Sunday, September 07, 2003

In sickness and in health

In sickness and in health

So, about four weeks ago I went to a new doctor for a routine girly checkup. And as soon as she looks at me, the doctor sort of puts her brows together, gets me on a scale, and starts asking questions about my height and weight and looking at my hands and hair. And she says:

Has anyone ever talked to you about your thyroid gland?

Nope. I've had really sporadic health care my whole life. After about the age of 10, I have rarely seen the same doctor twice. I've moved around a lot, and gone for years without health care coverage. But I don't remember anyone ever saying anything about my glands. I mean, I'm a pretty healthy person. Other than an old knee injury and some rather common allergy problems, I don't really have any health concerns.

When did you start and stop growing? Are there a lot of tall women in your family? What about heart conditions? Any thyroid problems that you're aware of? Have you been having headaches?

and on and on. And then when I'm on the examination table, and she gets her assistant to sort of message my throat, and the assistant nods.

I think you have Hypo-thyroidism


This is a teaching hospital, would you mind?...

I've got no problems with that. There are a group of doctors walking by, mine leaves the room, a couple of younger doctors come in.

Hypo-thyroidism. Typically, the adult patients will not recognize their own symptoms...possible secondary involvement of the other glands, and the system as a whole will react...

So, they take blood from me, two tubes. And I get one of those little pamphlets that is all the information they can squeeze on a 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper in a soothing manner. And I am told it will take 3 weeks for the results to come back from the lab, but that's OK, because I'm not in imminent danger or anything. I didn't even know that I was sick. I mean, I went to the doctor for my yearly gyn exam, for chrissakes.

The results came back this week. Actually, they came back right before last week's big party, but I deliberately wouldn't look at them until I felt like I had the space to deal.

Results: Borderline. AKA: we don't know shit.

I call the doctor. Well?

You're definitely symptomatic, and we think you should get tested again. Go to a general practicioner at a different point in your monthly cycle, and get bloodwork done again. Your thyroid glad is swollen, but an endocrinologist will not accept you as a patient until your levels are tested at....blah blah blah, blah blah blah, the truth is no one really knows what causes a body to attack parts of its own self, you're freakishly tall, you have all the other signs, and the American health care system is a rich man's broken toy. Have a nice day, try not to worry, or immigrate to Canada. Thank You, see you next year when its time for your next pap smear. (I'm paraphrasing here. I actively dislike the receptionist who had to give me this news).

So what do you suggest that I do in the meantime?

We suggest that you try to lose thirty pounds, and regulate your diet in order to help your body heal itself. Glandular problems are aggravated by weight gain.

At which point I almost yell at her one of the following phrases:

Glandular problems cause weight gain, dumbass!

Fuck You! Diets are for losers!

Maybe I'm hungry and horny all the time because of my personality, *not* a a glandular disorder.

So. 30 pounds. No sweat. I was skinny High School...before I got shoulders like a linebacker...and actual breasts...which I'm happy to have, soooo....

Right. Eat less, exercise more, try not to focus on how western medicine may or may not be failing you.

Except, I love food, and I love eating. I honestly know I associate food and love. I honestly know that since I quit taking drugs after college, chocolate cake has replaced drugs in my life. I eat when I'm happy. I eat when I'm sad. And if I can't get laid or drunk, I hit the refridgerator. I love food like I love men...all the time and as much as possible, please.

What saves me from being a total fat ass though is that I also love to walk. But since I moved from New England, I haven't done that so much. Which is to say I still walk a great deal more than most people, but far from the 5 miles minimum a day I used to enjoy.

But still, the food thing. I treat it like a vice, like a lover. And I know that's wrong, but I hate the idea of dieting. I grew up watching my mother abuse her body in a series of diets that never worked. She would drink vinegar. She would avoid food until she got weak and grumpy. On and off of weight watchers, Jenny Craig and a host of 80's fad diets. Nothing helped her much because she was chronically inactive, a victim of severe depression, and host to a series of hormonal problems so severe that my father eventually would sell off most of his guitar collection so that she could be treated at Vanderbilt.

Not that her mother was any better. My grandmother would eat Krispy Kreme donuts with Diet Coke for breakfast, and tell me that the one calorie drink balanced out the fried part of the meal.

It was a long battle towards healthy eating habits for me. I was in my early twenties before I realized the connection between my own mood swings and my meals. Slowly I learned to carry protein bars around with me at school to fight off grumpiness. I learned to cook with more nuts, I learned to avoid too much sugar, I taught myself about my own tolerance of caffeine. I make an effort to eat organic foods, to eat vegetarian eggs and fresh meats, avoiding beef all together. I have learned about olive oil and sesame seed oil and soy products. I'm a little obsessive about it. I love food, But I love good food.

And now I have to change my relationship with food all over again. It's a daunting task. And it dredged up a million miles of anger for me, of negative associations with the hormonal problems that plague the female members of my family. I honestly believe that "ideal weight" chart is a load of crap. One of my aunts kept making herself seriously sick, trying to stick to that chart. Every time she'd hit her target weight, she'd get pneumonia. And the lengths my mother went to... no. I love my body. I won't torture it, I won't fuck up my metabolism with some crash diet, I won't let a doctor make me feel fat.

I'm so tall I'm not even listed on most women's height/weight charts. So who the hell knows what the target weight should be for a woman my size and shape? Less than 3% of all American women are as tall as me. Break down the different body shapes into that number, and we're definitely a minority. I don't know what I'm supposed to weigh. No one does.

But if I have to guess, or, really, make up my own number, I'd say that I will try to lose 20 pounds. I will try to lose this Christmas, by exercising and not having desert and drinking lots of water.

And I will try not to be angry about it. That's the hardest part. Because my eating is really about anger, just like most other things about me. I realize that now, after thinking on it for a week. I eat, and eat well, because I am angry. One more little step away from that, and I know I'll be healthier in the long run.

No comments: