Until this last year, I avoided going to the doctor like the plague. I remember hearing “lose weight” every time my mom took me to a pediatrician. By the time I was old enough to decide when I wanted to go to the doctor, I more often than not opted not to, even if I was sick.
When I was about twenty, I started experiencing terrible stomach pains. The pains came out of nowhere; I was drinking a smoothie and suddenly felt like I was going to throw up. It was a hard pain to describe; it would come and go, and was both a burning and a cramping. It felt like it was at the top of my stomach. The first time it happened, I thought it was heartburn; I took a handful of Pepto Bismol and slept until it went away.
But it kept coming back. I discovered that if I either took a lot of Pepto Bismol or ate a lot, of anything, the pain went away. After a few weeks of this I went in to my university medical center and saw one of the doctors there. The nurse took my temperature, took my blood pressure (normal), and weighed me (186 pounds). Then the doctor saw me and asked me a few questions. I described the pain; he asked if I had any history of gall bladder disease in my family. I said no. He asked if the pain radiated toward my back on the right side, and I said no.
Regardless, this doctor informed me that I had gall stones and needed an expensive ultrasound to confirm it. I didn’t know anything about it; I was shocked at first, and asked what caused it. He told me that a high fat diet and crash dieting could cause gall stones. When I told him I had never been on a crash diet, he just said “that’s the most common cause” as if I were lying. When I said I wasn’t eating a high fat diet, he said “well, you might not think it is, but that’s what causes the pain.” I tried to explain to him that the pain would come after drinking lots of water, after eating salad, in the middle of the day for no reason and that eating something fatty and carby usually made it better.
He just shook his head at me and reiterated what he’d already said about crash dieting, and fatty foods, and said that people who are overweight often have gallstones. I told him I didn’t have the money for an expensive test, and that from what he’d said I didn’t really have the symptoms of gall bladder disease, and it really felt like it was my stomach.
His response? “Well, I can give you antacids, but it’s gall bladder disease. Stop eating fatty foods and lose some weight.”
I knew it wasn’t my gall bladder–but of course I’m just a fatty who obviously doesn’t know her own body. I wrote that doctor off as an idiot, and made an appointment with a different doctor. In the meantime, I did some online research, and determined that I most likely had a peptic ulcer. Unfortunately, the next doctor looked over the previous doctor’s notes, and again refused to look at any other possibilities.
I spent a year and a half having these painful episodes two or three times a week before I tried a third doctor, who finally listened to what I was experiencing and didn’t try to blame it on being a fatty who a) crash dieted herself into gall stones or b) stuffed herself with fat until gall stones developed. This same doctor never said a word about my weight unless I brought it up, and helped me get the help I needed for my depression as well as the ulcer. She helped me a lot with my doctor phobia.