At 44 years of age, I am now in just about the worst shape I have ever been in my life. I’m larger than an adult polar bear, which my wife finds hilarious. I have asthma, bad joints, low muscle mass, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, and my oil needs changing.
And I can thank modern medicine for being in this shape.
More than a decade ago I started on some medications, prescribed by some well intentioned doctors, for a variety of ailments. Lipitor for cholesterol. Paxil CR for anxiety. A variety of changing drugs for blood pressure, heart burn, and IBS. As the years passed, the symptoms for which these drugs had been prescribed improved. But my overall health declined. This year I weighed in at 410 pounds. I developed asthma last summer. I hurt all the time. I’ve had multiple events where I thought I was having a heart attack due to extreme pain in my arms. I can barely lift my four year old daughter. My doctors suggested, not for the first time, that I go on a diet and increase my level of exercise.
Been there, done that. At one point I was doing an hour of cardio a day, four times a week, and ingesting only 1,200 calories a day. I put on ten pounds and my weight lifting capacity dropped by two pounds. After several years of that, I could barely cut the grass in my own yard or take my kids to an amusement park. This year I started using an ECV – what I lovingly call a “clown car” – when we go to Busch Gardens.
My doctor added Singulair for my asthma, otherwise, business as usual.
I’ve gotten so fat that I have new body parts. So I figured it was time to consult an expert. I went to Google.
Seems my doctors have been trying to kill me. Not intentionally, of course. But they’re trained to treat symptoms, not problems. And they’re trained to use drugs as one of their main tools. Drugs are wonderful in life-saving instances or short term treatments, but most of them are less than stellar when it comes to long-term usage. Some, like Lipitor, just haven’t been on the market long enough to know what really happens when you use them for years. They went through trials sufficient for the FDA, but no one runs those trials for decades to see what ends up happening. It’s not financially feasible. They just write down every possible side effect they’ve ever seen, and let you, the horribly uneducated user, decide. But we don’t decide, we let out doctors decide. After all, they’re the ones who’ve been through years of medical training. They wouldn’t give us something that was bad for us, right? They’d let us know if there was a problem, right?
Well, not so much.
Rarely do doctors follow up on their patients the way they used to when I was a kid. They give you a drug, the pharmacist gives you a pamphlet, and if you’re lucky they set up a followup appointment for six months. Maybe. Sometimes it seems that the only side effect they pay any attention to is dropping dead. I was putting on fifty pounds a year, and my doctor never made a connection to the meds I was taking. When I saw him after my visit to the ER, he didn’t make the connection (any more than the ER doctors did. They just made sure it wasn’t anything lethal, and sent me along my way). I had similar events dozens of times while taking Lipitor, and no one made the connection. Was I supposed to? I trusted the experts to guide me.
And they didn’t. They checked my cholesterol and my BP, and since that was fine, they said to watch my weight. Watch my fucking weight. Do you, as a responsible doctor, tell a 410 pound man who has been complaining of numerous freakish pains just to watch his weight? Like I’ve been downing six cheese cakes a day with my bottle of bourbon? Because if I look the way I do, it must be my own fault, right?
Like I said, that’s when I went to Google. And what I found pissed me off even more.