I had my annual physical last Friday. I seriously love my primary care doctor. When she walked in, she said, “It’s so good to see you finally!” The “finally” was because I’ve seen several of her colleagues in 2016 and 2017 and we’ve emailed a bunch, but I haven’t actually seen her since my last physical, which I am embarrassed to admit was in January 2016 – so almost 2 years ago.
We started off by talking about my vitals and recent lab work. I had bloodwork done 2 days earlier to check my cholesterol and sugar. The good news is my A1C is perfect and always has been, so no diabetes or even pre-diabetes for me (sugar is my downfall and my mom has pre-diabetes, so this is a huge relief!). The other good news that is that my HDL (good cholesterol) is nice and high, my triglycerides are low, and my overall cholesterol to HDL ratio is good. The bad news is, that after 5 years, my LDL (the bad cholesterol) remains high.
I have blogged extensively about my cholesterol woes. They started back in 2013, when I was just 2 years removed from having my thyroid radiated and only a few months from having my major eye surgeries. My health was a wreck. I wasn’t eating well and I wasn’t working out nearly enough. My triglycerides and LDL were high, although the triglycerides were still within normal range, but obviously that caused my total cholesterol to go up.
My primary care doctor at the time suggested I go on niacin. That was an actual nightmare. I dealt with it for a few months but then I had another major eye surgery and moved to Boston to start my job at Dana-Farber. When I met my new (and now current) primary care doctor for the first time, I told her I had been really bad about taking the niacin. She was OK with it. She basically told me that while it has been shown to lower the numbers, it hasn’t been proven to actually reduce risk factors for heart disease. So someone who takes niacin for high cholesterol may have good numbers, but still might have heart problems. She said we don’t know enough, but that if my body wasn’t adjusted to the flush after so many months on it, that I should stop. So I did.
Ever since then, I’ve been eating better and better, cleaner and cleaner. I’ve been working out more and more, harder and harder. I went from running 5Ks to running full and half marathons, and running 3 times a week. Since July, I’ve worked out almost every single day. Since my 3rd and final sinus surgery and re-arranging my bedroom, I’ve slept like a baby every night. I’m in the best shape of the last 10 years. I’m stronger than I ever have been before. So my cholesterol should be better, right?
Wrong. It’s come down slightly in the last 2 years, but not enough. It’s still “too high.”
Well, this time my doctor said that sure, it’s high but at my age and without any other risk factors, and considering how hard I work out and how well I eat, it’s OK. She said the day may come where it either gets too high or I am old enough for it to become a problem, but we’re not there yet. Not even close.
After moving on from my cholesterol, we shifted our attention to my weight. It’s up there. I’m actually in the “obese” range according to my BMI. Not even overweight – obese. Me, the girl who ran a marathon this year. Me, the girl who used to be the flyer at the top of the cheerleading pyramids. Me, the girl who once didn’t weigh enough to donate blood. Just like my cholesterol, my weight has barely fluctuated in years. I had lost about 15 pounds when I was diagnosed with Graves’ disease in 2010. Although I had be thin and fit as hell before then, the doctors told me that weight was my “ideal weight” simply because I am 5 feet and therefore, guidelines state I should weigh 127 or less, regardless of body type, muscle mass, fitness level, etc. High-dose steroids (part of my treatment) caused me to gain an additional 30lbs on top of the normal weight I ended up back at, and I’ve never been able to lose it.
As recently as last month, my ob/gyn asked if I had any concerns, “aside from your weight.” Funny, because my weight is no longer a concern for me but apparently it was for him. It honestly hasn’t been for months. Because I am strong AF and stopped focusing on the scale or the size on my tags.
So when my doctor asked me how I felt about my weight on Friday, I went into a bit of a tirade about being strong and running and eating and I am pretty sure I got sweaty and breathless on this tirade of me. She listened patiently. When I finally finished, she smiled and said, “If you’re OK with your weight, so am I.”
I was speechless in the moment, but I was crying as I typed this and was bawling when I told my bff about it later that day. Good tears. Happy tears. Tears of pure and raw relief, after years and years of beating myself up about my weight and every piece of candy or cheeseburger I ate.
She essentially agreed that things were never going to go back to the way they were when I still had a thyroid, and that it sounded like I was doing everything right. And that BMI isn’t nearly as important as how active I am and how I eat. And then we moved on to my reflux and adding some vitamin B12 and D to my diet and her keeping my prescription for physical therapy “refilled” as needed by insurance. I’m also going to start using Retin-A for my adult acne, which had been under control but seemed to flare up this year, mostly on my chin and the right side of my jaw. But otherwise, she is really happy with my health.
So, for the first time in years, or maybe even my whole life, I can finally say:
This is who I am. I love my body. I love every freckle, every fat roll, every inch of cellulite, every stretch mark, every love handle, every pimple. I am strong and healthy and happy. I take good care of myself. No scale or clothing tag or BMI chart can change that. I have been to hell and back. I almost died in an ambulance. My heart LITERALLY almost gave out. I almost lost my vision. I have had 3 major eye surgeries and 3 major sinus surgeries. I received enough radiation on my thyroid to take out a small village. I survived all of that. I am beautiful. And this is who I am.
I’ll end this post with a photo I never wanted to share because of how fat I thought I looked. During the marathon, the Dana-Farber photographer captured this absolute gem of Lori and me, genuinely high on life at Mile 25.