Monday, March 2, 2015

The Unexpected Evil of Obesity

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have noticed it took FOUR MONTHS for my sick cat to be correctly diagnosed.

Four. Horrible. Months.

When I first noticed something amiss, I took my cat to the vet and told them he was losing weight very quickly. They weighed him and confirmed he'd basically dropped almost a pound a week from his last visit.

They said as he had been overweight it was good he was losing so much.

I pointed out that this was a dramatic reduction and I hadn't changed anything with regard to his food and exercise.

They said not to worry. Losing weight is a Good Thing.

And set us home.

And, to my shame, I bought into that because, as a fat person myself, I'm constantly being told I should lose weight. Losing weight when you're fat is Always Good. It's the only thing for which society will consistently congratulate a fat person.

Meanwhile, my cat kept losing weight. His hip bones became prominent. So did his spine. (Turns out he was losing muscle mass at this point.)

I took him back to the vet and told them I knew this was Not Right. Have you seen Monty Python's Dead Parrot sketch? Looking back on it, this visit sounds similar.

Me:  This is not a healthy cat.

Them:  Sure it is. Lovely cat, the Norwegian Blue. Beautiful plumage.


So they took an x-ray. And referred me to an animal heart specialist.

We went to the animal heart specialist and she took another x-ray. She diagnosed my cat with very mild heart disease.

The end.

My original vet was done. No follow up appointments needed.


And yet, even I knew very mild heart disease did not answer the question of why my cat was losing weight. Why he was now vomiting and having diarrhea and ate very little.

I contacted my old vet (3,000 miles away or I'd have gone to her first). She asked if they'd checked the condition of his stomach. (Answer: No.)  She asked if my cat had been given an ultrasound. (Again: No. Such an option had never even been mentioned.)

In that moment, I realized my current vet sucked.

So I found a new vet. And just for good measure, when we got in, I demanded an ultrasound. Luckily, he was thinking ultrasound anyway.

He diagnosed my cat as having a thyroid problem.

And arthritis.

And he thought he saw something during the ultrasound, so we were referred again, to an Animal Internist.

This time, the specialist doctor ran an endoscopy and discovered a mass in my cat's stomach. He took a biopsy and we were informed that my cat had large cell gastric lymphoma. And we were referred to the animal cancer center.


After. Four. Months.

I have to wonder what the situation for my cat might have been had he been diagnosed with cancer in AUGUST as opposed to DECEMBER.

I also have to wonder if part of the original vet's incompetence had to do with the popular demonization of fat.

He'd been fat and he was losing weight? That's automatically A Good Thing.

You're losing weight incredibly fast? Why question your good luck? Don't look behind the curtain!

Had he been a thin cat, would they have looked harder for the reason behind his weight being in a tailspin?

And could such a thing could happen to a person?

Are fat patients shamed because fat is automatically unhealthy?

Do doctors write off symptoms as being due to weight without looking for any more dangerous cause?

A quick internet search revealed something quite unsettling---doctors desiring to deny any health care whatsoever to fat patients:

In Britain in 2012, a survey found 54% of doctors thought they should be able to deny treatment to the obese. 

Also in 2012, a Massachusetts woman was denied health care because of her weight. She's about my size. Obese but active. The female doctor said her office was unable to accommodate that weight.

Like there'd be a structural collapse? WTF?!

You want something more recent? February 2015 in the UK - David Cameron proposes to strip obese people of their benefits.

Fat-shaming is one of the few prejudices it's widely acceptable to practice.

It's so prevalent, we fat people---consciously or unconsciously---shame ourselves. We accept there's something wrong with us just because we're overweight. We accept that our body shape is open to being mocked, and that it's our fault, not the bigoted mockers.

So stop it.

Right now.

Realize that there are other people out there just like you and that you're all beautiful.

There are awesome companies out there, like Hips and Curves and Chubby Cartwheels and Pyramid,  that specialize in beautiful plus-size clothing.

And learn from my experience - be assertive in your pursuit of health.

Know your rights. Fight for yourself.

If you think your doctor might suck, get a second opinion.

If you know/feel something is Wrong and you're not being listened to, get a second opinion.

Not all vets/doctors are equal.

And, at least in the US, remember - YOU are paying THEM. (Quite a lot, actually.)
They're not doing you a favor by seeing you. They're your employee. If their work is not up to scratch, fire them and move on.

Never let an asshole be in charge of the health of you or your loved ones.
In that context, assholes can kill.

*PS - Like the lady with the teacups? It's a stamp on Etsy!

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Cat Who Lived

My cat has cancer.

Large cell stomach cancer. Had it been small cell, he'd have a good chance of recovery, they said. But this is large cell.

Stop talking about What You Could Have Done If It Were Different and TELL ME WHAT TO DO WITH THE REALITY I HAVE, I thought.

This was the beginning of December. They said I could start him on chemotherapy, but it would be more a Quality of Life thing than a fix. Especially as he also has a thyroid problem. And arthritis. They hinted I might consider euthanasia. They said he would be dead by the end of January.

My cat is still alive.

Through the first couple chemo doses, I stayed up with him all night. Making sure he had fluids. Making sure he ate a little every few hours. Making sure he kept the food down and giving anti-nausea pills if he could not.

He has a cream for his thyroid and I give him shots for his arthritis, and vitamin B12 shots as well.

He tolerates this as well as can be expected. Some days he's more annoyed than others. But he's still plugging away. His brain is still sharp as ever.

You have to understand, he was my first cat. I found him at a shelter. He'd had bad experiences with humans so it took some time for him to trust me. Since my previous pet experience was my family's pug (a very cat-like dog), I inadvertently approached him as such. I taught him words.

This cat has as large a command vocabulary as my pug had. At feeding time, I'd tell him to go sit and he'd go to the kitchen and hit the specific mark where he's supposed to sit. If he's not precisely on the mark, I can repeat the command and he will scoot over the inch or two to be precisely on his mark.

He knows how to heel without a leash when we go on walks. I can allow him to get ahead of me to explore and then call him back and he'll come. He'll complain at me ("Meow, meow, meow!"), but he'll come.

He also likes to play games on tablets and phones. But only if he can win. He doesn't like games that go on forever, he wants a Decisive Victory. It's pretty funny.

The vet techs at the cancer center are constantly amazed by him, his good nature, his chill personality. We go in without a carrier and hang out. He purrs.

Now we are approaching the end of his chemo. He gets an ultrasound next Monday. I am hoping for Full Remission. If it's not gone, he'll have to undergo a second round of chemotherapy treatments.

And yes, I've already decided that's what we're doing. If we have to, we're going down fighting.

I was told by one disapproving person that they would have euthanized the cat at the beginning rather than spend the money on chemo. So I knifed them.

No I didn't.

Bloodstains are sooo difficult to get out.

But they are correct, it is expensive. So.... if you've been on the fence about purchasing my writing, or ever even vaguely considered maybe buying one of my books, I would encourage you that now would be the time to do so. You could think of it as a donation, with the book as your free gift. Most of my ebooks are the same price as one cup of coffee. You'd buy me a coffee, right?

In any case, please keep us in your thoughts.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Of Cats And Veterinary Health Care Costs

As some of you may know, my cat is sick. He has a cardiologist appointment tomorrow.

You know how there's always people who, when you say, "I'm having my tonsils out." they say, "I know someone who died from that." instead of "good luck" or "I'll be thinking of you"? Like you needed that in your head at this moment?

Apparently there are also people who want to tell you why your money is more important than your pet when your pet is sick.

The Disposable Society. Why get shoes repaired? Just buy new ones. Why fix your sick pet? Just get a new one.

ProTip: Don't ever say that to someone who considers their pets their children. Unless you'd also advocate disposing of sick children. Then you might be a Fascist.

Someone told my husband about how a vet told someone else that her cat only had two months to live and instead of euthanizing her cat, she spent $4,000 to keep her cat alive those two months and how horrible that vet was for milking her out of money.

There's so much wrong with that story. Give me a moment to stop pounding my forehead on my desk.


First off, the vet gave her the options. The vet didn't "milk" her out of anything.

In fact, had the vet refused to provide health care and demanded euthanization, THAT would have been a crime against their profession to heal the sick.

Second. Now that we've established that the woman chose to spend her money, we can unpack from this story that the teller thinks the "loss" of the money was A Bad Thing.

Why? The woman had the money. She wanted to spend it on having more time with her cat. What's wrong with that?

For this to be A Bad Thing, presupposes a cat's life can be reckoned in dollars and that this amount is less than $4,000.

I'll get back to this.

Third. The teller frames this story around the cat owner being a victim. If not a victim of the vet, a victim of stupidity by spending so much money on just a cat.

Because people who value animals so much are crazy, tree-hugging leftists or something and ought not to be let outside without supervision.


Now then.

If you want to tell me why I should not bother taking my cat to the cardiologist, I want to tell you about this Abrahamic concept called Hell and how speedily you can go there. I hear hand-baskets are quite popular.

I believe my cat is priceless.  I believe this very strongly.

Polite people who value not being beaten to death with the bloody stump of one of their own limbs won't tell me I'm wrong to my face.

Green pieces of paper, even 4,000 of them, will never keep me warm the way my cat does when I've had a bad day and he comes to comfort me.

Being willing to eat macaroni and cheese for weeks on end so my cat can get proper medical care does not make me crazy. I did that to be able to get a college degree. I'll certainly do it for the animal who listens to me moan about how an Arts college degree qualifies you to bag fries these days.

I personally can imagine no greater guilt than being forced to euthanize your pet because you don't have the money to fix them. I really, really, really hope I do not have to face this situation, because I don't know what I'd do. I just can't.

By the way, there's probably a clever parallel to be made here with the human US health care industry, but I'm not in the mood to make it.