Monday, September 12, 2011

My Secret Fear (Played Into)

I have had a secret fear related to my fatalism about life for quite some time, and I wonder if it stopped me at times from losing weight. That fear has been that, if I ever pulled me life together in any substantial way, that I would be struck with cancer and die. My feeling was that whatever force or forces of the universe  conspired to make my life to date as miserable as possible by having me born to messed up, poor parents and a biology which seemed to conspire to make and keep me fat would not "permit" me to be happy.

I realize that this is irrational, but there was always this nagging fear that if I overcame all of the emotional and psychological issues and became stronger and more capable, something bad would befall me to sabotage my happiness. I formulated the idea that my destiny was to be miserable and I think I often felt I'd rather be food-addicted and self-hating than risk whatever wrath was to befall me at the end of self-repair. This is the mindset that grew from the handful of cards that fate had dealt me.

Despite this nagging feeling, I've pressed on to be a better person in every way. I try to emotionally be better by dealing with negative emotions more positively. I've spent a good part of my life trying to turn my glass is half empty thinking around to at least a little more glass is half full thinking. I've tried to gently talk down the voice in me which is all too keen to tell myself that the sky is falling. The notion that I have fewer options in life and have to remain in a bad situation for fear of being worse off if I walk away from what I have has really been hard for me to talk myself out of, but I've made progress. I've learned to be less defensive and more open after years of feeling combative toward the world which seemed to lash out and hurt me at every turn. And, of course, I've dealt a lot with my food relationship and body issues.

So, I've made a lot of progress in my life at this point. That progress pre-dated this blog by many years. Psychological changes to my outlook in life, temper control, etc. are things which were not hampered by being very fat. One of the reasons that I don't look back on my life between 300-400 lbs. with regret as many people do is that I know how much I grew during that time regardless of my weight. In fact, I think it was part of the culmination of my mental growth that I was able to lose weight in the past two years. One could not have happened without the groundwork of the other.

Yesterday, I went for a physical examination. The results are hardly in as this was just the testing stage. No concrete results will arrive for two weeks as I'm living in a place with socialized medicine which is highly bureaucratic in nature. It rushes for no one. During the cursory exam, the doctor asked me if anyone had ever suggested I had thyroid problems. I said "no" (but later remembered that someone had suggested it in another exam about 8 years ago). He spent a few seconds feeling my neck and then suggested I should have it checked because he thought it was enlarged a bit. When I asked what it would mean if it were inflamed, he hemmed and hawed and essentially said he didn't know until they did an ultrasound, but they wouldn't give me one until I had a follow-up exam which wouldn't occur until I got the test results in two weeks. After that, I left for the next test in the battery I was being given, and a nurse came out and gave me a pamphlet on cancer detection.

Even though the doctor didn't use "the C-word", the nurse's delivery of such a document sent me into a state of numbness and fear. Here it was sitting right in front of me, my deepest fear being supported by medical professionals. I spent much of the rest of the day feeling as if destiny was going to be fulfilled, then I got angry.

The doctor didn't ask me any questions about anything related to thyroid conditions or my health aside from a few broad questions about diarrhea, constipation, smoking, medication, smoking, and alcohol. His exam was extremely cursory in every way because part of the socialized medical system in this country is a free annual health check-up. For the hospital to get more money out of me, I need to come for a follow-up (which I will pay 1/3 of the expense for) and do tests which are outside of the free regimen. While I don't think the doctor was intentionally recommending a test he felt was unnecessary, I do believe he was doing a sloppy diagnosis based on my age, weight (which he did not mention in the exam at all, but I'd be shocked if it didn't come up later in the follow-up), and a vague tactile exam of my neck.

The thing is that I was at the beginning of a cold when I went in for the exam. My throat was a little sore and a lymph node under the left side of my jaw was slightly swollen. The doctor never asked if I had a cold or was coming down with something and I never thought to mention it in the brief exam as I didn't think it had anything to do with anything. My husband later did research on enlarged thyroids and noted that colds can cause that (among many other things unrelated to cancer). The doctor should not have intimated that I could have a serious problem, which he did by telling a nurse to give a pamphlet about cancer, without at least asking about underlying conditions, but this is a bureaucratic type of health care and such behavior on the part of doctors is not rare. Dire and sloppy diagnoses have been given to friends of mine, and even to me on one occasion before, and they have been wrong.

If I hadn't had my fatalistic notions about my future if I lost weight, I don't know if I would have been more level-minded about what happened. I doubt that I would, but this experience has taught me that I need to continue to work on my outlook. Unfortunately, I also have to have a test on my thyroid in the near future because nothing will quell the nagging sense of fear that I could have a serious issue if I don't. However, after thinking it through and my husband's research on the topic, I'm pretty sure that I don't have thyroid cancer and that what I did have was a doctor who is part of a system which deals with people in what amounts to a cattle call system of health checks and who has a poor bedside manner as a result of both culture and a system, which is better in many ways than America's, but is still flawed.