Health

Advocating for Yourself as a Plus Size Person

When you have health problems, one thinks that going to the doctor will help. However, if you are plus size and have health problems, then going to the doctor’s is not so easy, and getting diagnosed and treated is often times harder. Considering everything I have been through the past few years, I wanted to take a moment and share from first hand experience why plus size people need to advocate for themselves with doctors.

Plus Size Pregnancy

My first experience with this came about 13 years ago when I found myself in a new, unfamiliar area in need of an ob/gyn as I was pregnant with my second child. We just moved to a new area that was about 45 minutes from my doctor’s office. I had been having menstrual issues before becoming pregnant, and while my family doctor knew all my history, she was worried about the distance issue with me being pregnant. Seeing as how I didn’t know anyone in our new neighborhood, I found myself asking on a Yahoo group for moms in the area (remember when those were a thing?) for a recommendation. After my first visit, I think I should have known this doctor was not for me, but I didn’t know any of my other choices. This doctor tainted my pregnancy experience with his rough handling of the vaginal ultra sound monitor. Oh how he loved to just shove that thing in me every single visit, and then he would make comments about my weight. He told me I should shoot for losing twenty pounds while pregnant. I weighed less than I do now, btw. He did not listen to me, made me do the quad screen, and then fed me a line of fear when it said that everything that could be wrong with my baby was wrong. After my level two ultrasound, he pushed me to do an amnio, which I declined. Then when I asked about lifting weights and how much exercise was too much as my bulimia was rearing its ugly head from all the pressure from him to lose weight, he ignored me and just spouted off how I shouldn’t gain weight. By that time, I found a playgroup and told members about my experience and found out that his practice had several malpractice suits against it. I ended up getting recommendations for somewhere else and switched halfway through my pregnancy. The nurses and doctors helped me heal from the horrible experience and were gentle with me throughout the rest of my pregnancy. (Unfortunately, my opinion of that place went downhill when they ended up hiring the problem ob/gyn a few years later and also were neglectful in another pregnancy I had, which made me decide to go the route of midwives after that). I will be honest. The idea of switching halfway through my pregnancy was a bit scary. However, for my sanity and safety of my baby, it needed to be done.

Fat-Phobic Neurologist

The last few years have been a bit of a nightmare for me with having a myriad of health related issues. Over this summer, we discovered that one of the biggest issues with why I have been having bilateral migraines stemmed from a disc bulge and arthritic pain. The thing is…I knew about the disc bulge. That had been diagnosed about 13 years ago, and I was told that it was most likely related to my accident (I had been hit by a distracted driver who made an illegal turn while I was crossing at a crosswalk). No treatment had been given then. Had I gotten proper medical treatment, maybe it wouldn’t be this bad, but I don’t know. I got pushed a lot to just lose weight instead, no tips how, but just lose it. Three years ago I was life-flighted to a hospital for stroke like symptoms. The migraines would be determined as the cause. I was told I had a TBI (traumatic brain injury) relapse. I was to follow-up with a neurologist a few weeks later. I was so excited for this appointment because I was so hopeful that it meant finally getting to the bottom of all of this and getting treatment. My visit was a nightmare. In the five minutes (yes, only five minutes) that I saw him, he never once looked at me. I had a list that I ran down of concerns and where things were hurting. I tried pointing at the areas, but he wasn’t paying attention. His only concern was my weight. He seemed perturbed that I even came for my follow-up. He prescribed me Topamax with the words, “This will help you lose some of that weight.” He also prescribed a low dosage of an antidepressant. I ended up sitting in my car sobbing afterwards because I could not believe what had just happened. For years, I complained of problems. I had migraines. Doctors ignored me. Then I had this huge event and was told I just needed to lose weight! WTF just happened?!?!?!

I ended up trying and stopping both medications. The Topamax made me absolutely useless, and the antidepressant made me suicidal. Shortly afterwards, we moved, and I was hoping to find someone who would take me seriously. Unfortunately, that took a lot longer as my husband lost his job after we moved, and we did not have insurance for about a year after that. Fortunately, I found a good family doctor that did listen and was concerned about my whole health and not just my weight. She pushed and got me into a new neurologist who started to unravel everything. Turns out that by that point, I had a few issues plaguing me. In the past year, I have been diagnosed with nocturnal hypoxia, disc bulge, nerve damage, myofacial pain, asthma (which is being suggested that I had it for a while but went undiagnosed), a few different food allergies, and more. It is scary, and I am thankful that my doctors are working at making sure I get better, even though this is a long process and a hard one too.

Me starting to get back to all the things.
Photo by Ivory Rose Photography

Presently

Right now, I am being treated for several things, but I do have one health issue that has not been addressed, and that is my heart. I have had heart issues since I was in college. It has reared its ugly head each time I have been in the ER the past year, but not much follow-up has been done. This spring, my bp was 174/130, and my heart rate was at 46 when I ended up going to the ER. I have no idea how that was even possible. There was no follow-up or mention of my cardiologist. Recently, I have been having issues with my resting heart rate being below 50. It causes me to become very fatigued. It is so hard for me as I am so used to being an active person, whether it is working out or just working in general. In the past few years, I had to give up an event planning business. I had to put a lot of my social media and influencer work on hold. My youngest, who is 4, does not remember a time when Mommy wasn’t sick. I have several doctor’s appointments next month. Seeing as how my family doctor has been so good with listening and finding me better doctors, I am skipping the ER visit and asking her to find me a new cardiologist. I want to get better, and part of that is making sure I get seen and listened to by the right doctors.

I often wonder what my health would look like if I would have been a better advocate sooner, and for those of you who don’t want to try, I totally get it. It is frustrating and will leave you feeling downtrodden. It makes you start to think the world does not care about you. It is depressing. However, the more we advocate for ourselves and speak out, the better of a chance we have of not only getting treatment, but also helping bring this problem public.

After my issues with my ob/gyn, I spoke up when I heard people thinking of seeing him and told my story. I also found where I could leave reviews and told my story. I made sure I reviewed the neurologist too. I don’t want people having the same experiences, and I want this to change. My heart issues and neurological issues existed before I gained weight. My weight should not be a factor in my worthiness of being treated with respect. If you have health problems and are not being treated or taken seriously, find a new doctor. If they don’t listen, keep going. You deserve better than this.

If you have experienced fat-phobic doctors, I would love to hear your experience. Please feel free to share your experience in the comments below. Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog and share this post with those who need it! Keep working at making a difference!

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