- The Griffin
Reader's Rite 03/03/23: Doctors
Growing up chubby, I absolutely hated the doctor's office. At 10 years old, my stomach stuck out and fit awkwardly under my shirt. I had chubby cheeks, gapped teeth and glasses. I understood that I was not “cute" and was going to be judged for my looks and high BMI. I cried every night before I had an appointment because I knew I was going to be told the same thing. The condescending woman was going to bluntly say I needed to improve my diet and get active. I knew she was only looking out for my health, but there was something about her that rubbed me the wrong way. It was like she enjoyed making me cry, or at least that's what my little child mind thought. That doctor eventually left the office, and I was over the moon to switch primaries. My new doctor turned out to be way better, but to this day, I still hate getting on the scale. That one doctor forever tainted my experience of getting a yearly physical.
When I was about 16 years old, I started dieting. Within two years I had lost about 25% of my body weight and had lowered my BMI from “above average” to “below average.” I think the annual when I was 18 years old was the last time my mom attended an appointment with me, but I vividly remember her telling me after that year’s visit that my doctor had asked my mom if she thought I had an eating disorder. We both had a good laugh about this preposterous prospect.
Gradually after this, I developed terrible gastrointestinal issues, chronic coldness, insomnia and blood pressure so low I would lose vision everytime I stood up. I visited specialist after specialist — endocrinologist, gastroenterologist, dermatologist, you name it — and was screened for potential diagnosis such as celiacs, diabetes, Raynauld’s and Hashimoto’s syndrome. I began to wish, foolishly, to be diagnosed with something terrible but concrete: at least then I would know what was wrong with me.
I didn’t consider how my intensely restrictive eating habits, unnaturally low weight, rigorous exercise regime nor excessive sleep routine might be affecting my health. For three years, I weathered the storm of symptoms eating disorders bring with them, but which the media fails to glamorize the same way it idolizes being skinny. I can’t help but wonder how my life would look differently if I had given my doctor’s question a little more thought all those years ago.
Doctors are selfless people who are willing to study for many years and work long hours to provide a net benefit for society (i.e. curing people’s ailments). At least, this is the perspective I had at 17 as I got MRIs and various other tests to diagnose my knee pain. Why would I not have any reason to doubt someone with a fancy lab coat? Without question, I followed the doctor’s guidance. Within a short period, I was waking up dazed from the anesthesia with a shaved leg. I was quick to start attending physical therapy so I would still be able to play during my senior year. I was aiming to break every school record I could, so I had to get back. I prided myself on my quick recovery as I was back on the field scoring goals within 3 months: recovery was supposed to be 6-9 months. Early that season I woke up in the same hospital with another shaved leg. But I told myself everything would be fine. There was still time for me to recover and lead my team through sectionals and into states. Who knows, maybe I’d still be able to break a school record?
Unfortunately, life had other plans, and I had to watch from the sidelines after a third surgery as my team made a run at the state championship. They lost in the semifinals, and I quickly became the scapegoat. I remember there was even a small piece in the local paper about our loss and the role the “captain benched for the season” played in it. It’s funny how quickly people stopped worrying about my knee after the season was over; meanwhile, I was still struggling to walk. I don’t want to make the argument that doctors get paid for surgeries and referrals, which motivates them to cut people open and send them to sub-par physical therapists. It’s awfully hard to not be skeptical when I’ve recently found a doctor I trust who actually believes my knee would’ve been able to heal itself without a scalpel. All-in-all, the series of events that unfolded was just what I needed for a serious character adjustment. Perhaps I should send my surgeon a thank-you card after all.
— Miguel Valencia
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