I had fallen very ill with a head cold on September 23rd. It was so bad I was home from work for a week! I was able to work from home for the better part of that week, but I was miserable. No over the counter meds were touching this beast and everyone I talked to thought it might be sudden and severe allergies. When the worst of it was over I went back to work. I was still very sniffly and coughing and not entirely the life of the party, but I managed alright. A couple more weeks went by and one day in a meeting with my boss she says, “I think you need to see someone about that.” when I couldn’t stop coughing. Ugh!
So I did the right things, I called the advice nurse first to see what they thought. Set up an appointment for a physical check up, since I’d moved and got new insurance, best to meet and see these new services in person. I went in with an open mind, a calmness of hope that I will finally get some relief, and even a referral for an allergist (I’m severely allergic to sunscreen, which has only been true for 1.5 yrs). I knew to fast because, obviously, I’m fat so that must mean I have the DIA-DEATH-TO-FATTIES-BEETUS! LOL! But I did fast because medical folks always ASSUME I have diabetes (I don’t, I don’t even have the genetic marker for it being in my family). Ugh!
Anyway, I go into this appointment almost happy to be there. I want to meet my new doctor and see if I can get her to see me as a whole human being! Not that I’ve had so many negative medical experiences, but really any is too many. The first thing she asks me is why I refused to be weighed. I explained that I did not feel that it was medically relevant at this time. She insisted that it was. When I asked how so she went into an elementary explanation of what and how the BMI works. It was all I could do to not laugh out loud. I calmly explained that the BMI does not assess one’s health, nor was it intended to be used in the way it is today. She again insisted I be weighed (though there was no scale in the room, so?) and finally just asked if I knew how much I weighed.
It was unbearably obvious to me that this person cared more about filling in a box on a form that seeing me as an adult human, she wouldn’t even make eye contact with me. I said that I did know how much I weighed, that my weight rarely if ever fluctuates, and that if it was medically relevant that I would be happy to provide such a number. I think that really pissed her off. I was honestly being friendly and cheerful and pleasant and doing my best to put her at ease. But she wasn’t having any of it! She actually stood up at this point in order to lecture me on the evils of fat! I listened, I was patient, I smiled and nodded my head. I even said, “Okay, so what would your next course of action be on this topic?” she said she’d send me to a nutritionist. I explained that they do not have the amount of education to provide any new insight and that to suggest I needed a nutritionist is also suggesting that the cause of my body size is directly related to how and what I eat. When I told her that I had an eating disorder previously and had no intention of going back down those dark paths again she flipped through my medical file with a look of insolence in her eyes.
She could not have even settled on a page (she was literally flipping through it like a joke or a movie) when she insisted, “When! When did you have an eating disorder because I don’t see anything in here!” and I explained that one is always in recovery, and that it was a long time ago when I went through the worst of it and that to pathologize based solely on body size is against actual science and logic. She insisted we should agree to disagree, which I conceded to politely. But she went right back into it! At which point I finally said that I had zero interest in hearing once again how my very body will be the death of me. So I then asked her to tell me what my blood pressure was (I always allow for this and insist with confidence on them using a larger cuff due to inaccurate readings and bruising from ill fitting ones). When she saw that it was 110/72 she quickly insisted I was setting myself up for a world of trouble (in a near threatening tone, tbh) and when I insisted that wasn’t a given she again said we should agree to disagree. When she persisted again I pushed back with, “You aren’t asking about my current activity, eating habits, quality of life or lifestyle. You aren’t asking how I feel or if I think I’m eating healthy.” No response.
Then she FINALLY asked about the reason for my visit. Like, seriously, I had been there for ages at that point. So I went through my symptoms and progressions and explained my own feelings on the matter as well as my concern about my sudden allergy to sunscreen. She dismissed it all! She said that I’m not allergic and probably just have dry skin and that there is nothing wrong with me at all. Um…? When I asked at what point should I be concerned about my cough, as it had been a month, she said 8-12 weeks! I was surprised but went along with it. She insisted again that I must be fine as I was exhibiting no symptoms that she could discern. Much to my frustration. But I explained that I had come straight from home, had eaten nothing and was freshly showered and thus my symptoms were less than they had been, though not entirely gone and I was doing my best to be polite and not gross about the whole thing.
When I asked about getting a referral for an allergist she asked me to describe my sunscreen allergy symptoms. When I did she asked if I’d tried another type. I explained that I had tried every type available to purchase by the public (even listing many brands), including natural ones and ones for babies. I explained that the day I wear sunscreen I have no symptoms but that evening and the following 7 days I would be ravenously scratching at anywhere it was applied. Like not even able to sleep! The itching is so bad! She said, “It sounds like dry skin to me. I won’t be referring you to an allergist.”
At this point she asked that I sit on the examination table. I was never offered a gown, never instructed to sit anywhere other than the one chair prior to this. So I hopped up on the table and she listened to my breathing, looked into eyes, ears, and nose, and then dismissed me from the table to the chair again. That was the extent of my physical. The least physical one I’ve ever had! Then without making eye contact, she said she was prescribing me pills for my cough with no other information or explanation. Then she said she wanted me to have some blood work done and said I’d have to come back since one I would have to fast for. I explained, for the second or third time, that I had fasted because I know medical folks always insist I have diabetes. She raised a single eyebrow and mumbled something before saying, “okay, then you’ll need to get this blood work done now.” before getting up to leave. She almost left the room twice but kept coming back in wanting to say something but hesitating each time and finally I just said, “Thanks so much. I hope you have a great day.” with full sincerity.
She finally left but seemed quite flabbergasted at the whole thing. It made me wonder if anyone had ever refused to be weighed in her office before. What did she think my aim was with refusing? I felt that I explained myself logically and reasonably. I didn’t get emotional or aggressive. I was calm, cool and collected. I wasn’t even aloof or anything like that, ya know? Just chill. I wasn’t even upset at her absurd behavior and threats, though perhaps I should have been. I walked out as cheerfully as I entered and headed to the lab and pharmacy. I even joked with the phlebotomist about smiles being free and no need to put your grump onto others. He was hella cool, actually. No bruising even! The pharmacy was also a quick and easy venture. It wasn’t until I got back to work and was chatting with some work-friends about the whole thing that I realized just how horrible I’d been treated.
I asked them what a physical was usually like for them and was surprised by their responses. One even insisted I go to another doctor and try for a full do-over. I am still considering this. I’m fortunate enough to have insurance, and to have a job that allows me to use that insurance. But it’s like I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t! This is why fat people don’t go to the doctor until it’s absolutely necessary! Don’t you dare (non-existent “YOU”) tell me that fat people cost anyone more money. What’s costing more money is fucking sales quotas and pitches for unnecessary surgeries. Doctors who have to hit certain numbers and topics and tick boxes rather than look their patients in the eyes. I was there for something so basic and simple and yet this doctor ignored everything so that she could lecture me on a topic I honestly feel she knows very little about. It’s appalling, but I was glad to tell her at one point that I was grateful to be a confident, knowledgeable and empowered woman, because had I not been, as many others aren’t, I would have been destroyed (confidence, self-esteem, etc)! She didn’t seem to give a single shit about that either.
Seriously, I know that I am fortunate and lucky and privileged and it is because of this that I choose to speak up and out about these things. Others simply can’t! But if we don’t talk about it, if we continue to hide or keep secret what shouldn’t be, then the stigma of fatness being a death sentence will continue. I am not intimidated by someone who spent far too much money on an education only to ignore actual scientific facts when it comes to treating a patient. Fuck that! The studies are there, the science is there and I refuse to be talked to like an idiot simply because my body takes up more space!
BTW, those pills didn’t do shit for my cough. I still have it, though it is slowly dissipating. Luckily, my insurance sent me a survey to take, a few days later, in order to assess the level of care I had received.
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