I am not a fan of western medicine. There, I said it. I have good reason: western medicine pedogogically is not kind to fat people. There, I also said that. I know this because I am one, I’ve been one for a long time, and somehow I have left every single interaction with a doctor, from the time I was a child until this very May (of 2021)–so 30+ YEARS, feeling ashamed and to blame for this larger-than-“normal” lot in life. Trust me when I say that no fat person ever would choose this. Nor, upon hearing that somehow they’re to blame for this, would any fat person not do something immediately to remedy it. The stigma of fatness in this country and other countries (I’m looking at you Italy, among many others) is too painful and destructive. No, contrary to whatever stereotypes you like to harbor in your skinny-fat hearts, observably fat people are some of the hardest goddamn workers you’re ever going to find. Western medicine has yet to catch on there…
Despite my MORBID OBESITY “condition” (I mean, we need a better marketing team), I’ve been able to very easily dodge and weave through the grasping clutches of western med for most of my adult life because I’ve been shockingly healthy…you know…for a big girl. I’d keep an eye on my blood pressure and heart health: always normal or better. No shocker to me; I know how many miles I put in on the treadmill, the exercise bike, or the pool. How about you? And with direct-to-market lab companies like Everlywell (shout out good people at Everlywell..busting the medical patriarchy every day), for the past couple years I’d order my own blood lipid and CBC panels without the side of guilt and shame I’m always served at Old White Man Doctor. They’ve been incredibly good. Shocking even to me because I’ve been forced to so thoroughly digest the bullshit, and only, story of obesity being the cause of all health woes. (How about looking farther upstream you medical shitheads?). Bloodwork has always been, I’m sure, annoyingly good for all the whitecoats who thrive on the joy it brings them to condescend to a fat person about high blood pressure and arteriosclerosis. Sorry suckahs, you’ll need to find another fat person because I’m beating you at your own game.
Until, of course, I wasn’t.
It was a fairly nondescript day in June of 2020, if there was such a thing at that point in the COVID-19 pandemic, that a nice little Indian man came by to conduct a health screen for some annuity that I’m sure my financial advisor is ripping me off about. Except for wearing a mask, this was basic–weight, height, and a little blood draw and urine sample for a basic “health marker” review (this is via a life insurance company so…friendlier but way more disgusting than western med people). I saw my weight on his little scale and grew slightly concerned. Sure the pandemic pounds were real but this was, like, a lot. I was surprised but also knew I now had plenty of time and space to add an extra walk in during the office-free days (and months) ahead. But after that thought, not much else felt threatening. Life went on.
When the results returned, their in-house lab analyst noted, among the otherwise stellar bloodwork (a surprise to even me bc I hit the COVID-19 Oreos hard for a couple weeks there), heightened levels of creatinine and albumin in my urine. If you WebMD that shit, the range of problems that cause this run from eating too much protein to advanced kidney failure so…I became more concerned–I would say aware–of keeping an eye on that. I had no symptoms of any kidney-related problems, usually involving the color and consistency of pee. Mine was (and remains) a perfect straw yellow. But I was eating a shitload of protein, mainly eggs, at the time. So, I cut back. I thought more about the protein than the Oreos (cue foreshadowing sound here).
Almost a year later, in May 2021, post-pandemic pounds and settling back into my apartment to resume work, I found these lab results and they resounded; after 12 months of elections and COVID-19 stress, handfuls of canceled important events and a total lack of gym attendance for months, I now felt worse physically than I had in years. Wearing a consistent bout of rosacea that I couldn’t shake, feeling fatigued enough that getting out of bed in the morning and heading directly to my couch for a nap became normal, becoming incredibly muscularly inflexible, and with new joint pain and some really pernicious heartburn, I felt a new urgency about the possibility of kidney issues. So I talked to myself lovingly for about two weeks, ground down the chip on my shoulder to some degree, and made an appointment with a primary care physician I had never met.