A month or so ago I had a bit of a fright while exercising on a treadmill in the gym (I think I mentioned it at the time). Not a pain, but a very sudden, and very disturbing feeling of tightness in my chest that was directly related to increased effort. Once I slowed down, it went away, but it shook me up enough to go and chat to the doctor about it.
There’s something in every fat bloke that is really scared of serious illness. I know that everyone is probably scared of serious illness, and I know that being a fat bloke increases the risk of serious illness, but there’s something extra involved in the fat bloke world. If a thin person gets diagnosed with heart problems, or diabetes or something equally nasty, then they can sit back and say “I guess that’s just the luck of the draw then – tough luck”. If a fat person gets diagnosed with any of those, then what they’ll hear is “WELL WHAT DID YOU EXPECT?”. And not just from other people – the loudest voice will probably be their own, and quite rightly so.
It’s a difficult scenario to deal with, as in most cases, I don’t think that fat blokes are any less intelligent than thin blokes. In fact, some of the cleverer people I know could do with losing a little weight. And yet, knowing that our eating habits will increase the risk of serious illness, we still continue piling on the pounds.
It’s the embarrassment of being responsible for making yourself ill that I think makes fat blokes dread that trip to the doctors more than anything else. How crazy is that? More concerned about the embarrassment than the illness? Perhaps that’s just because they don’t really get just how real and just how serious the risk of illness can be – I’m not sure.
Anyway, the Doc booked me in for some blood tests, and I went back to see him to get the results.
He sat in front of me and read down his computer screen, mumbling quietly to himself. Then he came across a figure that clearly concerned him. “Your cholesterol is through the roof”. Not a good start. After a few minutes he said “Hang on a minute – no it’s not. It’s actually better than mine.” That’s a little better then. The mix of HDL and LDL wasn’t quite where it should be, but the overall figure wasn’t too bad. It was 5.5 if you’re interested – certainly not great, but not stupidly high either. Not for a fat bloke anyway…
The long and the short of it is that the blood tests didn’t show anything of concern. He explained that he could send me off for an appointment at the Rapid Access Chest Pain clinic at the local hospital, or we could just mark it down to experience, and he asked me what I thought we should do. I think the phrase I used was “well it doesn’t sound like I’m about to die, so I’m OK with option 2”. That clearly shocked him into a different approach, and he said “Well you might. You might go to the gym and drop down dead. Then I’d feel really terrible!”
There’s a lot talked about the importance of the ‘bedside manner’ of doctors, and personally I’d never really given it much thought until that very moment. He was being light hearted, and meant well, but you really don’t want your doctor to be telling you that. Well I don’t anyway. Anyway, he sent a letter off to the cardiology department, and an appointment was made.
That appointment was yesterday.
It was a day of firsts to be honest. It was the first time I’d ever been in a waiting room full of such scared looking people. It was the first time I’d ever been weighed sitting down (17st 3lbs in my clothes and trainers, so I think I’m moving away from the holiday gains). It was the first time I’ve ever had some of my body hair shaved off by a woman that I’d only met a few minutes before. It was the first time I’d ever watched rolling news with subtitles on, and seen how badly they do it – when Naomi Campbell gets repeatedly translated as Gnome i Campbell, someone really should be telling them to slow down. It was also the first time I’ve ever been on a treadmill whilst attached to an ECG monitor, a blood pressure monitor, and with two nurses urging me on too.
I can’t fault the service I received there – they were prompt, professional, friendly, reassuring and thorough. I had my vitals taken, then an ECG, then a chat with a doctor, then an examination by the doctor, then a treadmill test and then another chat with the doctor.
Anyway, at the end of the session, I’m pleased to announce that I was given a clean bill of health. There’s nothing wrong with my heart. On the one hand, it would be nice if they’d have said “ah – this is what caused the problem you had, and this is what we’re going to do about it”. On the other hand, if they’re saying “this is what caused the problem you had” in a cardiology department, then you’re in a fair amount of trouble, so I think it’s better this way. The cholesterol is too high, but other than that, nothing to be concerned about right now. The really positive thing was that both my GP and the Hospital said that if they were to draw up a list of the things that I should do to improve my health, then it would be exactly what I’m doing already.
I hadn’t realised just how much it was worrying me until I came out of the hospital, into the sunshine, feeling that I had an opportunity to make things better this time. If ever I feel downhearted and can’t remember why I’m doing this, then point me back towards this post.
A reality check, that this time came out OK.