“It’s only been in the last year I’ve found a doctor that looks at me as a person”

Branwyn writes…

I have so many stories, years and years of being treated as just “fat” instead of a person with real, physical problems.

My first time with the prejudice doctors have against overweight people was when I was 16.  I’d had amenorrhea for a year at that point.  My grandmother (who I was living with) took me to the doctor, who, after doing a pregnancy test and a cursory pelvic exam, told my grandmother that I was just fat, and that if I lost weight, I’d get my menses back.  Oh, I weighed 165lbs on a 5’2″ body.  I was in a size 16, which yes, is overweight, but not what is usually considered normal to interfere with menses.

That started my hate of doctors and my utter loathing of my body.

I did everything I could to lose weight, but only succeeded in making my metabolism worse.  I “dieted” my weight up to (eventually, and over 20 years) 270 lbs.  Throughout this whole time, I kept going to doctors, complaining of amenorrhea, complaining that no matter how much I exercised I couldn’t lose weight, complaining of not being able to get pregnant and really really wanting to.  The doctors called me a liar.  I had one doctor come straight out and tell me that I couldn’t be exersizing as much as I claimed to be (at that time, walking 4-5 miles every day), as I’d not be as fat as I was.  Usually, it was the female doctors who were the most cruel.  I had one gynecologist tell me that I could not want to get pregnant as much as I said I did, because if I did, I’d lose all the extra weight and I’d be able to get pregnant.  No doctor ever gave me any references to fertility clinics, no doctor ever did anything to actually find what the root cause of my problems were.

Finally, in 1997, I was diagnosed with PCOS.  The (female) gynecologist told me that I had PCOS and then told me to go look it up.  WTF?

It’s only been in the last year I’ve found a doctor that looks at me as a person, not as fat.  I’ve gotten on metformin (a med for people with non-insulin dependant diabetes, but also for people who have insulin resistance, which is implicated in PCOS), and I’ve lost 70 lbs in a year.  For the past 6 months, I’ve been in a holding pattern, though, and I’m okay with it.  I’m just glad the doctor actually listened to me.

While I’ve found a gynecologist who listens to me, I’m still looking for a primary care physician.  See the one that I currently “have” (but won’t go back to), insists on putting me on anti-depressants — because I’m fat.  Nevermind that I’m seeing a clinical psychologist who doesn’t believe I need pills right now.  Oh, and looked at my weight and decided to give me a sleep study to see if I had sleep apnea and needed a C-PAP machine to sleep at night.  Because, you know, fat people all have sleep apnea.

Recently, my left knee (which I injured 7 years ago but couldn’t get treated because of no health insurance and no money at the time) has decided to go out in a major way.  I’m in intense pain anytime I do anything more strenuous than sitting.  (This has caused a major problem for me, as the job I had — and lost due to this — involved me walking between one to three miles a day.)  I went to a minor emergency clinic, where the doctor treated me like a human, and he ordered me to get an MRI.  The MRI showed quite a few things wrong with me, three of which are only treated by surgery (one of those problems is multiple free floating bone shards, at least one of which is 7mm long).  The doctor told me to get to a surgeon immediately to get this taken care of, that I’d get surgery because this problem had been continuing for 7 years.  In his professional opinion, cortisone shots and physical therapy wouldn’t help.  Especially not for the shards.

I went to a surgeon, to be told that my knees (plural) were shot, and that the only way my knees would get better was for me to lose weight.  I explained that I had lost 70 lbs in the last year and a half, and he said that’s great, but I need to lose at least 60 lbs more before my knees would feel better.  He gave me a shot of cortisone, and said he was referring me for physical therapy.  I was stunned!  This was completely against what the first doctor had said what I needed (although the first doctor wasn’t a surgeon).  Before I left the examination room, I did ask the surgeon about the bone shards.  He said, “Yes, surgery would help with those, but we are NOT doing surgery for you.”  What?  Am I so fat I have to be punished by being in excruciating pain every time I try to waddle my fat ass to the bathroom from my chair (because right now, I can’t do my normal activities, which included walking, yoga, and the aeroglider/exercise bike thing). 

I’m going to see a new surgeon tomorrow (Monday).  I grilled the scheduler about if this doctor would treat me as a human with a real problem, or as just a fat person, because I’m not opening myself up for that again.  I was assured the new surgeon won’t treat me as if I don’t matter because I’m fat.

We’ll see.

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15 Comments

  1. KarenElhyam

     /  November 16, 2007

    Please keep us informed about your story. I can’t believe that people could be so cruel, and so short sighted.

    I wish you the best of luck, and I hope you feel better just as soon as possible.

    Reply
  2. chartreuse

     /  November 16, 2007

    Your story is terrible, I hope that the next surgeon is better. And if he or she doesn’t, I hope you keep going until you find someone who is great!

    I just wanted to respond to your point about being tested for Obstructive Sleep Apnea. There’s been a bunch of recent research showing that OSA is more strongly correlated to insulin resistance than it is to weight, and as a result it is highly prevalent among women with PCOS. So, while your doctor may be terrible, it turns out that testing for OSA is not a bad idea in a woman with PCOS regardless of what her weight is!

    J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2001 Feb;86(2):517-20. “Polycystic ovary syndrome is associated with obstructive sleep apnea and daytime sleepiness: role of insulin resistance.”

    Reply
  3. If you want, go ahead and tell the doctor you know someone who took antidepressants and gained 70 pounds from them. Because you do — me.

    And I love how they have a crystal ball that says “condition x goes away when y amount of pounds is lost.” Never mind that you can barely walk — exercising like a gerbil is supposed to make your aching joints feel better how, exactly?

    Reply
  4. Time-Machine

     /  November 16, 2007

    And I love how they have a crystal ball that says “condition x goes away when y amount of pounds is lost.”

    Totally. The even more bizarre part is it’s there for all levels of fat. Like, you may be 270 and they tell you to lose 50 lbs, but then, 50 lbs later, you go to the doctor at 220, and what does the doctor tell you?

    Lose 50 lbs. Like, the first 50 lbs didn’t help. But these 50 will totally make the difference, we swear.

    It’s like they just pull the number from nowhere.

    Reply
  5. It’s like they just pull the number from nowhere.

    I think you mean, “their ass.” ;)

    Seriously – good luck to you, Branwyn. I hope you’ll write to us with an update. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that your upcoming appt. goes really well.

    While I’m here? I can’t BELIEVE a doctor would say straight out, “Oh yes, this treatment would help, but we’re not going to do that with you.” Right. Because BONE SHARDS floating around in your body are TOTALLY GOOD for you!!! So unbelievably callous and arrogant, I can’t even fathom it. GRRRR!!!!!

    Reply
  6. nervous.habit

     /  November 16, 2007

    My god. The first part of this post sounds like my life story. When I was a late teen, 165, 5’2″, and meses-less (it started, then stopped about a year later), doctors started telling me that if I lost weight, it would miraculously start back up. It took about 8 years for a doc to say PCOS. I got metformin, but it didn’t do much for my weight. So, on their advice and under pressure from my family, I dieted. Three diets later (including one that had me down to 500 calories a day and 30 minutes of walking) and I’m 5’2″, 265.

    I’ve stopped dieting and my weight has stabilized. I feel about as healthy as I ever have. I can play racquetball just as long and as enthusiastically as my 5’5″, 115# best friend. But I’ve got a new doctor. After spending an hour going over my family history and talking about potential treatments for PCOS, she pulls out her handy-dandy BMI wheel, calculates mine, and says “And we’ll see if we can do something about that, too.” I just slunk out.

    Wish me luck.

    Reply
  7. Mandark

     /  November 16, 2007

    That sounds pretty similar to my story, too (well, the first part anyway). As for the second, what in the h**l is that so-called doctor thinking? A stark example of malpractice, surely? Being fat doesn’t cause accidents.

    Reply
  8. Branwyn

     /  November 20, 2007

    Thank you all for your responses. If this is the wrong place for an update, please post this where it belongs, Kate :).

    The update:

    I went to the second opinion doctor. This guy is widely recommended here, is busier than a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs, and has worked on many people with sports injuries (jerseys on the wall in his practice include Charles Barkley, somebody from the Chicago Bulls (I didn’t catch the name), and many Olympica athletes. The most impressive (to me) was the guy who had two hip replacements and went on to become a blackbelt in Karate and win a couple world championships.

    So I was hopeful, if he treated me like a human, that treatment would be good.

    He took a few xrays (which were done in a nicer manner than the first doc, for the ‘bent leg’ xrays, they had me sit on a chair and brace my foot on something so I wasn’t in pain during the xray), looked at my MRI, and talked with me and my husband for some time. (Yes, I wimped and brought my 6’2″ husband with me. For moral support. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!)

    After all that, he told me that the one thing the first doctor told me as an afterthought (and so much as an afterthought I’d forgotten he’d said it until this doctor mentioned it*), that my patilla is dislocated, is actually the cause of the whole problem. The doctor said that, seven years ago when I first injured myself, I probably dislocated the patilla. When I pushed it back in place, I didn’t get it completely in the right place. So, for these seven years, it’s been wearing a new groove in my knee (which is where all the bone fragments are coming from, and why there’s no cartiledge on the patilla and little in the knee area).

    The only solution for this is surgery. At only 41, I’m a bit young for replacement, so I’m having reconstruction surgery. And yes, I *am* having surgery done. The date is already set, for December 12.

    This surgeon treated me as a human being, listened to my complaints, my whole history, my life and activity levels both before and after the accident, and how the pain is interferring with my quality of life today (as in, the pain has gotten so bad I’m having to use a wheelchair to go more than say 20 feet from the house to the car). He treated me with dignity and respect, and not once said anything about my weight. And he said that once I’m done with the surgery and rehab, I should be able to have the activity level I used to have before I injured myself 7 years ago. I am so hopeful he’s right!

    *The first surgeon did say my patilla was “slightly” dislocated, and that it was probably genetic. He also said there was nothing that could be done about it, and asked if arthritis ran in my family.

    Reply
  9. nonegiven

     /  November 29, 2007

    FTR, PCOS, insulin resistance, sleep apnea and antidepressants all CAUSE weight gain.

    Reply
  10. Elizabeth

     /  January 29, 2008

    I also gained around 70lbs on anti-depressants. An anti-depressant that the doctor didn’t tell me might cause weight gain/retention. I did actually need the medication, but the complications that it caused in the end…I wish I could have changed to another brand. Now, I’m at a weight where getting a doctor to listen to my complaints without them saying “It’s because you’re fat” or “It’s because you’re depressed” is pretty much impossible.

    Reply
  11. Wendy

     /  May 22, 2008

    If you want, go ahead and tell the doctor you know someone who took antidepressants and gained 70 pounds from them. Because you do — me.

    I don’t doubt your story for a moment, but you can’t blame ALL your weight gain on antidepressants. Surely you could have figured out what the issue was after the first 5-10 pounds?

    Reply
  12. Nox

     /  August 17, 2008

    Wendy, what the hell is wrong with you? Weight gain is a known side effect of many anti-depressants, and when the choice comes down to crippling depression or being fat (as it often does) why should we be punished by both medical professionals and society at large for not choosing the former?

    Reply
    • So, why did I LOSE weight instead of gain weight with an antidepressant ?? (it was Effexor)

      Reply
      • vesta44

         /  October 23, 2012

        As with everything related to one’s body, it’s very much a YMMV – what’s true for one person/one drug may not necessarily be true for another person with that same drug. I was told that Prozac had the side effect of weight loss. I took it for 4 years and never lost so much as a pound, but I was sleepy all the time. I’ve been on Topamax for migraines for 4 years now, and one of the side effects of it is weight loss – not for me. So, yeah, YMMV as to what happens to you when you take a specific drug – you may or may not have some of the listed side effects, and you might end up with a non-listed side effect.

        Reply
      • Thank you Vesta for your answer

        Reply

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