Five Pounds

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Dear doctors,

I lost 5 pounds. I know, not a big deal to you but to me it’s a huge event. Because of the circumstances surrounding this event I want you to hear me. Not as a woman who suffers from obesity and diabetes but as a human being. I need you to listen carefully.

Let me tell you my story.

About a year ago I went on Victoza. An insulin that has been shown to help diabetics lose weight. This was an important victory for me because I had to not only fight my government to cover it but I had to fight my doctor to prescribe it.

Why?

My doctor was angry at the government for not covering the drug therefore, he didn’t want to prescribe the drug to those who couldn’t afford it. The poor like me. He initially made the decision to withhold the drug based on my economic status. Let that sink in for a moment.

After I was approved for coverage of the Victoza, my diabetic doctor prescribed a dose of 1.8mg. That’s important to this story. I initially began to lose weight. In part because of my natural eating habits and in part of my love of exercise. However, a large part was due to the Victoza.

In January 2018 I had a slip and fall where I broke my funny bone. Literally. A radial tip fracture left me in pain and severely phobic of slipping and falling again. I sought comfort foods and avoided the outdoors. Yes, I was miserable and gained weight.

After a time I got control of things again and got back to my routine. However, I didn’t lose weight. I didn’t gain but I didn’t lose. In October 2018 I found out why.

My family doctor informed me that to lose weight effectively I had to be on 3.0mg of Victoza. A higher dose than I was on. When I asked my diabetic doctor about it he got angry. Accused me of self-harm and said I was looking for a magic pill.

However, I’ve had time to think about that visit and let my anger simmer for a while. Let me sum up what I know;

  • He saw my fat and not me. He knew nothing about my eating habits, exercise routine or other health concerns. Nor did he care.
  • He deliberately withheld information due to his belief that my weight was solely the result of overeating and his political views. He would see my obesity no other way no matter what I told him or what facts I presented. Obesity had one cause and that was it.
  • He decided that I was incapable of making an informed decision about my own health care. A fat person obviously doesn’t care about their health so just decide for them.

Doctors, you don’t have the right to decide for me what is right for me. It’s your job to work with me to find the right course of action unless doing so would put others at risk. I rely on your information and experience so that I can take an active role in my health care. If you withhold it because of your own prejudices, you put me at risk for the sake of your ego.

I will do my part in my health care but what I won’t do is let you use my health to masturbate your ego. If you have a problem with that then maybe you shouldn’t be taking care of patients. Perhaps you should go into research instead where it won’t be a problem.

Sincerely,
A Fat Patient.

Pound by Pound

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Today I got fat shamed by someone who didn’t like the fact that I called them out on their bullshit. They somehow thought that pointing out that I’m fat and laughing about it would make me slink away and shut up about their misogyny. They were wrong. They aren’t the first to try this tactic and they won’t be the last. I know who I am and I know my body. There is no shame in that. However, I’d like to show you where the shame in my obesity really lies.

Every time I was called stupid, there was a pound. Every time I was called lazy, there was a pound. Each time I heard ugly, freak, weirdo… there was a pound.

Whenever I realized I wasn’t good enough, there was a pound. Whenever I thought I wasn’t being enough, there was a pound. Every time I knew I wasn’t kind enough, considerate enough, polite enough… there was a pound.

Each time I wasn’t perfect when it was demanded, there was a pound. Each time I fell short of expectations, there was a pound. Each fail, fall, foundering… there was a pound.

Those times I was told I was unlovable, there was a pound. Those times I was told I was good enough to fuck but not to marry, there was a pound. Whenever I became nothing more than a trophy, a fuck toy, a thing… there was a pound.

Times when I was the odd shaped peg that couldn’t fit into the square hole, there was a pound. Times when I asked questions that people didn’t want to answer, there was a pound. When I was too curious, confused, disorganized… there was a pound.

When I laughed instead of cried because jokes hurt, there was a pound. When I agreed that I was too sensitive rather than admitting words can wound, there was a pound. Those many times when it was easier to say nothing, to agree, to mimic… there was a pound.

When I was sexually harassed because of my large tits, there was a pound. When I was grabbed and assaulted because I wore a short skirt to a bar, there was a pound. When I was raped with a hand around my throat ready to choke me, there was a pound.

I carried shame with each and every pound I put on like an albatross. I’ve carried that weight most of my life it’s only now after the diagnosis of diabetes and thyroid and anxiety and depression and polycystic ovarian syndrome and… It’s only now that you can see the manifestation of words and actions taken on me.

My fat makes you uncomfortable not because it makes me less of a person but because it reflects on you those abuses that you have been guilty of. I am a mirror of your worst behaviour, of those dark parts inside that you’d rather not see. I am your own shame made manifest.

I am learning to love my body as it is. I am learning to heal it slowly. I am learning to appreciate it as it is. If you think to shame me for that then you are sadly mistaken. This body is my pride, my beauty, my glory and you will not take that from me.

Numbers

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Deirdre St.Luke

Deirdre St.Luke

I’m no good with numbers. Give me an Excel spreadsheet, 2 + 2 and I will cheerfully come up with a different answer every time. When it comes to math and numbers I’m… well… special. So it’s amazing to me that I spend so much of my time focused on numbers.

A few years ago I was put on anti-anxiety medication which turned out to be a spectacularly bad idea. Not only did it make the anxiety worse but I gained an unbelievable amount of weight. I’ve always been an active person and I enjoy doing physical activity. However, when I gained about 100 pounds in an eight month period and was too out of my mind to think, I spiraled out of control. My weight gain finally stopped at 275 pounds.

Yes, you heard me correctly. I currently weigh 275 pounds.

I make no apologies for that, though.

Let me give a bit of background here. I was a competition swimmer at a young age and later became an avid rollerskater. As I grew up, my activities included cycling, walking (all over the place) and I continued swimming. These weren’t occasional activities, these were daily things I did. Not because I was focused on my health but because I liked them. As a teen, I learned my body issues hard and fast. I was a D-cup by the time I was 14 and an EE-cup by my early 20s. By the time I had two breast reductions I swelled to approximately an I or J-cup. By then it was impossible to measure accurately. Until I was 35 I didn’t even realize that my face was a part of my body. No one looked at it. Not even women. I’ve even had people walk up and grab my breasts. Complete strangers. Once, a woman in her 40s at a bus stop grabbed both my breasts in her hands, squeezed hard and asked, “are they real?”

By the time I reached 275 pounds, I wanted to make a change. So, I went to the Edmonton Adult Bariatric Specialty Clinic. This is the clinic that Dr. Arya Sharma, professor of Medicine & Chair in Obesity Research and Management at the University of Alberta and the Clinical Co-Chair of the Alberta Health Services Obesity Program, is a part of. I was excited to be finally in touch with people who were experienced in dealing with obesity. I could get tools to help me lose the weight. Dietician, exercises, help.

At first I was interested in a surgery called a Roux en y. This is where most of the stomach and large intestine are removed. Then I found out what the complications were. I could wind up with a colostomy bag, I could never eat more than a half a cup to one cup of food at a time, I’d take vitamin supplements for the rest of my life, certain foods would forever be off-limits, I’d have to each approximately every 2 hours or so just to take in enough calories and, if things went wrong, I could die if things went wrong. Finally, no one could tell me what would happen when I was 80, had digestion problems that comes with age and the supplements weren’t as effective as they once were. I was horrified.

When I confronted Dr. Sharma with my fears, I was given more horror. A doctor with his reputation and experience told me that if I didn’t get the surgery I was going to lose my feet, lose my eyesight, be on dialysis, have a heart attack, get dementia and a whole list of other problems from my diabetes. Great idea. Let’s scare the shit out of the woman who already suffers from anxiety. When I asked about medications or diet and exercise assistance he got angry. He told me they’d fail and the only way to manage my diabetes was with the surgery.

I left in tears.

Terrified, I called my friend in the midst of an epic anxiety attack. Barely able to breathe, I told him what I’d been told. After he helped me to calm down, he told me to see my family doctor, a woman I trust and respect. It was the best advice I’d ever been given. I went to see my doctor and repeated what I’d been told. She smiled and confirmed what I already believed; that surgery should be a last resort.

My doctor sent me to a new place where I saw a kinesiologist and made an appointment with a dietician. I still can’t pronounce kinesiologist. After telling him my story, he smiled and said, “let’s get you moving. We’ll start there and move forward.” He then said something that was a revelation for me; losing weight shouldn’t be my goal. Angels sang at that.

So often we equate thin with healthy and that just isn’t the case. In my case, aside from the diabetes, I’m fairly healthy. Good cholesterol, good heart, good blood pressure. I don’t smoke and eat amazingly healthy. When he told me to stop losing weight, the light went on. My goal shouldn’t be to lose weight, it should be to get healthy.

I may or may not lose weight. That’s not important. I’ve learned to love this body I have and if it’s the one I have for the rest of my life, I’m good with that. I’ve been given an exercise regimen which is fairly simple at this point but will get harder as I get better at it. I love this regimen, although the treadmill still bores the snot out of me. I feel good and I like being active.

My goal now is no longer to lose 100 pounds or to get to a size 8. That should never have been my goal. My only goal now is to get healthy. Surgery is no where in sight at this point to accomplish that goal. There are times when surgery is necessary but it shouldn’t be the first go-to solution and doctors shouldn’t be in the business of using fear to coerce their patients to doing something they don’t want to do.

Sorry, Dr. Sharma, numbers have never been my thing.

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