Fat, Guest Bloggers, Medicine

Fat Hatred Kills, Part One

[Note from Kate: I can’t believe I think there might be a need to say this, but there might be… This is a personal essay that Thorn is sharing with us because I asked her to. It’s intimate stuff about her mother’s recent death. It is not a freakin’ polemic. So if anybody comes in here and starts arguing about where the blame for her mother’s death really lies, or trying to tell her she’s wrong about things she’s said in this personal essay, the comment will be deleted, and the author will be banned. I will be compulsively checking e-mail while I’m away, even if I’m not posting. Don’t try it.]

Guest post by Thorn

My mother died on May 1st of this year. A little more than two months ago.

It’s very difficult for me, on a lot of levels. She and I had a very difficult relationship, for a long time, and so while we weren’t fighting when she died, it’s mostly because we weren’t exactly on speaking terms, either.

That’s difficult for me to cope with.

But people understand that. People get that. And so a lot of people have been very kind and reassuring, reminding me that even if we never could seem to just talk to each other, she knew I loved her just as I knew she loved me.

What’s more difficult for me to cope with is the anger.

It’s hard to even know where to begin, to express this white-hot rage I carry.

And what’s extra-hard about it is that I can’t really talk to many people about it. I’ve tried, but most of the responses I’ve gotten only serve to piss me off more.

See, this is what I’m pissed off about: my mom is dead not because she was fat, but because of how she was treated for being fat.

She died at home, alone, from a blood clot that had formed in one of her legs and traveled to her lungs, killing her.

The coroner’s report says that she had deep vein thrombosis (DVT), and probably had been dealing with it for some time. In fact, the coroner said that the past year or so, when she kept having “asthma attacks” that weren’t helped by her inhaler? It was actually very small blood clots blocking parts of her lungs. But nobody knew that.

My mom was fat. And not just ‘a little overweight’. She was fat. She was 5’1″ and her weight generally hovered somewhere around 280 pounds. She wore between a 26 and a 30, depending on the usual vagaries of style, cut, maker, etc.

She’d been fat for most of my life, I never really knew her as being any different. It was hard for her — her brothers and sisters all take after a different part of the family, so they’re all slim and have little trouble staying that way. My mom, on the other hand, took after the other side of her family. Where my aunts and uncles are slender-to-trim, my mom was built like an Italian matriarch. She took after their grandmother, who really was an Italian matriarch, and well… there you go.

Mom became “chubby” in high school, and only got heavier after each of her two pregnancies (myself and then my younger sister), and even heavier as she got older and her metabolism slid firmly into Neutral. I think she looked at her siblings and felt… unfit. Not as in, “out of shape” but as in “defective, inadequate, unsatisfactory.”

My mom was the kind of person who really, truly believed that if she only followed the rules, she would be rewarded. She would get what she wanted and needed. She just had to follow the rules.

Except, like most people, she had a hard time following the rules. So, while she couldn’t follow the rule that said she had to be thin, she did the next best thing, and was deeply ashamed of herself and her body. She carried that shame with her everywhere. She tried to not let it slow her down, but there were times when it did. There were times when I think she’d managed to somehow forget she was fat, and try to just live her life, only to get smacked down by some random occurrence that served to put her back in her “place.”

Still though, she believed that if she followed the rules, she’d be okay. So she tried to follow them. She avoided having her picture taken. She struggled to remember to wear dark solid-colored clothing, even though she really loved fashion and bright colors and oh-my-god, the zig-zagged sequin-top dress she loved so much. Even when we were hip-deep in the ’80s and that kind of thing was okay, I thought it was hideous. She loved it. She made a show of not caring how I wrinkled my nose at her when she put it on, and wore it anyway. I think though, looking back, that it probably did hurt her feelings a little bit.

Mom was a person whose feelings were always right on the surface. All that shame she carried around about being fat, about having gotten pregnant before she’d gotten married, about every single rule she’d ever broken, every little thing she’d ever thought she’d done “wrong” — it all meant that you didn’t have to try hard to hurt her feelings. They were right there, exposed, and all it took was a word or a sigh or a good eye-roll (and I was a World Champion Eye-roller by age 10, I tell you whut), and she’d be hurt.

And with all that shame, and with so little support from her family or her husband, once Mom got hurt, she had a hard time healing from it.

So when I was about 11 years old, and Mom went to see her doctor because of some problem she was having, and he scathingly told her that her problem was she was fat, and not to come back to him until she’d lost 50 pounds? Yeah. It hurt her. It hurt her bad. But she believed in the rules. And so she tried to ignore how hurt she was and focused on trying extra-hard to get back to following those rules.

So she went on Weight Watchers. This was back before the allegedly more convenient “Points” system. This was back when you had to buy a little food scale and weigh out your half-cups of cottage cheese and three ounces of a boneless, skinless boiled chicken breast or whatever atrocities they made people perpetrate on themselves back then. She tried. She really did try. But she had an eye-rolling 11-year-old and a whiny 7-year-old and a husband who didn’t care what she did, but by god her diet wasn’t going to mean he had to eat “that shit” too. He wanted his meat-and-potatoes meals just like always, and if she wanted to cook a separate meal for herself that was fine, but it better not cost much more money than they were already spending on that damn Weight Watchers crap as it was.

After a few months with very limited success, of course she quit.

But I tell ya, that goddamn Weight Watchers food scale sat on our kitchen counter for years afterward, almost like some kind of holy relic. Or perhaps it was supposed to be proof to anyone who came over that she really had tried. She really had made the attempt. It was almost like some kind of exhibit, a way to show she was properly ashamed of her fat.

So, having been unable to meet her doctor’s demand that she lose 50 pounds, she followed the only part of his stated rule that she could: she didn’t go back.

From that point on, whenever she got sick or injured and someone suggested she go see a doctor, she brushed them off. “Oh, they’re just going to tell me I’m too fat. Don’t worry, it’s just a cold/a sprain/a whatever. I’ll be fine.”

To be fair, that’s not to say she never went back again. She did. But only when she had to. And by “had to”, I mean she only went when enough people had gotten on her case about whatever it was that she could no longer fend them off with excuses, and wound up going just to get them off her back. And once my sister and I grew up and left home and my parents divorced, most of us didn’t see her frequently enough to strong-arm her into going to the doctor anymore.

But it still happened once in a while. Which is how she wound up with that asthma inhaler that hardly ever worked. She’d wound up short of breath and wheezing one too many times with my sister around, and finally my sister ordered Mom to see her doctor.

So Mom made the appointment and went, but she took all her fat-shame with her, and did her best to at least mitigate the awfulness of her sin — that she hadn’t lost 50 pounds, and in fact had gained some more besides — and she was going back to the doctor anyway. So she tried not to take too much of their time. Went in with a probable diagnosis at the ready, even, thanks to her daughters’ histories of asthma. She didn’t want to bother them too much, you see, even though by then it had been two decades since her last physical. She thanked the doctor when she got the prescription for the inhaler, and never called back when it sometimes didn’t work, because she didn’t want to take up their valuable time on a rule-breaker like her.

Meanwhile, since the inhaler wasn’t working so well, she started to curtail her activities. The adult singles group she was a part of held dances on a regular basis that she’d always been very fond of. She didn’t stop going, but she spent most of them sitting on the sidelines, or taking pictures. She started to beg off from doing things with my sister and her kids (I having long since moved out-of-state), or if she did go along with them to the zoo, she often had to stop earlier or take more frequent breaks.

During her last year of life, my mom had given up most of the healthy physical activities she had enjoyed, because her “asthma” was so bad. I’m sure some of those attacks were indeed asthma, but other times she’d wind up out-of-breath from doing hardly anything at all, and I know it mystified all of us.

A few days before she died, she fell down in a parking lot. Tripped, I guess. The coroner said that may have been what dislodged the blood clot which eventually killed her. Of course, if she’d been getting decent medical care, she might have gotten proper treatment for all this long before, and maybe she’d still be alive today.

But, you know, that doctor had told her not to come back until she’d lost 50 pounds, and she trusted him. She took him to heart. He was a doctor, after all.

I hope he’s proud of himself. His words, over 20 years ago, helped kill my mother.

She spent her last two days in pain, having difficulty breathing, and not once did she call a doctor or try to get some help.

You see, she still hadn’t lost that 50 pounds.

156 thoughts on “Fat Hatred Kills, Part One”

  1. I read the whole thing.

    My deep condolences and wishes for comfort and peace to you and your family. What happened truly was a tragedy and a horrible indictment against that doctor.

  2. My mom was the kind of person who really, truly believed that if she only followed the rules, she would be rewarded… So, while she couldn’t follow the rule that said she had to be thin, she did the next best thing, and was deeply ashamed of herself and her body.

    That line kills me. I think that’s exactly the situation for so many people.

    And the Weight Watchers scale on the kitchen counter… oh, man.

  3. Ouch. That hit a little too close to home. In several ways, I am very similar to your mom. It took me a LONG time to accept that my doctors were wrong.

    She didn’t deserve that callous dismissal. She didn’t deserve to blame herself all those years.

    I very sorry for her suffering, and for your loss.

  4. Thank you for posting this. I wish I had never heard anything like this before, but I’ve seen stories like this so many times. Fat people are not getting adequate or often any health care because of the demands that we lose weight to gain access to medical care. We’re scared of doctors who will just tell us to do something we know won’t work. When we go, all too often those fears are realized by doctors who do not look past our bodies, who look at us with disgust and may not even want to touch us. The medical community has profoundly failed fat people and sadly the costs are very high.

  5. I am so sorry for your loss.

    I am so sorry your mothers doctor was an asshole.

    I have PCOS and am overweight. My husband and I had serious infertility and loss issues. I was told by several OBGYNS to loose weight and I’d get pregnant. If only it was that simple.

    I’m sorry.

    It was a beautiful story, if tragic.

  6. I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your story. Your love and sadness shows so clearly. It’s not easy losing a parent, I know. I’m going to remember this story. If we just treated each other with the basic premise that ALL human beings deserve respect, regardless of size, regardless of socioeconomic level. Why can’t we be better to each other? Why must we always judge, or put each other into categories? (Fat, poor, uneducated, etc.) The shame that your mother suffered…it’s so sad…I really am sorry.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing this. I am angry and sad on behalf of your family, and this shouldn’t happen. This should never happen. To anyone.

    I am so, so sorry.

  8. Thanks so much for sharing. I don’t know what to say, but there are tears streaming down my face. I’m so very sorry.

  9. This is heartbreaking. My deepest condolences. Thank you for expressing yourself so beautifully and so powerfully.

  10. Thank you very much for sharing your story. It’s very touching, I wish that the medical community would read this, and really take it to heart. They must be reminded of the words they swore to uphold, “First do no harm.”

    I went through a disturbing incident last winter when my husband, Jeff, suffered two bad falls on the ice in less than a month. The orthepedic surgeon he was referred to didn’t want to write him out of work or even do an MRI because he was just looking at my husband has a fat, out-of-control man who he couldn’t help at all until he lost 130 lbs! Jeff weighed at that point 350 lbs, the doctor ordered him down to “at least” 220 lbs before he could really treat his condition!

    Fortunately, he was referred to a physical therapist who was very good to him, and rather than view him as lazy, viewed him as one of his most hard working and dilligent patients. He was the one who insisted that Jeff take some disability time for his recovery. My God, the man could hardly walk, he simply was in no condition to make it in until he had a chance to heal from the accidents! But that one doctor just wanted him to go to work like that, as some kind of punishment for being fat.

    I’m glad Jeff is better now, but I won’t forgive that doctor for the shabby way he treated him anytime soon.

  11. I’m so sorry for your loss. And for the pain and shame your mother felt.

    My mom has been getting very sick over the years and refused to go to the doctor because she didn’t want to be belittled for her weight. But I have a wonderful doctor so I pressured her and pressured her and she finally went to see her a few months ago. Afterwards I asked her how it went and my mom just started crying, “She was just so…kind…”

    That was the first time she’d seen a doctor since walking out of the hospital after giving birth to me 28 years ago.

  12. Shameful behavior from the doctor. Shameful and all too common. I wish I could believe that things have gotten better in the last 20 years, but I’m afraid they may have gotten worse. Today the same doctor would probably have recommended stomach amputation! Thorn, I am so very sorry for your loss, and I completely understand your rage.

  13. Thank you for sharing. It must have been difficult for you to write, but the story you have to tell is so important. Really, it should be published in a medical journal or something–anywhere where it would be required reading for medical professionals.

  14. Thorn, I know how difficult it must have been for you to write that. My mother was so similar to yours in so many ways. In addition to having deep fat-shame, she was also an alcoholic. (I honestly believe that she had undiagnosed clinical depression and attempted to treat it with alcohol, which, ironically, in quantities is a depressant.)

    She had untreated cancer for 9 years because “all docotrs are quacks.” I’m sure that the judgemental attitude of her only daughter didn’t help matters any. I feel guiltier about that than about anything else I’ve ever done in my life.

    Be gentle with yourself. It took me literally three years to be able to talk about my mother without crying.

  15. I am so sorry. This needs to be printed out and sent to the AMA. This should have never ever happend to you or anyone else.

  16. I’m so sorry for your mother’s pain and your pain. Nobody should have to feel about themselves the way she did, much less be denied necessary medical care. It’s criminal.

  17. Thank you for sharing this story with all of us. I am terribly sorry for your loss.

    (Tears… some for you and your family, some for me and the rest of us.)

  18. My father’s discomfort with going to the doctor (a lot of which has to do with his weight) resulted in undiagnosed lung cancer. Luckily, it was successfully treated with surgery, but he’d probably had this for over a year before it was discovered.

  19. I would toss a “just wow” into the ring, but unfortunately this outrageous crap is all too common. My MIL met a similar fate, not going to the doctor when she was panting like a German Shepherd just walking to her car, and when I told her that was NOT “normal,” she said she wasn’t going to bother going to the doctor about it because when she mentioned it to him before she’d just gotten the “lose weight and it will go away” lecture. And next thing I knew, she was dead.

    On behalf of my entire species, which I am ashamed to belong to sometimes, I am so, so, so, so sorry. These women would have gotten better health care if they were dogs — at least then someone would have dragged them in to see the vet and demanded that they be treated!

  20. I am so sorry for your loss. I completely understand your anger…your story resonates with me on so many levels.
    It would take an essay to explore those levels and what fat has done to our family.
    Suffice it to say, though, that I am going to aggressively pursue looking into a persistent pain I have in one leg, in one place. I have enough medical knowledge to realize the implications. DVD.
    I saw my doctor for it and had a vascular study done, which is an ultrasound of the legs. It came back provisionally normal, but there was a note that said the procedure was very difficult to do as I was fat, so the results were uncertain.
    Your essay has spurred me on to keep asking questions until I have an answer.
    Thank you.

  21. I am so saddened by this…a similar situation happened in my family, with someone treated with condecension and a dismissal by doctors and hospital staff because of her weight and her sensitivity. This world is just too effin cruel sometimes. My deepest sympathy.

  22. Thank you for your courage. I will hold this in my heart as I insist on receiving proper medical care, and the medical care I deserve, from now on.

  23. Thorn, that is heartbreaking. Thank you for being willing to share that.

    It’s appalling how well we’ve been trained (and by “we,” I mean most people, regardless of weight) to unquestioningly obey authority figures. And look where it leads.

    Fat is not a moral issue, but refusing proper medical care to anyone simply because of their weight DAMN WELL is a moral issue.

  24. Oh sweetheart. This is so heartbreaking. Thank you for being so courageous as to post this to a bunch of strangers. I’m so very sorry for your loss. ((()))

  25. Oh dear Goddess! This should be made mandatory reading for every med student in the world to show them why fat hatred needs to be eliminated. This is precisely why I stopped going to doctors for years, unless I absolutely had to.

    My deepest condolences on the loss of your mom.

  26. I am so sorry for you loss. And thank you so much for writing this story. I really identified with SO much of it. My Mom died a few years ago, and your post is making me revisit all of the fury I had with her doctor, all the while thinking, “Well shoot — at least when she could afford health care, maybe I should be glad she went to the damn doctor.”

    My Mom struggled with her weight and smoking her whole life. When I was really young, our family doctor “helped” her with her weight “problem” by prescribing “diet pills” (speed, to which she became highly addicted) to suppress her appetite and Valium (also addictive) to help her relax from the speed. To say that it made her moods erratic would be quite the understatement, and was pretty confusing to us kids!

    Later on in her too short life, she would only visit a doctor (who was a friend of a friend) who she felt wouldn’t shame her about her weight and smoking because he was a heavy man and a heavy smoker. I am by NO means saying he was a bad doctor because of those things — but she had a bureau full of pills pills and more pills and then pills to counteract the side effects of those pills (blood pressure, diuretics, blood thinners, inhalers and fucking Vioxx) so I was pretty concerned. Any attempt to talk to her about getting a second opinion was met with “No, I know what they’ll tell me.” And I have to wonder … if I had been magically able to get her to the best doctors in the world (whatever the hell that means) Would she have been able to put down her defenses and then listen to their advice? Shit, I’ll never know. But I do know that fighting with her about it until her (suddenly) last day was not the way I would have preferred to have our relationship play out.

  27. Beautiful and naked and very moving. Thank you.
    And between the lines I also read “shame killed her”. Let us learn from that and get rid of some shame. And help othert get rid of theirs.

  28. Thanks for sharing your and your mother’s story, Thorn. Beautifully written and brave, and most definitely something all of us, fat or not, need to hear as often as possible. Kindness never killed anyone. We’ll never go wrong being kind, being patient, having a little blessed empathy for others.

  29. I would like to add that I almost died of DVT myself seven years ago. I wasn’t fat, I was pregnant. And everything that happend to my body those months was called “pregnancy”. My hips, my back, my swelling legs. But it was DVT.

  30. I’m very sorry for your loss.

    Even though I am a fat activist with a supportive partner who comes with me to doctor visits, and even though I have told each and every one of my doctors, in writing, that deliberate weight loss efforts are not going to be part of my treatment plan, they bring it up anyway. One comment about my weight or one momentary disgusted look on a doctor’s face will add months to the period between visits. I know they are my employees, but the societal pressure for me to feel that they are authorities over me is really strong.

    And if it’s this hard for me, I know how much harder it must be for people who don’t have the fat-acceptance knowledge I have. Something really must be done. I wish I knew what.

  31. Thorn, I’m so sorry. Your story is heartbreaking.

    (I’ve had DVT, and luckily got it diagnosed in time – although not before I took it on holiday to Belgium and back. I suspect, without much evidence, it had been misdiagnosed as a pulled muscle at some point because the doctors thought young active people don’t get clots. Everyone: If your legs are different colours, go to the hospital.)

  32. Please, please, please copy this on to disk, on to paper, onto another disk, tucked in a diary, and hard copied on to some more paper. This needs to be published. In a book. In a book that gets a library call number, and sold in stores, and distributed on paper and as a download and on whatever winds up being the way people read books on hand-helds.

    Please, please save this. This needs to be read and remembered, and remain as part of the literature of fat people’s culture.

  33. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. I lost my mother in January and I think I know what that white-hot rage feels like. (I can also tell you that time does help a little bit, and you will find your way through this.)

    I know that many people here are really responding to the doctor aspect of this story, which is so shameful and unsettling it truly needed to be told, and certainly it’s the foremost issue here.

    What also resonated with me, though–and my own mother’s experience–was the part about “following the rules” and dieting, only to find that the rules didn’t work. My mother tried everything to lose weight, including two stomach stapling surgeries. She was lucky enough to have a sympathetic doctor she liked and saw on a regular basis, but her body went through a lot over the years and through all the efforts.

    She never learned to be healthy at her size. She didn’t eat well or exercise because for her these things were punishments that didn’t “work” since she couldn’t lose/keep off the weight. When she got cancer she wasn’t in a very good condition to fight it, because by then, failed dieting and the weight problems that came with it had convinced her that her body was a lost cause.

    I hate that. I’m still angry about that. I can’t be angry at a doctor or point to any one thing that should’ve been different, that would have given her more time. But I’m angry that fat has been so misunderstood so many years, because that ignorance definitely took its toll on my mother.

  34. Thank you for sharing this. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    I identify with a lot of what you said here, right down to the damn Weight Watchers scale that sat on the counter in our kitchen when I was growing up (and the generic scale that sits on my own kitchen counter now).

  35. I’m so sorry for your loss, Thorn. I wish I knew you personally so I could give you a hug.

    My father, who was a lifelong smoker, died of oesophageal cancer when I was 24. By the time the cancer spread to his liver, he was almost unrecognisable because of the consuming nature of the disease and, for the first time in his life, he wasn’t fat. For the last 2 weeks of his life he had a plastic tube inserted down his throat in order to take what little nourishment he could manage. The hospital told him he had to drink carbonated drinks in order to flush out any possible blockages in the tube. The thing that still kills me after all these years is that he automatically asked my mum to bring him diet sodas – a reflex action born of a lifetime of atoning for the heinous sin of being fat.

  36. I can not believe this.

    I mean, I can believe it. Of course I can believe it, but I simply CAN’T believe it.

    From that point on, whenever she got sick or injured and someone suggested she go see a doctor, she brushed them off. “Oh, they’re just going to tell me I’m too fat. Don’t worry, it’s just a cold/a sprain/a whatever. I’ll be fine.”

    Broke my heart.

    I am going to post a link to this in my Livejournal. It’s not much, but people need to read this.

    I second the comment that you should publish it. It’s very, very hard to make tears come to my eyes, and this made tears come to my eyes.

  37. Thorn, I’m so sorry for your loss. I wish that you could feel the comfort and sisterhood that I would like to offer you. If you’re ever in the Atlanta area, there are hugs awaiting you, if you want them.

    I’m also incensed, but not surprised, by the malpractice that resulted in your mother’s death. Please, for the sake of the doctor’s other victims, write up the same story as a letter to the doctor, using your mother’s legal name, of course. The doctor isn’t terribly likely to change his ways, at this point, but he should know what he’s done.

    Considering sending a letter to the editors of newspapers in the area where he practices, as well. It would be lovely to see printouts of this essay on bulletin boards all over the area, wherever women would see it – churches, gyms, grocery stores, daycare centers, co-ops, schools, senior citizens’ centers, you name it.

    The more people who read your mother’s story, the better. If even one person gets decent health care instead of accepting “come back when you’ve lost weight,” it’ll be worth it.


  38. I’m so sorry for the loss of your mother, Thorn. Thank you for sharing her story.

    I remember bursting into tears at the doctor’s office about 10 years ago…because she was kind to me. Simply kind. She did a comprehensive physical and asked about all sorts of things not related to my weight. For the first time at the doctor since becoming fat, I felt like I was actually receiving health care, not just scolding for being fat. It was so transformational to be treated with care and kindness rather than hostility and shame, I was overwhelmed with emotion.

    All people deserve respectful health care. I’m so sorry that your mother wasn’t treated with the kindness and dignity that she deserved. Thank you, thank you for sharing her story. I hope that the appreciation of so many strangers is a small comfort to you in your grief.

  39. My condolences to you on your loss. I know how hard it is to lose a parent.

    I too wish that every doctor ad med student and health professional would have this as required reading. Perhaps a whole book of these stories compiled – I’m sure there’s more than enough. Sadly.

  40. Oh, Thorn, I wish so much that I could give you a hug right now.

    Thank you for sharing your mother’s story. This is so important for people to see and so brave of you to write.

    My heart is broken for you and your family. Please accept my deepest condolences.

  41. I’m very deeply sorry for your loss.

    I have to say though, that jackass doctors have harmed all sizes of folks – when I was a teenager, I went to the doctor because of really severe side and back pain that started suddenly and just wouldn’t go away.

    He dismissed me with a wave of his hand, saying “It’s just your period.”

    10 years later, a better doctor diagnosed the real problem: Kidney stones, that because they hadn’t been treated a decade before when they first formed, required three surgeries to remove and damn near killed me in the process.

    And like your mom, I hadn’t bothered to seek treatment in the interim because a doctor had told me it was nothing. I only discovered them when the better doctor did an ultrasound after I had six UTIs in one year.

    Screw that first doctor. He was a misogynist idiot and I hope he got an itchy rash that never went away.

  42. Peggy, my mom had a similar experience. She went to a (male) doctor for her severe depression, and he told her it was just PMS and he couldn’t help her. She didn’t have the confidence to stick up for herself and tell him it was more than that, so she continued to suffer for 20 years… until I started suffering from depression, and saw a (female) doctor who prescribed me Prozac. I convinced her to see my doctor and she got on medication that’s really helping her. But 20 years of depression because some sexist ass assumed any problem with a woman’s mood must be PMS. I’m not a violent person but I want to hurt that man (and the one who was dismissive of Thorn’s mom, what the fuck is wrong with doctors?)

  43. Thorn — much thanks for your vulnerability, and may you be showered with comfort as you deal with your grief.

    I especially liked your willingness to reveal the ambiguous feelings you’ve had about your mom — this describes perfectly the push-pull I experience with my own mom — I love her, and she drives me crazy, all at the same time.

    Your post describes the precise reason that I stopped seeing a “regular” doctor — I now visit an MD/ND — a male, which is a surprise for me — because he doesn’t give a rats ass about my weight — he cares about helping me to be healthy.

    Insurance doesn’t cover most of his services, but I’m healthier than I’ve ever been in my life, with his help, and it’s been worth every penny out of my pocket.

  44. It’s been eight years since my aunt died and I still get pissed about it. She was fat too, about the same height and size as your mom. She’d been having pain and symptoms for a looong time, but never went to see a doctor (and she worked in a fucking ICU!!! She saw docters every damned day!) because she didn’t want them to tell her it was all because of her weight. She was treating her symptoms on her own, taking samples from work. And then, when she was 42, she had a stroke. And even when she was having the stroke, she still wouldn’t go to the hospital. She had talked to her brother that morning, told him she wasn’t feeling well. He was concerned, so he asked their other brother to check on her that afternoon. And so, nearly five hours after her stroke started, her younger brother gets her on the phone, hears her slurred speech and freaks out. He gets her to the hospital, but by then it was too late. She died less than a week later, after having another series of strokes that left her pretty much a vegetable.

    They found out, via autopsy, that she had an undiagnosed autoimmune disease. It was causing her blood to clot and destroying her blood vessels. She’d likely had it for years, up to as many as 20 years, undiagnosed. If she’d been diagnosed? The treatment is one pill, one small, stupid, ridiculously inexpensive pill, once a day. But she wouldn’t go to the doctor, because she was so very ashamed of being fat.

    Doctors tried to do the same to me, too. I’d been sick for years, but they couldn’t find anything wrong with me. Just told me I needed to lose weight and learn to relax. Gave me antidepressants. For years this went on and finally? I got tired of putting myself through it. So I stopped going to doctors too. And then my aunt died and, once I got over being horribly sad, I got mad. Extremely mad.

    And I finally, finally found a doctor who would listen to me. (And yes, like so many others, I started to sob in her office because I was so expecting her to dismiss me.) And within a month, I was diagnoised with Lupus and Fibromylgia. My test scores were so high initially that they were afraid I was having organ damage. Years and years dismissed and it onlly took two doctors who were willing to listen to me, to treat me as a person, to figure out what was wrong and to start fixing me up. So now, six years later, I’m back to being healthy and happy. It’s just a shame it took my aunt’s death to get me here.

  45. About 10 years ago I went to see a strange doctor whom I’d picked out of book when I changed jobs and got new insurance.

    I had just lost 20 pounds. He looked at me and said, “you didn’t gain all that weight through immaculate conception.”

    I cried all the way home.

    Six months later I read his obituary in the local paper: heart attack. I’m not sorry to say that I did gloat a bit.

    My condolences on the loss of your mother. It hurts no matter how annoying, weird, crazy, mean, or loving they were: it’s your mum.

    May you find peace.


  46. I’m not surprised by the number of comments that say this story applies to their own lives. In the past, women’s health complaints were blown off as “hysteria”. Now the excuse to ignore us is “you’re a fattie”. And, unfortunately, because doctors are regarded as authorities, too many of us have bowed our heads and believed that WE were the problem, not them.

    I wish we had a way to reach out to people who don’t know that it’s not okay to be treated this way by their doctors, to help them advocate for themselves instead of suffering in ashamed silence. I guess that’s what we are all here for, though, right? We should talk about this to our friends, sisters, mothers, and if they’re experiencing the same, bolster their confidence, and help them realize they DO deserve medical care for their real medical problems, no matter what their body size is.

  47. I read this entire story.
    I want to read all of the comments, but I myself am going through some tough things right now..
    And while I very much enjoy reaching out to complete strangers and offering what little advice I am good for, this night is not the night for that.
    I would like to say thank you for sharing this story.
    It is truely touching. I may have my own mother read it, considering she has much of the same issue, shame, and just as little self-worth if I may.
    I hope that you know your mother is in heaven smiling at the way you speak of her now.
    And she does know you love her, just as much as she is still loving you.

  48. This is reminiscent of a conversation I’d had with a good friend of mine concerning Biomedical Ethics and how it’s not a requirement for future doctors to take prior to getting that acclaimed MD attached to their name.

    Perhaps if an ethics course was required, doctors would think to be more careful of what they tell their patients.

    I know quite a few fat people (of varying shapes and sizes) who have varying degrees of how they accept and are able to cope with it. I can’t say, though, that I’ve met anyone that necessarily let their Fat Guilt debilitate them to a degree. It’s sad to read, yes, but also quite interesting to read.

    I think that this serves as an eye-opener for people that are used to the Beth Dittos or Anna Nicoles (those seemingly without Fat Guilt who choose to embrace it and use it as a strength) of the world. While it won’t make people more sensitive to the plight of fat people of the world (they’re possibly the easiest targets), perhaps it will make people more careful of what comes out of their mouths.

  49. I am so sorry for your loss. It’s such a horrible, unfair story. There’s nothing I can say to make it any better. I am sorry, though.

    What I have to add doesn’t parallel it in severity obviously, but I thought I should add my own experiences to the discourse. I’ve suffered from a rare and life-threatening respiratory disease for nearly ten years now (since I was in my late teen years). While I always struggled my weight, I crossed the 200 lb. mark due to steroids. Once I got truly fat, I couldn’t get doctors to take my disease seriously anymore. I was literally passing out from lack of oxygen at one point because they refused to acknowledge the severity to which my breathing had become compromised. All they could see was the weight *that they had caused me to gain.* Although my graduate school performance never suffered in terms of grades, the in-class difficulties I faced were never excused because I was – let’s face it – considered ugly. Life was hell. When I got a spot of melanoma, I had a doctor leave a ragged, keloid 5-inch scar with stitch marks (prone to infections and splitting open) instead of using a skin expander like she should have because, what did it matter? It would be covered with clothes. God forbid I ever want to take them off in front of someone. I’ve been starving myself at about 600-800 calories for several years to get to a low weight where my collarbones and cheekbones pop and my stomach is flat. I’m not underweight, but I look thin now (calories in, calories out, my ass-I should be invisible). My disease, at this weight, makes me look nearly as sick as I am, all black circles and veins and frailty. And, finally, I get proper medical treatment without judgment. In other words, I have to hurt my body to get it help. Nice world we live in, huh?

  50. I’d like to join the chorus thanking you for sharing this and giving condolences. This is so beautifully written and really communicates the real injustice of the situation. I was quite moved by how much you love your mother and how much you hurt for her; it is a moving reminder that we are all human beings, not just hunks of flesh, no matter how others treat us.


  51. Thorn, I’m so sorry for you loss. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. My deepest condolences go out to you.

  52. I’m 54 years old, ‘morbidly obese, and I haven’t seen a doctor in four years. The last time I went was when I had taken a six mile hike, gotten covered with tick’s and developed Lyme Disease. By the time I got to the Doctor, I’d been running a 102-3 degree fever for almost two days and my blood tests came back with elevated liver enzymes. Immediately, and despite that I had saved all the ticks that bit me, he said the spike in liver enzymes was due to chronic gall bladder disease secondary to morbid obesity. He wanted to take my gall bladder out! But since I’m a nurse and it was my dime, I told him to treat me for Lyme and (to be on the safe side) ehrlichiosis, another tick-borne disease. Grudgingly, he did so. Voila! A week later I was nearly 100 percent cured and a month later my liver panel showed normal values across the board. I remain fat, healthy and active to this day.

    What fat woman hasn’t gone into a Doc’s office only to hear him say, “You know, you’re very overweight!”. It doesn’t matter what you’re REALLY there for, whether you have poison ivy or tennis elbow or got a piano dropped on your foot! No, no, the first thing the Doc has to tell you is that you’re FAT. Like you don’t already know. Like you’ve lived in a house without mirrors for fifty years and never caught a glance of yourself.
    “Gee Doc, but for you I would never have known I was fat. Thanks, Doc, from the bottom of my fat, old heart.!”

    -Maggie Kampp

  53. This is the exact thing that scares me, my mother is about the same size yours was. She is always depressed, talking about herself (in reference to her weight) as ‘a giant waste of space’ like nothing she does is meaningful because she’s fat. She’s a smoker, a drinker, and one of those people that spread themselves so thin they barely have time to think. Everytime she tries to fix one area she magnifies another problem, she tries to stop smoking and gains more weight, she tries to lose weight and ends up working even more, she tries to work less and ends up drinking and smoking more.
    Every doctor she’s ever been to has told her that she needs to lose not 50 but 80lbs. So like your mother she doesn’t go to the doctor unless her problem is serious, the last time she’s been to a doctor was when she had an ear infection that she let get so bad it affected her balance and couldn’t walk without the room feeling like it was spinning. The first thing the doctor said to her was “Ma’am you seriously need to lose weight”.
    I’m only 20,my mother is only 45 and I’m already afraid that the same thing will happen to my mother before I can give her grandchildren.

  54. I am furious at the way fat people are treated by the medical profession. Screw those rude doctors. I wish we could get a whole new batch of fat-positive doctors out there to treat people. Aren’t there any at all?

  55. My sister had a horrible time with lots of doctors when she was bigger- she was in and out of hospital for a long time before she got a doctor who took her seriously (probably because that doctor was also quite big).

    I’ve just qualified as a RN, and having seen what my sister went through, I swear I will *never* treat any of my patients like that, whether they’re overweight or have any of the the problems commonly thought of as “self-inflicted”. Unfortunately, despite the mandatory ethics course, I can’t say the same for all my classmates.

  56. Thorn,

    This is a brave piece of writing. Thank you for demonstrating the courage to share it. My most sincere condolences on the loss of your mother.


  57. I am sitting here crying for you and your mother. And I hate that doctor. I haven’t met him, but he helped kill your mother and I hate him.

    I am about your mother’s size and it is difficult to live in a world that has decided that you are bad because your body is out of style. I am so lucky that my slender little doctor is not a fat hater, never tells me I need to lose weight because she can see that dieting doesn’t work for me. How I wish that your mother could have had a doctor like mine.

    There is nothing that I can say that will make this any better. Just know that there are many and many and many of us who stand with you and would gladly throw rotten eggs at that doctor.

  58. I’m a (fat) medical student and my dream is to open a fat-friendly practice built on health at every size principles…. we deserve good medical care just like everybody else.

  59. I’m so sorry for your loss. My father died in January. We didn’t have the easiest of relationships, either, but I still miss him terribly.

  60. Please accept my condolences for the loss of your mother. I hope telling your mother’s story brings you a measure of peace, knowing that many other people share your anger at the callousness of that doctor.

  61. My mom had an experience so close to your mom’s that I can completely empathize, except…my mom survived. The tragic part is, she still tries to follow those rules because she believes it was the doctors who saved her, but I beleive it was the doctors and fat-hate that nearly killed her. I am so sorry for you and your mom and your loss and pain. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

  62. What Wendy said.

    A friend just lost a child this weekend, and the big similarity between that child’s story and your mom’s was that they were both “following the rules”. Perhaps there are too many of us that do that when maybe the *expletive deleted* rules just weren’t made for people like “us”.

    My deepest condolences for your loss.

  63. My friend had always been overweight, and was moderately active, and ate well. She was just overweight, and I rarely heard her use it as an excuse to get out of anything. She was well used to being given grief for her size, and she did not accept that as an excuse for her medical afflictions. She always wanted a real why, not just ‘it’s your weight’.

    Unfortunately, over the years, due to her insistence on being informed, as well as the bad luck of getting injured fairly often, we regarded her as somewhat of a hypochondriac.

    Her doctors didn’t stand up to her, they never actually listened to her or held a discussion. They simply acquiesced with yet another prescription and sent her on her way.

    She died last year – due to an adverse reaction between medications.

    It wouldn’t be her weight. She was right one final time.

  64. This post just touched me so much. I don’t know what to say except I’m sorry, maybe? But for what – the loss of your mother, surely, but for the medical world that treated her as inferior because of her weight, for the thousands of ways that fat people are degraded and abused every day in every forum, for the fatness itself? I am fat and sorry for it every day, and the more of these fat acceptance blogs I read, the more I wonder why I feel like I must hate myself and my body so much. I wonder why I am embarrassed to go places, to try on clothes, to put on makeup and try to look pretty, to be naked. Because I’m still a person, right? I still deserve that. Your mom deserved that, too – that respect that she didn’t get from that doctor. I guess I did have a lot to say (as usual, I tend to run on a lot)…

  65. Oh my word-I am so sorry. I struggle with my weight. I’m by no means fat, but my family has humiliated me time and again and tried to break up my marriage (his family is rather large and so is he), but I don’t care what they think. I think weight is number and it’s the heart that matters most. Your mother sounds like a woman I would have loved to know. I sure hope that doctor feels soooo proud of himself (arrogant idiot). I know you probably won’t find consolation, but know that there are those of us who don’t see fat when we look at people. Rather we see beautiful eyes, loving gestures, wonderful voices….I wish I had known her…..

  66. At the end of last summer, I saw a friend I hadn’t seen for a few months. She’d lost a radical amount of weight in less than three months; I’d estimate 40 or more pounds. She’d gone from probably a size 12, pushing 14, to a stick figure.


    Her doctor told her that if she didn’t lose weight, she’d be dead in five years. So she followed that rule.

    Now, I have no idea what her health issues were. I presume she had symptoms and not just a little padding on the thighs. I’d hate to think her doctor would have told her such a thing if she was asymptomatic, but after reading these posts, I don’t know. And now I wonder if her actual health problems (if any) are being treated, or if they were just “treated” with weight loss!

    By the way, she gained back a little weight and no longer looks quite so skeletony. She’s probably about a size 8 now.

  67. I’m so very sorry and saddened… I am hoping that good can come from sharing your mom’s story. My condolences…

  68. I am so sorry about your mom…..you and your family are in my thoughts.

    I was very moved by this post, I am about the same size, and have been treated poorly by doctors because of my weight.

    ((((Tender hugs))))

  69. I am so sorry for your loss. Please accept my sympathy and prayers that you will forgive yourself and your mother. Death when there are unresolved issues is so much harder. Mary

  70. As I read this I thought that your story sounded something like my mom’s except my dad passed when I was 15 and I think my mom was so depressed she used “food” to help her feel better. I went to visit her once a week and called her a few times but being in another state and taking care of 3 kids , she didn’t want to “bother me”
    I am so sorry for your loss.

  71. i’m so sorry for ur loss. the way u described ur mom was a tribute to her, i know i would have like her. there is no excuse for the way she was treated. as someone that used to weigh 288 myself, i know the descrimination and pain she felt. as for her dr, i believe in karma –

  72. A tragedy on so many levels. My thoughts and prayers are with you, and your family. I would like to think your Mom is in a better place where EVERYONE is treated with respect.

    I for one would send this to the M.D. who shamed your Mother.

    Shame is a terrible, terrible, terrible feeling.


  73. I’m not going to deny your mother’s pain, or your anger, or discrimination against fat people. But do want to add that DVTs can be tricky. My 39 yo daughter, who is not obese, developed one after a 2 hour plane flight, not drinking enough fluids, and standing in heels at a workshop the day before the flight, stressing her legs. She manages a medical practice and knows the symptoms, but like your mom, self-diagnosed and made excuses. By the time she finally was diagnosed, the pain had eased–because the clot was traveling up her thigh ready for her lungs or heart.

  74. I’m sorry for your loss. None of my Dr’s have told me that I need to loose weight, I usually end up telling them I know I need to loose weight. It’s too bad some Dr’s don’t know how hard it is to do. I dreaded (and still do) going to the Dr’s, because I hate to stand on that scale, but I know there are different measures of health, and weight is just one factor.

    A co-worker’s previous manager died this past week of colon cancer. He was only in his early 50’s, and didn’t know why he got cancer when he ate right and exercised nearly daily. You just never know when and how it will happen, and even “normal” weight people can have something blindside them too.

    Again, I’m sorry for your loss, and do know the discrimination overweight and obese people face, as I’m one of them too.

  75. i’m terribly sorry to hear this…. it made me so sad….how dare anyone make someone feel so bad for being overweight….so bad that it may have lead to their death….. i hope the medica community reads this and i hope the doctor who said that to her reads it….. shame on him…..i hope the support and well wishes from all of us strangers helps a little bit…..

  76. Doctors are known for telling people to lose weight. People are obsessed with weight loss, our whole society is. When I was pregnant, my doctor made it a point to make sure I didn’t gain more than a certain amount. Of course, regardless of my efforts, I still gained too much.

  77. I just winced when I read your Mom’s story. It pisses me off that doctors act like that. Thats why people are afraid to go, they dont want to be judged and critisized. I have worked with many doctors and the ones that are like the one your mom had trust in dont have as many patients as the ones who realize that people are just human and have flaws. From personal experience dealing with infertility and being over weight it took a doctor one time to say something about my weight and then promise not to bring it up again, only to bring it back up several more times. He was an 7 letter word that I think you could figure out. I stopped going to him and found a doctor who accepted me as I am.

    I am very sorry for your loss. Hugs to you.

  78. Thank you for the story, and the lesson. If I get a doctor like that I will keep looking until I find something better! Thinness is not in my genes but I managed it once (severe food poisoning). I had to water down seven up because it was too harsh on my stomach, I would be starving but afraid to eat anything because it might set off my stomach. People were telling me how great I looked. I was terrified, all I could think about was Thinner. I was also pissed, I thought about “sharing the wealth” with those who wanted “my secret”. I kept going to the gastroenerologist who told me I was too fat and needed to lose weight. I finally quit going. Gradually, after three years I improved. I try to eat healthy and I walk but I will never starve myself again. I have no scale. I don’t miss being light headed, weak, or having headaches one bit!. I hope all the doctors out there listen up!! Bless you and your mom, I hope she’s smiling down at you in her well loved sequined dress.

  79. I just want to add my condolences, however late they may be. I know exactly how your mother felt. And so does my mother, my brother and my dad. We are all fat and we all hate going to the doctor to get the constant lectures that we will be magically cured of everything that ails us once we lose the weight. THE WEIGHT. Blah blah blah. My brother never goes to the doctor unless he needs stitches for something like when he accidentally fell on a knife and it poked a hole in his face. My mom tried to get help from the doctors for years and they just shook their heads and said they couldn’t figure out what was wrong until she had to be transfused with blood a number of times. Now she lives with painful edema that won’t go away and the doctors just tell her to lose weight and it will go away. My dad is afraid to go under the knife to get a defibulator for his heart and I don’t blame him, even though it might save his life. But did I mention that the reason his heart isn’t working right is because he was afraid to go to the doctor a few years ago after a cold kept bothering him and he ended up with congestive heart failure and a stay in the hospital. And me. I try to avoid the doctor as much as possible. I don’t get yearly pelvic exams even though I know I should. They look at me and tell me they don’t know if they’ll be able to even give me a pelvic because I am so fat so I have to lay there and be humiliated while they try to shove their instruments inside of me so that it hurts and I never want to go back. So, yeah, I understand and I’m sorry. I wish there was something I could do to ease your pain. Thank you for sharing.

  80. I’m so touched by this post – and appalled at the doctor’s attitude. That poor woman.

    I can understand a little of what she went through – I’m in my mid twenties, suffer from PCOS /infertility and am a UK size 20. All the doctors ever say is “lose weight and you’ll get pregnant”. Which, frankly, is complete bollocks. It just isn’t that simple.

    Thank you so much for sharing – it’s made me more determined than ever to stand up to the people forever trying to point me towards dieting and guilt. Yes, I’m fat, I admit it. But I’m happy, which is a damn sight more than half these twig-like girls seem to be.


  81. I am so sorry for your loss. I am appalled by the doctor’s attitude. I do not think that anyone should be treated scathingly by someone in a service profession and doctors swear to serve. I am so sorry your mother took those word into her heart instead of throwing them away. I also want to say though it may seem obvious that it’s not your fault. You are not responsible for your mother’s choice. You can try to influence them but I think it is particularly hard for a daughter to get her mother to change.

    I also want to say to you and others who have written that unfortunately this poor standard of medical care is not confined to fat people. I have been treated very insensitively and given terrible medical care by a variety of doctors because I have disabilities and my son has disabilities. These doctors treat me as if I have cognitive impairments as well as physical impairments. I do not. My son literally almost died at birth due to a doctor not listening to me or the nurse who pointed out there was a problem.

    After this I learned that treating doctors more as experts on a particular field than as experts on me helps. I feel that a doctor who doesn’t listen to me can not give me effective medical care as I know myself and my son best. It’s fine if a symptom turns out to be nothing but a good doctor explains why I don’t need to worry in terms I can understand. A doctor who just dismisses my concerns means that I see another doctor. I have saved my son’s life several times since then by insisting there was a problem and each time unfortunately it has turned out to be a real problem often life threatening.

  82. The tears have not stopped running down my face. I wished I knew the right thing to say. I just want to say how sorry for your loss and your families. I am so sorry for your mother’s pain. She reminds me of me and that is why it hit me so hard. I have had numerous doctors tell me that if I would just lose the weight….if it were that easy. Your story really inspires me to be my own health care advocate and not let a doctor tell me to “just stop eating” (that is what an old OB/GYN) told me a few years back. Thank you for being so painfully open. I know that was hard. But, your story has helped me in ways that you couldn’t even imagine. God Bless……


  83. I am so, so sorry to hear this. And I feel a sense of kinship with Thorn, too — my mother was fat all her life and got the “you need to lose weight” lecture from doctors all her life, and developed an understandable aversion to going to the doctor as a result.

    So, when she felt the lump in her breast, it was easier for her mind to persuade her it wasn’t something to worry about or to see the doctor about… The cancer was Stage 4 by the time she finally did.

    Sympathy to you and to everybody who loved your mother, Thorn.

  84. This story made me cry. My father died just 2 months ago due to a pulminary anurism. He had been over-weight my entire life. He too was often treated horribly unfair and curely because of his weight. His doctors also blamed every health symptom on his weight. About a month before he dies, he started having symptoms very similar to your mother’s: shortness of breath. He had been more active in the last two years of his life than I could remember in a long time. He had even lost weight, but the doctors were always “certain” that because of his weight, his heart must be bad. his heart was in very good shape. Not one doctor ever mentioned that blood clots could be the problem or that anything other than just being out of shape was the problem. I too am angry.

  85. I’m sorry to hear about your mother, and Elle I’m sorry to hear about your dad.

    My dad is overweight, and he went on a crazy crash diets of sorts where he only ate vegatables. He ended up having too low-blood sugar, ended up in the hospital, and then had this memory loss thing that happened as a result of all that. He’s still trying to get over it, he’s much better now though. It really made me angry to think, that he wouldn’t have done that if he wasn’t bothered by people for being overweight.

    We have a Korean doctor, who to my knowledge, has never preached any of the fat-scare stuff to us, nor treatred us any differently for being overweight. Maybe it’s cause they don’t teach fat-scare stuff in Korean medical schools. Perhaps Mashimaro, Korea’s answer to Hello Kitty, is the head of the medical establishment there. He’s a chubby little bunny, you should look up the website for him.

  86. What happened to your mother is horrible.

    Several years ago, I asked a gastroenterologist about symptoms I was having. Now, I don’t normally mention symptoms anyway, when I’m fat or before I was fat, because of other problems. But I mentioned them this time.

    He did not do an examination. He basically told me that I ate too much (I didn’t), that I obviously wasn’t following the diet I was supposed to (I was, a medical diet not a weight-loss diet — he managed to elicit the idea from me that I liked some of the foods I was prohibited, so he decided to claim that I ate them, over my protests that I didn’t), that my problems were because I was fat (I’d had them even while super-skinny), and because I was obviously sedentary and lazy (I was sedentary due to a pain condition, but I was not lazy, and I’d had the problems since back when I used to be extremely physically active).

    I asked him, “What if that’s not the problem? I had these problems when I was both skinny and active, too.”

    He snapped, “That’s what it always is for everybody else.” Then he slammed the door in my face and stomped away.

    Two years later I had emergency gallbladder surgery because the symptoms were of the early-onset gallbladder disease that runs in my family. My gallbladder had produced two large stones and shut down entirely by the time the surgeon got in there. He was furious and said he was going to send an angry letter to the gastroenterologist.

    And this time, I had not said a word to anyone about the pain. I had just gotten quieter and quieter. I’d learned long before that that people don’t believe me when I report pain (I don’t always have the proper agonized facial expressions even in severe pain, and I often got the “fat and lazy” response, or the “mentally incompetent” response, from doctors), so I’d decided it was all in my head. I didn’t show a normal pain response even when poked in an area that definitely hurt. They almost didn’t do the right tests because I wasn’t showing enough signs of pain, they did them as an afterthought and were shocked by what they saw.

    But it doesn’t always turn out that well, obviously. I wish they’d get a clue that this is not trivial and people are dying.

  87. This is intense and I’m very grateful you shared it. I’m very lucky to live in a big city (NYC) where it’s been easy to find feminist medical providers so I have never had this dismissive attitude from doctors. I hope anyone reading this even in less urban areas will consider looking in the phone book or on the internet for female-positive health centers, or planned parenthood, or another source that can refer them to doctors who are more progressive. Where I go is the Callen-Lorde medical center in the West Village, they are queer-run and focus on providing non-judgmental medical care to the queer community but they also welcome all orientations if you want to check them out. They charge on a sliding scale (you pay less if you make lower income).

  88. I don’t think I’ve ever cried at a blog post before, but your story really got to me. (I’ve also been lurking on this blog for a few weeks now, but the link back to this post today is the first time I’ve really felt the need to post.) I just wanted to say thank you for posting your story. And I’m so sorry about your mom. I’m sorry for the way she lived in shame and fear, and I’m sorry for the way she died.

    Your story reminded me in just the vaguest way of my dad, who had always had intestinal problems. So when it got worse, he didn’t bother going to see a doctor, because doctors had never been able to help him before. But this time, it was cancer. And by the time he finally went to a doctor, it was too late. He only lived six more weeks. Obviously not the same thing, but I wanted to let you know that I understand your anger and frustration with the medical establishment that made your mom feel the way she did.

  89. This is such a sad story, and I’m so sorry to hear what happened to your mom, Thorn.

    I’m bigger-than-average (a UK 18) and have been very, very lucky with doctors, from some of the horror stories I hear from other big women…a work colleague of mine says her doc looks nothing short of disgusted every time her cholesterol turns out to be perfectly normal! Still, I dread ever having to go to my doc with anything that could be construed as obviously weight-related.

    And I’m sorry about your mother, Lexica. I’ve read somewhere, I forget exactly where, that this is all too common – that higher rates of breast cancer deaths in larger women may be less to do with estrogen and much more to do with their reluctance to go for mammograms because of how they may be treated.

    I’d like to think we could expect better of the medical profession, but here in the UK our ‘wonderful’ NHS is now refusing treatment to the obese for some complaints. So much for universal healthcare!

  90. One thing you can do when a doctor gives you this kind of grief is to complain. If you don’t have what it takes to complain during your visit — I don’t blame you, it’s not easy to summon up a lot of dignity and authority while wearing one of those gowns — write a letter to the doctor, calmly detailing what you heard him or her say and what care you did not feel you received. Copy the letter to the state medical board (and the president of the practice, if it’s a group).

    Then go to healthgrades.com, vimo.com, ratemds.com and revolutionhealth.com. All these sites let you “rate a doctor”. Do this also for any doctors who are kind, considerate and competent.

  91. Thank you.

    I could be your mother, with the exception that I aggressively *demand* competent health care. But all of the rest of it – my heart bleeds for your mom, who deserved better. Thank you for posting this.

    And thank you for this, from your next installment:
    “In case anyone was curious, so far as I can tell there is no event so emotionally devastating that you can’t make it worse by calling someone on the carpet in front of other people to lecture them about how fat they are.”

    I (unfortunately) anticipate the opportunity to use your words.


  92. I .. wow.. I am not sure what to say.. in many ways I could relate to that essay.. only I am the short fat one.. my mom is thin… we love each other .. and on good days we get along great .. but on bad days.. well… not so much.. I know how her mom felt.. I know when someone gives you that look.. I once had a doctor ask me if I knew I was obese.. ya.. thanks for the tip doctor asshat.. anyhow.. that was a sad yet all too true essay ..

  93. I went to the docs many times since age 13 for very bad and painful periods. I mean so bad I’d pass out.
    By the itme i was in my 20s I wa son the pill which made me gain weight so i stopped, as i already had a weight problem.
    Subsequenlty visits to the doc about it usualy reuslted in going on about my weight, even thoguh the weight flucutated wildly. SO twhen I was taking illegal amphetamines every day to diet, and drinking vodka, and my weight was lower i was congratulated for being healthy and told the periods woudlld regulate theselves soon. When i was teetotal and eating right and the weight was up I was told the periods were caused by weight.
    Eventulaly i found a doc who looked at the whole mess and while she didnt find any cause for it, she did say it was not cuased by weight, and said also that i cant have children – but that if it was known and addressed earlier (I was 40 by then) I could have been treated for fertility and had children.
    So I had a serious problem with my fertility since puberty and the docs just ignored it to concentrate on weight.

  94. This is almost EXACTLY EXAAACTLY what happened to my second mother, my best friend’s mom Kathy. Right down to the blood clots. Right down to the nervousness about being in public. Everything.

    I want to show this to my best friend but I don’t know if she is ready yet. I know I wasn’t. I may in a year or so.

    Thank you.

  95. Thorn, thank you for sharing this story with us. I’m sorry to hear about your mother.

    Like others I had a similar experience to your mother’s. When I was in college my uni doctor told me I was “disgusting” and he even fudged what some medical test results meant to prove that I was going to die from being so fat. Thankfully between my mother the nurse and the internet, I figured out quickly what he’d done. When I became lucky enough to finally get health insurance I went to a Dr. S here in town, who gave me an emergency EKG in the office one day when I went in complaining of acid reflux. When my EKG turned out “perfect” she sounded disappointed. Even though I was on Weight Watcher At Home at the time, she insisted I go to meetings and didn’t want to see me again until I went.

    So I went for years without going to the doctor. Finally 2 1/2 years ago I got sick with something vague and have stayed sick since. I went to the ER and a new doctor, both of whom thought I was crazy. It took a LOT for me to go to a 3rd doctor, but I finally did a couple months ago.

    Now the new doctor is a gem. He doesn’t think I’m crazy and he’s testing for things that other doctors should have done years ago. But it took 10 years for me to get here, and it was hard and sad and discouraging.

    One of the biggest problems I had was with some people on FA groups, who were quite entitled when it came to health care. They had some extreme views of what they were deserved and it was easy for them to go into a medical situation and fuss and fight and demand what they felt they were owed. In turn, they would say WE were the problem because we “let” medical professionals walk all over us. Your points in this story really speak to the truth of the matter, that not everyone is in a place where they can be the squeaky wheel, and that doesn’t mean that they deserve to be mistreated or demeaned. No one does.

  96. I only just stumbled across this story today so express my feelings for your loss rather belatedly.
    I have been overweight for about 20 years and was told by a doctor that if I didn’t lose weight I would not live to see 40. I am now 46 so I guess he was wrong! Joking aside, I have never been back to a doctor since. That’s not quite true. There was one time when I was feeling some pain in my privates and I self diagnosed testicular cancer. I tend to do that sort of thing. Anyway, I went to a doctor and when he came into the surgery I noticed his expression. It was obvious what he thought about the fat blob sitting on his exam table. He made me drop my pants, after I had explained my fear and the pain. He even made a funny muffled laugh or ahem type noise when he felt my testicles. I hated this man for how he made me feel. Yes, that was definitely the last time I saw a doctor. Oh, and he told me to lose weight before I left. It turned out I had a pinched nerve in my back and the ciatica type pain can often cause hurt in the testicle area for men.
    I have tried over and over to lose weight but ALWAYS fail. I know I eat too much but I can’t help it. Until a few years ago I used to train at the gym so while I remained heavy I at least stayed strong and reasonably fit for my size. After changing cities and losing contact with friends I have gone downhill and now do NO exercise and have really piled on the weight. This has increased my feelings of depression and self loathing.
    This brings me to your point about the suffering your mother felt at being scorned by others about her weight issue. I too notice the sideways glances and the sniggering. It eventually forces one back into a very small world until that world is simply the inside of your home. I am there now. I hardly go out and at 46 my joints and muscles are now feeling the effects of my 20 year weight gain.
    Once again I am sorry for all the obese people out in the world who suffer on a daily basis from not on;ly their own self loathing but from the unsolicited nasty vile that many people spew in our direction.

  97. Your mission, has only just begun. After reading this ‘reality’ blog, I’m just overflowing with so much to say. First of all, how the true depth of this trajedy is so neatly hidden. To compare it to the tip of an iceburg, may still be an understatement. 20 years later? You still carry this resentment. 20 years….of punishing yourself, and unknowingly those around you. 20 years of ‘those around you’ having no outlet, other than to absolve their frustrations onto their own loved ones, etc…. How easily 1 statement, can affect so many peoples lives, happiness, and progressive productivity. Lets not ignore how ”on the job” productivity is hugely affected. An unclear mind, is an inefficient mind….making decisions accordingly. See how this small vein on the underside of that iceburg just keeps growing? Imagine this massive chain of people operating throught their lives in a ‘respected’ environment. One where their dignity was promoted, rather than demoted. Ahh, the inventions and progress that flourish in a positive environment. The health and wealth that a well oiled ‘machine’ can produce. Everyone, so many years later, is still missing the point. Health….is a state of mind, not to be determined by POUNDS. Every human being has physical deficiencies, even those same doctors. The ones whos superior education, leads them to bite at the ”results”, rather than the ”cause”. Imagine if we all blamed the teller for losing the money in a bank robbery. Oh, thats right, we already do. You get mugged, you shouldn’t have been walking the streets (going home from work), or at least ”in that part of town”! Raped? you bet you deserved that! look what you do to bring it on. Dressing, walking and acting like a female and all. … I’d like to go on…book-like as a matter of fact. or..Speechlike as in addressed to all the leadership of our world, who make and enforce these laws accordingly. But I believe you get my message. That’s why you (we all) are confused. It’s because the ”proper” alternatives….no longer exist. They have been bought out, and shut down, even the documentation gathered and destroyed. All in the name of greed. Even doctors who do understand whats going on here, cannot work in their trade in that way, as HMO’s have control of every instrument, and every room, in every hospital, as well as every medicine ever dug up in your back yard…. or ‘invented’ (as they like to claim)’. Look at yourselves, and those around you, how many are on some medication or other. How many are classified as ill in some respect or other. Our kids, suddenly have all these illnesses, and are dependent on drugs from the time they start school??? Give me a break! we are now the sickest civilization known in history. And how much did this cost us, in sorrow, death, lost wages, lost homes, lost college tuitions, then theres the trillions, in 100% free ‘grants’, research etc, How about the orginizatioin created to look out for us..FDA, has fine people representing the american medical association representing it?? When did that happen? More importantly, how many have or will die, due to kidney, and or liver failure. Those terms are in 90%? of cases are, in reality, due to medication toxicity. The AMA’s get out of jail free card.

    **note** to all….do away with ulcers, tumors, and early liver/ kidney failure…
    1) do not get prescribed ”time released” medication, of any sort.
    2) do drink tons of ”sink tap water”, not bottled.
    3) grind your pills between 2 spoons, then wash it down

    3 things doctors dont tell you that will save your life…do your own research, its difficult..(sources are bought out, info gathered and destroyed…) but it is out there, just in foreign countries. And these guys power, is, as we speak, infiltrating, controlling, finding and destroying that info too. Cure for cancer?…eats cancer cells at 10x the rate they grow, is in a tree in Africa, known by the AMA since the 70’s. again hidden…. subjecting our people to the very destructive chemo-therapy instead. so much more money in chemo! … enough said for now….

    To the whole family originating this post, my sincere apologies, on behalf of all mankind, for allowing this situation to exist. I’m ashamed as we all should be. Your unresolved arguments and bad feelings about your relationship with your mother…you should release them. Start a new book, not a new chapter. As none of that is your, or her fault. The situation was created via ‘all the above’. If your mother had “backup” from her doctor, if she had had any choices available. She would have been reassured that her doctors interest was really in helping her live the best possible life, just the way she was. And that would have translated to a healthy positive relationship from her – to all of you. Funny, but it would have probably led her to lose that weight, if her body was supposed to. My heart goes out to you, for all your ‘years’ of suffering. Please, just let that go. Enjoy your children, and your husband, as a much wiser woman. The benefits will be unlike anything you’ve ever known….true love! in all directions!
    Thanks for starting the ‘fire’. It was so obviously needed.
    I have much more, even the proof, and another critical thing involving pain control. I’ve been shut down and threatened over it several times…proving MYpoint! you have my email… forward at will. I’m mostly bedridden, and have the time.
    my love is with you all..

  98. BQ,

    While I appreciate some of your sentiments, telling people not to take time-release drugs of any sort is not appropriate advice. You are not acquainted with the medical records of anyone reading this, and you are not qualified (as far as I can tell) to dispense generalized medical advice. Just like you cannot determine that all fat people are unhealthy or all thin people are healthy, you cannot determine that all time-release drugs are always dangerous and will cause “ulcers, tumors and early liver/kidney failure.” Actually, the rate of liver/kidney failure from some of the more toxic (but sometimes necessary) medications is actually quite low, though the rates of this can vary according to the particular medication/dosage/etc. Please refrain from making blanket statements about how others should manage their healthcare, esp on a thread responding to the pain wrought when doctors do this.


  99. I am so so sorry. This makes me so angry! Thank you for telling us about her story. I am sure it was hard to write this.

  100. That hit home.

    When I was growing up, my mother wouldn’t go to the doctor very often. Her reason? “They’re just going to tell me I’m too fat.

    She crawled around for months with gall stones. By the time she had them removed it was just one big gallstone filling her entire gall bladder.

    After I had my first child I started getting horrible stomach pains. My husband would tell me to go to the doctor. My answer? They’re just going to tell me I’m too fat.

    It wasn’t until I started crawling on the floor from the pain that memory told me to have my husband take me to the emergency room. They removed my gall bladder three weeks later.

  101. My mother also has a WW scales standing on the kitchen counter. I think it’s 15 years since she last went to one of their meetings…

  102. I can relate to much of the original story and the subsequent comments though anyone that knows me socially or professionally would be surprised that I carry internal shame about my body and weight issues that for years I have failed to be able to deal with. Fortunately I have learned through the school of hard knocks to stand up for myself because no one else will. As a fat middle aged woman, the tendency is to be ignored, marginalized as stupid, or dismissed as a crank.

    Fortunately I have formed good relationships with my medical practitioners that only approach the issue of better health and fitness through a balanced diet and moderate exercise. Their caring and compassion comes through. I would not accept anything less.

    I really wish that folks battling weight issues could all stand up together and deal with fat hate both internally and externally. Fat discrimination is the last bastion of open and accepted prejudice left in our society. Thanks for sharing and I’m so sorry about your dear mother. She deserved so much better.

  103. Your brave, eloquent story broke my heart – I still have tears streaming down my face. It shocks me that people are treated so horrendously for something as little as their weight, and the amount of self-hatred even simply brought out here in the comments, and the amount of stories like your one is so upsetting. I just wish, so wish that women were taught to love themselves rather than judge themselves by the warped standards of society and the media.

    Thank you for sharing your story. My deepest condolences for your loss.

Comments are closed.