Butterfly Cauldron

Monday, March 05, 2007

Is that a beachball in your belly or are you just fat?



Anyone who is even the slightest bit overweight has had to deal with a doctor who was 'concerned' about their weight. It's a rite of passage, I think. Or a plot by Big Pharma to make us all insane. Those of us who are more than slightly overweight get used to it. I'm very lucky, in that my new doctor is open to discussing weight loss if I choose, but she isn't pressing the issue and is really interested in treating the symptoms I bring to her. But I've dealt this them before. The one doctor who told me that I was just in pain because I was stressed and needed to lose weight. Who tried to get me to spend thousands on Chinese herbs that would make me lose weight. Who put me on Prozac, but refused to do any tests to find out if there was actually an illness causing my symptoms. And gods know, my Aunt Vickie paid for being sick and ill with her life. She died from shame, although the physical cause was a stroke. She wouldn't go see a doctor because she was fat and she knew it would be an issue. So she died at 42 of a disease (Hugh's Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that she'd had for years which had weakened her blood vessels to the point that they failed) that could have been controlled with a simple aspirin a day.

So when I read this story I am not at all surprised. A naturally chubby girl starts gaining weight rapidly. She goes to doctors, gets told she needs to lose weight. She goes to more doctors, she gets told to accept that she's fat and that's all and she needs to lose weight. Doctor after doctor after doctor tell her the same thing. And the whole time, she's got a cyst growing inside her, swelling to the size of a frigging beach ball. And her health fails, not because she's fat, but because there was a foreign object growing inside her, pressing on organs and muscle and joints and ultimately rendering her unable to walk normally. And she's just fat, that's all. Except she's not.

How many years did she live like this? How much did she suffer because the medical establishment didn't take her seriously? Because all they saw was a fat woman? And how easy was it to figure out? A simple, painless ultrasound would have discovered this cyst while it was small and it could have been removed and she'd have had her life, but no. No. Instead, her life is taken over, she's shamed and humiliated by the people she goes to for help and for what?

She grew larger and larger, and the weight damaged Hilton's quality of life and contributed to the failure of a marriage. Still, doctors told Hilton she had better accept the fact that she was just fat and change her ways.

She's just fat. Only, she wasn't. And if one single doctor hadn't taken her seriously, she'd still be trapped in that body, still enslaved to a cyst that could have been removed -- much safer -- when it was mere millimeters long.

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posted by Zan at 5:21 PM

9 Comments:

There's a similar story about a woman in the 19th century who had a stomach tumor--everyone was convinced she was a "fallen woman" and she was pregnant, despite her protestations that she was a virgin. I wish I remembered more of the details...

6:15 PM  

And the story is the size of the cyst, right, not what fucking criminal willful-morons doctors can be.

That case sums up two plots on House. In one, he knew the "fat" girl's problem wasn't fat because her parents were tall and she was short. Pituitary. In the other, the "fat" woman wasn't fat or pregnant, and when told she had a big-ass tumor, she wanted to keep it because her illicit lovers liked her big.

I just saw my doctor the other day and she said my blood pressure is hypertensive. Me: "What causes that?" She: Heh heh. Well, you can lose weight; lose weight, and your blood pressure will drop.

So she didn't answer my question. I can't tell whether her chuckling is cultural or personal or whether she hates my guts.

I had another doctor greet me with: "We have to get you in our nutrition program!"

7:11 PM  

These are the moments I'm really glad to live in the Bay Area...
My SO's former boss had a cyst that made it look like she was just gaining weight in the midsection. The first couple of doctors she spoke to were dismissive, but luckily for her she thought it might be some kind of endymetriosis (sp?) and went to her OBGYN, who found the cyst. I shudder to think what would have happened if she hadn't finally went to a doctor who actually, you know, took a look to see if she could fins out what was going on.
Do you ever read Alas? I remember seing a girl post who had her doctor tell her that she was morbidly obese and about to drop dead any minute because she was, get this, 5ft 1 and 140 pounds. With a 28 inch waist. So huge, no? She was a teenager at the time so understandably this scared the crap out of her.
Our society has gone mad when it comes to the weight issue. I'm mulling over a post myself.

7:14 PM  

Horrible, horrible. Aunt VICKY! :(
So sad, so WRONG.

It make me mad as hell too. I've had a few run-ins with flippant, blind docs myself, but I don't want to distract from your post.

If I were Hilton, I'd feel so vindicated and yet very very angry.

5:10 AM  

My aunt's death has had such last effects on my family, it's hard to describe. It's been almost 8 years, but I keep thinking, everytime something good happens to me, "Aunt Vickie would love to know this." or "Hey, that reminds me of Aunt Vickie, I should all her. . ." And my mother? Gods, my poor mother. She was sooo close with her sister and losing her just about killed her. My grandmother too. Vickie was the only one of her children who wasn't married with children, so the two of them did all sorts of things together. She lost her best friend. And Christmas? Gods, she loved Christmas. She went all out, everyone got tons of crazy presents. She was this bright, crazy light and now she's gone. Because she was fat and ashamed. It's not right and I just want to scream.

6:28 AM  

I keep hearing stories like this, and I, too, want to scream. And cry. And shake my fist at the medical establishment that so dismisses and shames large women that these things happen.

4:19 PM  

GAAHHHHHHH.

i admit that this is part of why i haven't had a physical for a long while, and why i've been dragging my feet about the fucking insurance problem.

3:52 PM  

You know, all that passive fist-shaking we women tend to do is really BS.

She needs to file a massive malpractice suit against the lot of them. No, it won't bring her body back but it will send a message that women aren't willing to take that sort of crap.

Doctors are NOT even taught nutrition in medical school. Why don't we challenge them more during our examinations? Who is a better authority on our bodies than we are, since we live with them? Your doctor is your partner in health, not your flipping boss. Ask questions. Fight back. But for G*d's sake, stop being passive. It does no one good, least of all you.

3:45 AM  

Hey!! My name is Elle!! Im a blogger too. I also have myspace if you would like to check it out!! www.mypace.com/ElleAnnGlackin :) I love a lot of your views on things. Would love to get to know ya!! See you later. :)

9:50 PM  

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