an improvement from what they had been previously. I remained in this purgatory of sorts for close to six months before I gave up entirely. At this point, I just didn’t care about my weight anymore. My diet consisted of mostly junk food and dairy products and over the course of four months, I put on a significant amount of weight (pictured above).
In August of last year, I started my junior year and quickly relapsed due to the stress of five AP classes, a part time job, and a sport. Around this time, I began experiencing night sweats and weight loss but I just chalked it up to my eating disorder, I didn’t really think anything of it. Over the next few months, I was having extreme stomach pains, frequent periods, and chest pain on top of the night sweats and weight loss. By this point, I had been to several different doctors who uncovered abnormal PET scan results and terrible blood work. I was then hospitalized in January where I had to have an NG tube put in place in order for an endoscopy to be performed.
After the procedure, my specialist pulled my parents out off the room and informed them of the possibility of gastric lymphoma. By this point, I had lost close to ninety pounds, my hair was falling out in clumps, and my health was in the gutter. I knew I had to change my habits right then and there. That’s when I chose to go vegan and to recover. The next morning my mom and I went to the grocery store to get produce and I haven’t looked back since.
Veganism has truly changed my life. Although I’m nowhere near fully recovered, I finally have a sustainable diet and no longer look at food as just calories, I see it for what it is. It’s fuel so I can continue to grow and better myself. Rather than restricting my calories, I’m now eating close to 2,200 calories daily and exercising regularly. I’m slowly gaining back the muscle mass I lost and for once, I feel good about my body. I’m truly the happiest I’ve been in a very long time.