I think it would be relevant to note that although I am a guy, I am FtM transgender and at the time the doctor in question considered me a young woman. I don’t think she would have treated me this way if I had been a cis man; the stigma against overweight women seem much worse than overweight men.
Anyways, this happened about a year ago, when I was 19. I had a terrible relationship with my doctor, primarily because she spent most of every checkup questioning me on my eating habits, and clearly did not believe what I told her (I live a pretty healthy lifestyle, and still manage to be 5’5″ and weigh 220lbs). She was convinced I needed to lose weight to help my asthma (still not sure how that one was supposed to work) and my somewhat high blood pressure that I couldn’t seem to mitigate regardless of changes in lifestyle.
I started having fairly severe pain in my upper chest, especially at night. Being as I lived at school at the time, I went to see the campus health center, which is staffed by extremely nice and competent nurses. The woman I saw there told me it sounded like a very bad case of gallstones. She suggested I change my eating habits, come back the next day and see if that helped. It did indeed help; no fats or oils, no pain. I also talked with my mom around this time and found out women in our family have a history of developing pretty severe gallstones around this age. So I called up my doctor and scheduled an appointment for that weekend, when I could get home.
She seemed very skeptical of the nurse’s conclusion when I told her, and insisted I get her notes from when she met with me. The people at the campus health center were also somewhat bewildered by this, but happy to comply after working out what forms I needed to sign.
So I go home, then to the doctor with these notes; she barely glances at them before stuffing them into her file and asking me to describe what was going on. I do so; she cuts me off as I start talking about how eliminating fats from my diet had done a lot to help with the pain (although at this point it was starting to come back if I so much as twisted too suddenly). She asks me if these ‘fatty foods’ were pizza and nachos that I was eating in the middle of the night.
I was rather stunned and told her no, I was talking about salad dressing, some fatty red meats, and the occasional side of french fries. And I don’t eat in the middle of the night.
She insisted, though, basically telling me she thought I was sneaking junk food in the middle of the night and that it was just causing me heartburn. She also insisted I was too young to get gallstones, even though I told her my family has a history of it.
I argued with her about it and finally she consented to schedule me for an ultrasound to have a look, as well as several blood tests to ‘cover all the bases’. I happily complied with the blood tests, went for the ultrasound the next weekend. By this point I am restricted to eating things that contain absolutely no fat or oil, and am in a constant, although somewhat low level of pain; I’m having attacks every night after dinner regardless of what I eat.
The ultrasound tech was very nice, and when I described my symptoms also immediately concluded it was gallstones. It didn’t take him very long to locate them; I could see them on the screen before he even started to point them out to me – there were a lot; my gallbladder was (quite literally) about half full of gallstones. Afterward we discussed the standard treatment (removing the gallbladder) which he said would be the best option in my case, and should be done soon. He sent the results along to my doctor and said she would help me get a surgeon.
So I go back to school, wait for the call from my doctor to schedule an appointment. A week goes by; no call. The technician said she should have gotten the ultrasound results the day after the procedure. I decide to call and find out what’s up.
Turns out yes, she did get them! No, she hadn’t been intending to schedule an appointment with me. Why? She doesn’t think the gallstones are the problem. It’s my weight, she insists.
Apparently at this point she wasn’t even bothering with the sneaking junk food idea any more; I was just in pain because of my weight.
At this point I decided enough was enough. I stopped seeing her and immediately found a new doctor (the one my dad went to, so she was somewhat familiar with our family). She was able to fit me in that weekend when she found out what was going on; she then immediately scheduled me for an appointment with a surgeon, who scheduled me for surgery within the week; he was somewhat alarmed by the fact that I was in constant pain now, implying that the gallbladder was probably becoming infected.
After the surgery, he informed me that if they had waited much longer (as in a matter of days) there was a high likelihood I would have died or, at the very least, had a much longer recovery; my gallbladder had been so swollen it had started to fuse with other neighboring organs. Much more vital ones.
At the next appointment I had with my new doctor (my first proper appointment really, since at the first one she had been mostly concerned with getting me to the surgeon) we started going over medication I was taking and she was shocked to find that old doctor had instructed me to take Albuterol (an inhaler for asthma symptom relief) preventatively, twice a day, every day. Apparently this is not how Albuterol is meant to be taken, and is in fact fairly detrimental, since it causes – wait for it – high blood pressure!
As soon as I started taking my inhalers the way they were meant to be taken, my blood pressure dropped right down into a very healthy range. What a surprise.