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!

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