There are two reasons I’ve always preferred a female doctor. The first reason was for comfort. In case I needed to discuss something embarrassing I would prefer to discuss it with a woman. The second reason is that I believe a woman doctor can be a better caregiver and advocate for women because she’s a woman herself. This isn’t just a theory. I have firsthand experience — both as a patient of women doctors and as an employee. (I once held a job as a tech to a woman eye doctor and everything was done in a professional manner with high standards.) I expected no less from my own doctor.
Now it might be said my doctor and I just had a bad match personality-wise. I was an overweight regular person and she was god in her little universe of designer bags and sporty sunglasses which she wore to work. It was a little hard to see her eyes, but she said it staved off her migraines from the florescent lights. I believed her. She also had a weird habit of screeching out my test results as she floated down the hallway while I waited in the exam room with the door open. I knew this would never happen when I worked at the eye doctor. But hey, she seemed pretty excited to announce to everyone that despite how fat I was, I was not yet a diabetic. I was grateful for the good results and left her office shaking my head. We might have continued for years like this if all we had to deal with was flu shots and yearly exams, but then I landed in the hospital.
I thought I was having a heart attack but it turned out to be pancreatitis. For someone who never had spent time in the hospital or even had many tests, going through a CT scan, MRI and Xrays all within 24 hours was a bit stressful for me. When I got to go home for the weekend, I was given the advice to eat healthy — because it was probably caused by a gallstone and to see my doctor on Monday.
When Monday came, my doctor did not seem very busy considering the fact I was a squeeze-in appointment. I had seen all of my test results in My Chart and I had compiled a list of questions.
This time as soon as she entered the room, she got a phone call and argued with another doctor for fifteen minutes while I sat there. When she got off the phone, the first thing she asked was what I had for breakfast.
“Blueberries and…” She interrupted me before I could say any more.
“Oh, that’s terrible! Don’t eat those! They’re bad for your pancreas!”
“Seriously?” I found this incredulous, but I figured I could learn.
“I guess I should ask for a nutritional consult to make sure I’m eating right.”
“No, you don’t get a nutritional consult for having pancreatitis. What you need to do is eat a BRAT diet with only bananas, white rice, apples, and white bread toast. Then you need to have bariatric surgery to lose weight.”
When I left her office that day, I figured she was right. The truth is I have never in my life been on a diet. My mother was the worst-case scenario mom and drilled into me all the possible and terrible consequences of anorexia. It took me four decades of my life to realize I have the opposite of anorexia —while anorexics might look in the mirror and think they look fat, I look in the mirror and think I look pretty slim. Which is hilarious when I consider that I am the fattest veganish person I know.
I come from a long line of overweight people (we were not allowed to use the word fat in my family of origin.) My mom used to make fun of overweight people going into the store and ask if she looked that bad. I always lied respectfully and said, “No, Momma, you are much skinnier than her.”
Of course skinny, fat, overweight, thin — it’s all relative and depends on who you ask. I take comfort in the fact that the science of epigenetics has proven that whatever our grandmothers went through often affects our health too. When I look in the mirror or rather — IF I look in the mirror, I don’t focus on how fat I am, I focus on my face. I am part of a set, my mother is fat, my grandmother was fat and my great grandmother was fat and even though these women are all I’ve met in this line, I’ve heard that my great-great-grandmother was fat too. Some of these people came from Germany in the 19th century and several of these women survived the great depression and World War II rations. So the fact that I am fat is a no-brainer and a fact that I never thought of changing — until that doctor said I could never lose weight without surgery.
Something inside me changed that day. I thought about her words for two days and then I fired her. I remembered all my questions and how she hadn’t answered one of them. How she seemed to view me as just another body to carve into her image and no, thanks, I didn’t want her help.
The problem with switching doctors was that there was such a long waiting list that it took me four months to get into another one. I was waiting for my appointment with the new woman doctor when I got a letter in the mail saying my former doctor was no longer employed by the company. The letter said I was being reassigned to a man doctor. Horrors! I quickly grabbed my phone to cancel that arrangement and let them know I was moving on to another clinic, but since this clinic was so close to my house. I decided to look up this male doctor. He had some interests that went along with my mindset and health concerns so I took it as a message from the universe to take a chance on a male doctor — surely they can’t all be misogynistic patriarchs.
It had been four months since I fired my old doctor. During that time, I ate very careful — partly out of fear of getting another gallbladder attack and partially to prove that woman doctor wrong. I stopped eating butter and margarine and fried foods and most sugar and most white foods of all types despite her advice.
I never bothered to weigh myself, the scales and I have never been on friendly terms. So when the tech told me to step onto the skinny scale, I started to explain that I usually use the larger scale, when the numbers I saw made me swoon and I nearly fell off my perch. I had lost 45 pounds!
When my new doctor came into the room he gave me a high five for losing weight. I told him I wished the woman doctor was still employed there because the last thing she told me was that I would never lose weight. He laughed and shook his head. Then he explained all my tests and answered all the questions I had from four months before. He was kind and empathetic and I left with a dietary consult and everything else I needed.
After I experienced this visit with a real doctor, I began to wonder why I’d kept that narc woman doctor for so long. I guess I was just thinking a woman could do the job better, but now I know it’s not the gender of a person that makes a good doctor — it’s their expertise mixed with compassion.
In a way, I’m glad that woman doctor left town. I’ll never have to worry about seeing her again. I have nothing to prove to her. I’m just as valuable now as I was when I weighed 45 pounds more. If she couldn’t recognize my worth then, why would she care now?
Oh, and call me rebellious, but I’m still eating blueberries for breakfast!