Please welcome guest blogger, Samantha Grace, to Fighting Fatigue. Samantha is the author of the blogs The Body ChronicandThe Only Baggage You Can Bring. Please read more about Samantha and her blogs at the end of this post.
I have a love-hate relationship with the medical profession. Maybe thats why I decided to become an attorney. Theres only two ways to be a stereotypical overachiever, right? Attorney or doctor? Knowing my disdain for doctors I think I chose the easy way out.
From the age of eight I remember starting to dread going to the doctor. My visits went from being praised for being healthy to being lectured about being overweight and then obese. When I asked (quite boldly for a child, I might add) if there was something that was causing this because I did everything my friends did and was still so much bigger than them, I was told it was in my head. I was given lecture-after-lecture, story-after-story and line-after-line about how I had to get the weight off and be more active and eat better. No one obviously listened when I said that I was the most active person I knew and ate just fine.
A young fat kid is one thing. A young fat female kid is another. Doctors would warn me about things beyond comprehension. The one warning I remembered was that a doctor told me that Id have to have some sort of needle placed in my heart if I got too fat. That helpedbeing a ten year old girlto do nothing but piss me off. I was told that I needed to eat less. When I told them what I ate I was told to cut out the fat. When I cut out the fat I was told to eat less. When I ate less I told them Id get faint. They told me it was all in my head. It was basically an abusive relationship.
When I was diagnosed with Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and later insulin resistance I felt like taking my blood work and charts to Kinkos, having them enlarged and made glossy and standing outside of the many offices of the many doctors who told me it was all in my head.
So youd think going through all of this that I would have learned to press the medical profession a little harder before settling for the status quo. Its hard when youre a fat female.
When I started having urinary tract infections chronically (or at least thats what I was told they were because I had a high white blood cell count) I was told that I needed to loose weight. When they got that out of their systems they treated me over and over (and over and over) with antibiotics. This caused a cycle of yeast infections and UTIs for a couple of years.
Eventually I broke the cycle unknowingly by trying to treat my insulin resistance and PCOS with a low carb diet. For awhile the yeast went away, then the UTIs did and I was finally normal.
On the night I got engaged, in a hotel room in Chicago, I should have had other things on my mind other than doctors. But I was in excruciating pain. No UTI ever felt like this. No yeast infection ever felt like this. No pain, no itch, no urge, no burn, no cramp ever felt like this.
Over the next year I went to gynecologists, family practitioners and urologists. I was treated for yeast infections and UTIs several times before I got diagnosed with interstitial cystitis. When I didnt look confused at the name, I told the doctors (as I had mentioned many times before but they didnt seem to hear me then) that my mother had this and I knew what it was.
So for a year I was treated with Elavil and Atarax and Elmiron and a hydrodistention. When I reported that the Elmiron didnt seem to be doing anything and my insurance didnt cover it, no one listened. So I stopped taking it. When the Elavil and Atarax didnt help anymore the doctor upped the dose. When the temporary therapeutic effects of the hydrodistention wore off I was asked if I wanted another one. When I complained about gaining nearly 40 pounds on (what I finally deduced to be) the Elavil, I was told there was nothing that could be done.
Off I was again with no real diagnosis and no real treatment plan.
Around the time when I was a newlywed unable to truly be a newlywed in bed, I finally had enough. I researched doctors and treatments. I learned about vulvodynia and pelvic floor dysfunction. I saw a specialist who told me he believes my pain stems from pelvic floor dysfunction and referred me to a nurse practitioner to help treat that and my vulvodynia. I was placed in physical therapy to retrain the muscles holding my bladder and reproductive organs. I was given options. I was even given validation that my long standing battle with gastrointestinal issues was most likely Irritable Bowel Syndrome (something the family practitioner when I was younger refused to diagnose me with).
Im finally starting to see progress. And yet its still a battle. While fighting the IC and PFD I gained the weight back that I lost and thus my insulin resistance and PCOS has come back.
I decided this year to start a blog to track my journey not because I think Im special, but because I think Im very common. Im a very common case of someone brushed off by the medical profession because Im fat and Im female. Of course I must have painIm overweight. And of course its in my head, Im female.
Over the past couple of months (and really the past two decades) Ive come up with a theory that seems to gain more support in research findings every day. I call it the Inflammation Theory. The thought is that some people have a defect which causes their bodies to overreact to certain stimuli. For people with PCOS its testosterone. For people with insulin resistance its insulin. For people with IC and IBS its something that is akin to allergies (something that Ive too battled since a very young age). These things are set off either chronically by environmental stressors or acutely which causes a chain reaction. Once the pattern is there, though, the overreaction continues whether the initial stimulus is present or not. Thus, in a person with insulin resistance if you took away the extra insulin, the body would create more. In a person with allergies, if you took away the allergen, the body would create the reaction to the allergen nevertheless. This leads to chronic inflammation. And inflammation leads to pain.
Now, as Ive stated from the start Im not a doctor. Maybe I could have tried my hand at changing the profession, but my dreams lay elsewhere. But the older I get and, as I joke, the more medical problems I gather I realize that theres a connection between each problem and the next. I know its true whether theres research or technology available to support it yet or not because I am living proof of it every day. I am my blogs titleI am The Body Chronic.
To break the cyclebasically to stop gaining new problemsI need a little help from the medical community to do so. But I also need to do my own research because it just hasnt been done yet. Thats why I started my blogto start compiling a research database so that the next woman doesnt have to do this. She can simply find a topic and read about it. She can find the sites that are best suited for her and not rely on Google and WebMD to fill in the gaps where the medical profession left town.
Its a journey and its a chronically painful and exhausting one. Its one that is probably going to consume my life. But if one person saves themselves the time that Ive invested being vigilant when the medical professionals I trusted with my care should have been, but werentwell, then my mission is complete. I may be fat and femalesomething that is often written off as a condition in and of itself, but now Im more. Im The Body Chronica body that contains a lot of hope, ideas, and support in her for the future.
Samantha Grace’s blog, The Body Chronic, creates a home on the net for support, laughter, and resources for those with PCOS, insulin resistance, interstitial cystitis, pelvic floor dysfunction, irritable bowel syndrome, vulvodynia and many more. Her other blog, The Only Baggage You Can Bring, is dedicated to her thoughts on politics, feminism, pop culture and local news. Both are updated often. She is married and lives in Michigan where she practices law full time while being a blogging superhero part time fighting injustice, inequity and idiocy through the power of cyberspace.