By TORY JOHNSON
Being fat kept me from having a mammogram for years. I was ashamed of my body and terrified of being lectured by a doctor about my weight. So I never went for routine physicals. It’s my most embarrassing admission in my new book, “The Shift: How I Finally Lost Weight & Discovered a Happier Life.”
I remember clearly the last time I undressed for a full exam. It was in August 2002 — five years after I gave birth to my twins. I dreaded going, but I did it anyway. I was so nervous, fearing the doctor would look at me with scorn. At the end, she told me she’d step out while I got dressed and we’d talk again in a few minutes. I was feeling good: My weight had not come up. But then, during our final chat, she dropped the bomb by gently recommending I see an obesity specialist.
“He’s great,” she said. “He’ll help you.”
I thanked her, but was noncommittal. She made me promise to not be a stranger in her office. But not only did I not see the specialist, I also avoided her for more than a decade. No way I wanted to repeat that discussion.
Earlier this year, the biggest gift I got when I lost 62 pounds was the courage to face that doctor again — more than 10 years later — for a full physical. She was happy to see me, proud of what I had achieved but somewhat puzzled that my inability to lose weight for so long kept me from seeing her. I think many women who are overweight understand that intuitively. They feel that fear in their bones.
After that exam, at age 42, I got my first mammogram. I was so relieved that all my tests were normal.
But I’m still ashamed that I avoided any visit to the doctor for so long. Just the thought of no mammogram, pap smear, or blood tests for cholesterol and all the other stuff makes my heart race. I shudder to think that Emma, my teenage daughter, would ever get to a stage where she was so terrified for any reason, let alone being called fat, that she avoided doctors for years.
I’m lucky that my tests were normal. My own father wasn’t. He avoided routine physicals and this summer, a sudden bellyache was diagnosed as malignant cancer and within three weeks he was dead at age 66. Everyone was stunned.
What happened to him — and what could have easily happened to me — has made me keenly aware of how important it is to get regular checkups. That’s why I’m committed to helping other women understand the value of self-care. The shame of weight should never prevent any woman from pursuing potentially life-saving tests and procedures.