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Fluffy and Worthy are not the same. The day I learned I was too fat for surgery.
We have all had our share of experiences with the medical field, whether it was a good experience or bad. They are both our friends and our foe. They are our secret keepers and our guide on a better life. They have been the backbone of any country during the COVID mess and have done their job well.
They have been overwhelmed with dying patients, lack of bed space, inadequate number of employees, troubled families, scared children, unhelpful insurance companies, and then on top of that- the great resignation.
They have been at the center of the vaccine question and federal mandates. They have been forced to deliver the news that patients will recover or die alone because of current restrictions. They are tasked to oversee the welfare of 4x the number of patients recommended for quality care. They are nurse/doctor, maid, confidant, delivery person, and a person’s single point of human interaction.
They are unsung heroes.
But that still leaves me with a burning question.
Does all the excellent and awe-inspiring work cancel out a lack of compassion and customer service?
Yesterday I had my first appointment with a new doctor that has come highly recommended to help me in a small matter of a couple of holes in my esophagus. A condition that I tend to forget that I have until, heaven forbid, I have failed to take my twice a day medication. Even with the twice-a-day meds, I need to be careful of bread, soda, red meat, sugary treats, and acidic foods. I cannot get stressed out, sleep without a wedge pillow, yell for long periods, or work out too long. Coffee is highly discouraged, smoking is a no-no, drinking alcohol is highly unwise, and think twice if you will partake in smoking a joint- it will not go down smooth! Pretty bland lifestyle if you follow the doctor’s recommendations.
You would think I would be a petite person with all these limitations. I am not. However, I am very healthy except for arthritis, migraines, and THIS annoying condition. I am generally a happy person with excellent blood pressure, heart rate damn near an Olympian sprinter, no cholesterol issues, and as long as I take my anti-stress purple pill- I am a joy to be around. My biggest downfall- I am a bit overweight—no fault of anyone else, but my own.
This appointment with this famous Alaskan doctor took me a whole year to get. A year of tests, checkups, discussions, and getting the referral actually to be approved and sent, after ten years of living with the holey esophagus and all the pain and discomfort that it brings. It has been a year of ups and downs. To get the surgery or to not get the surgery!
According to my doctor and two others, it was a sure thing. I was a prime candidate to get the repair surgery that would, in my mind- change my life!
That was until I met the doctor that was going to do the surgery.
Now, look. Full disclosure. I have no medical background. The only thing I know about the human body and medical terminology is what I learned by watching ‘Bones.’ However, I know what social media, online news articles, and click-bait weight loss pills tell me. To be skinny is perfect. To be thin is to be worthy. If I were skinny, society would take me seriously.
But I never thought that being chubby meant that you were unworthy of medical services.
After 15 minutes with me and a quick jump on the scale with all my clothes on, shoes on, sweatshirt, jacket, purse, and two paperback books- I am too fat to have the surgery. I am 4% over my ‘preferred’ BMI.
Blow me over with a feather.
Doc! You have ten years of my medical history with you. Ten years of this condition, and I have only been fluffy for 2 of them. The fat didn’t change anything; it just means that I enjoyed Oreos and Brach’s Jelly Beans a little too much. Of course, it doesn’t help that I just got over COVID at the end of January then jumped feet first into a horrible chest cold worse than the COVID.
Her response? Weight loss starts at the kitchen table and not in the gym.
We will readdress in 6 months when I lose the weight. Until then, here are two more pills to help combat the aftermath of the holes that mimic a volcano in my throat.
With the weight gone, I can call and make another appointment.
With the weight gone, I will then be worthy.
With the weight gone, I can then live in a pain-free world.
Talk about a blow to my confidence. Another 4 minutes of conversation included information on low-fat diets, fitness apps, support groups for overweight middle-aged females, and a lovely chart of what my plate should look like for dinner.
And then she and her medical student were gone.
For years, I struggled with my weight. The military taught me that fat people don’t belong. Fat people can’t fight or lead. Fat people are not worthy of being in any uniform. And so for 20 plus years, I did every fad diet, two-a-day sessions at the gym, ran so much that the impact destroyed my knees. I was judged by those supposed to be my battle-buddies—shamed by my leadership.
For over 20 years, my life was dedicated by the number on the scale.
And now that I am a retiree, another battle starts.
I called my mother. Yelled a little, cried a bit. She listened. And I went on with my day. I had a busy day planned, no time to go to the grocery store and restock the house with water and air for my new diet. Dinner? Taco Bell because I forgot to take anything out, and I had 15 thousand things to do for work and home, and no one else remembered that dinner comes around every night!
My mom called to check up on me. She agrees with the doctor. She would; she works in the medical community. Now in her defense- she had empathy for me! She listened. However, she unwaveringly supports the doctor.
She asked me why I was so upset. How was the doctor supposed to deliver the news? What words should she have said?
I don’t know. I don’t know how you tell a person that they are too fat for corrective surgery but too skinny to get bypass. I don’t know what words would have been appropriate for this situation.
This world is full of mixed singles.
Love yourself, regardless of if your skinny, fat, chubby, short, tall, big feet, tiny hands, big boobs, or ant hills on your chest. You are perfect just the way you are.
Lies! Twenty years in a profession that told me that only skinny people go anywhere in life was just confirmed by a medical professional.
Here is the kicker. I couldn’t argue my hard-cold facts of the past ten years. I couldn’t advocate on my behalf and show her my workout tracker, my sleep tracker, my water intake tracker, my daily steps tracker, and that ‘time of month’ tracker. I couldn’t show her that I had not just been sitting on a couch eating Oreos and watching reruns of Golden Girls.
Because she had to go, she had other patients, and at 8:30 am, she was already behind in her schedule. She was stressed. It’s been a hard two years.
So I left, defeated. So much work, patience, and understanding on my part went into not getting that appointment for over a year. Instead, I stood in the background waiting until the right time to have another professional sign off on the 5 part novel that has been my medical experience.
Will I lose weight? Friends, I am not sure. I have been down this defeating road before, and I don’t know if this 42-year-old body has it in me anymore. Will I try? Sure.
Will I go back? Will I continue to advocate for myself? Will I schedule that six-month check-in with the doctor?
No. No, I won’t. I will keep taking the medication for life, and I will try to be skinny to be worthy.
The words that I wanted to hear were, ‘I acknowledge the hard work you have done. I understand the pain must be hard to live with at times. I see you have made a conscious effort to be the best version of yourself. I know that it took a year for you to get this 15-minute appointment.’ That is what I wanted her to say!
But my particular case was not important enough for those words. Maybe next time? Perhaps when there is no pandemic? Maybe when there are not as many sick people wasting precious time of our doctors? Maybe after their vacations to relax and recharge? Maybe if my condition gets just a bit worse? Perhaps when I don’t offend the scale with my fully clothed self? Who knows!
Now excuse me, I am off to eat half of an apple for breakfast. I am looking forward to the two boiled eggs and a slice of thin ham for lunch! I would share, but…I don’t think that there is going to be enough.
And I had to throw away my Oreos!
To the medical profession- I still stand behind you. Keep being awesome.