When a bout with breast cancer left her 81 pounds heavier, Sue Toshner fought her way back to health
Name: Sue Toshner
Starting Weight: 193
Current Weight: 112
Weight Lost: 81 in less than a year
Occupation: At-home network marketer
The moment I knew I was a success: “While driving around with my husband, I noticed him looking at me just like he used to. I’ve not only survived cancer, but I’ve reclaimed my body and I feel great!”
(Sept. 5, 2006) — All my life, I’d been slim–even after giving birth to four children. But 6 years ago, my whole world changed drastically. I was divorced and working as an apartment manager, and while taking out the trash, I met a wonderful new man. Mark and I married a year later, and on our wedding night, he found a lump in my breast.
After our honeymoon, I had tests, and my doctor told me I had breast cancer. Left untreated, it would most likely kill me. I was 46. I walked outside and yelled at God that I would not accept this. I was going to live for Mark and for my kids.
Doctors removed the lump and all the glands under my armpit. They were able to save my breast, and they prescribed chemotherapy. After my first dose, I sobbed as huge hunks of my long hair fell out while I showered. Because my immune system was so weak, it took all my energy to do anything more than the basics, like bathing and dressing. Between my limited activity level and the chemo, I gained 50 pounds in 6 months. By the end of treatment, I was bald, overweight, and exhausted. I literally didn’t know who I was. So I turned to fast-food burritos and big bags of Hershey’s Kisses and M&M’s. Within a year of my diagnosis, I had gone from 112 pounds to 193.
My wake-up call
I began to struggle to breathe even while walking and was told my risk of a stroke or heart attack was high. Cancer had changed me. I didn’t feel–or look–like the person I had been.
One day, I noticed Mark glancing at an attractive woman. He didn’t mean anything by it, but it cut deep into my heart. Why, even though I’d beaten cancer, was I still overeating?
I had seen a commercial on TV for L A Weight Loss, so I went in for a 45-minute private meeting. As the counselor explained the program, I started crying. It all seemed so hopeless, and I just wanted to get my happy life back. I realized I owed it to myself to try, even if only for a day.
Carrie, my counselor, put me on 1,200 to 1,300 calories a day. She instructed me to eat daily two servings of protein, four servings of vegetables, three fruits, two starches, one dairy, and one fat, as well as one protein bar. I was to record it all in a food diary. On the first day, I didn’t get nearly as hungry as I had expected, so I decided to keep at it.
For breakfast, I’d have fruit, a serving of grain, like half an English muffin with a little light butter, and low-fat yogurt. For dinner, I might eat salmon with three different veggies. I also drank 64 ounces of water throughout the day. It filled me up and made me feel healthy.
I got into exercising using an easy, low-impact workout tape. Four weeks later, I pulled out a 20-year-old Jane Fonda video and, for 2 1/2 months, Jane and I exercised for 55 minutes a day. When my tape broke, I discovered Tae Bo, a 20-minute, high-intensity workout. It took half the time yet seemed to melt the fat right off my thighs, butt, and stomach. A few weeks into it, I found myself kicking higher and punching stronger. Everything on me felt rock hard.
I was steadily losing about 3 to 5 pounds a month, but after 6 months, my weight plateaued. Carrie explained that my metabolism was slowing because I weighed less. Instead of letting myself feel down, I chose to be patient. I kept exercising and eating healthy, and
I began to lose again.
It took less than a year to get to my original weight of 112. After I lost those 81 pounds, a male friend of my 28-year-old daughter asked if I were her sister. She said, “No, that’s my mom!” And when I fit into my old size-2 jeans, I jumped around the house like a little kid. Mark came into the kitchen while I was steaming vegetables and cooking fish, picked me up, and said, “I’m so proud of you.”
I told him I wasn’t going to let life slip by as long as I could do something about it. Recently, he had to meet me onMain Street, and I was standing exactly where the woman he’d eyed the year before had stood. Mark drove by, turned his head to look at me, honked, and smiled. I stuck out my thumb and thought, I have arrived!
Why it worked
I lost weight because I asked for help. When I needed somebody to review my food diary, Carrie was there. Her enthusiasm motivated me to try harder. There was a tiny James Brown statue next to the scale, and when I’d lost weight, I’d push its head, and James would sing “I Feel Good” while all the counselors did a celebratory dance. It was completely silly, but it made me feel like I had done something amazing.
Carrie also inspired me to replace food with exercise. When I was bummed out and wanted ice cream, I’d take out my Tae Bo videos instead. And my husband would pick wild asparagus with me. Afterward, we’d share the pleasure of eating the slender stalks. Mom was right: Green vegetables do give you a kick.
Be prepared I buy a whole pineapple and cut it up right away. When I’m hungry for a snack, it’s there.
Use less salt I used Morton’s Lite Salt and made low-sodium recipes so I wouldn’t bloat. That way, even if I didn’t lose weight one week, I’d still feel thinner.
Don’t set yourself up to fail I kept my goals small and attainable. After my first meeting at the weight loss center, I was so afraid I couldn’t do it that I almost quit. Instead, I thought, Just go for 1 day.
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