I have always been heavy for my height. However, as a child and teen I was also very active and generally healthy and so for a long time I only weighed 15-25 lbs more than I was “supposed” to. However, around the time I turned 16 my family’s regular doctor (whom we all loved) was preparing to retire and her office hired a new doctor to replace her. Unfortunately, this new doctor had a bad reputation for being dismissive and impatient. One friend whose mother used to go to him at his former office had nothing good to say about him. He had misdiagnosed her and the medicine he put her on made her illness worse. She switched doctors and warned everyone to avoid her old doctor if they could. Sadly, our insurance gave us limited options as far as primary docs were concerned and so we had to see him until we were eventually allowed to change providers.
My father hated him. He said he was rude and arrogant toward him. My mother disliked him because he never fully listened to her and basically ignored what little he did hear. Then I met him. At the time I was experiencing some strange symptoms. My periods were irregular and very heavy and painful, I was growing hair in unwanted places, and I was losing the hair on my head. Worst of all, I began to gain weight rapidly even though my eating habits and mobility had not changed. At the time I also suffered from terrible allergies that made it impossible to breathe through my nose. It was primarily because of the allergies that I went to see him. He took one look at me and suggested I lose weight. I then explained about all of the things I was experiencing and he dismissed it all, saying that all I needed was to try harder to lose weight and that everything would magically right itself.
His dismissal of my symptoms dismayed me, but as he didn’t indicate anything else might be wrong, I let it go. However, his blithe attitude also made me wary of doctors and I only ever saw one after that if I was really sick. Fast forward five years. I was 22 and newly married and I had just learned that I was pregnant. Because I now had different insurance I had to scramble to find a new OB/GYN. After a few let-downs I ended up with the nicest of doctors. During my first exam my new doc shook my hand, looked me over (while I was still fully clothed) and said, “I want you to get your thyroid checked.” When I asked why, she said that I had several very obvious outward signs of hypothyroidism and she was very surprised that no doctor had had me tested for it yet. We talked for a while about my symptoms: Unusual body hair growth, thinning head hair, painful and irregular periods, abrupt weight gain, and the fact that exercising wasn’t helping to take it off. She ordered the blood work and I had it done the next day.
Sadly, it was not quickly enough. I had a devastating miscarriage a week later, and although my doc said that anything could have triggered it, she surmised that my severe hypothyroidism was an attributing factor. The blood tests came back the day after the miscarriage and I was immediately put on thyroid medicine. Within three months my periods became lighter and more regular, my hair became thicker, and I dropped 30 lbs. I also became pregnant again and 39 weeks later I gave birth to a healthy baby girl.
Still, whenever I think back on it I get angry. If that bastard doctor had actually taken the time to listen to me or to see more than my weight, would my first child have survived? I do know that if I had been properly diagnosed when I was 16 I wouldn’t have had nearly as many problems as I ended up with.