More often than not, I’m certain that something is very, very wrong with me. I’m certain I’m dying, the question is simply: of what?
The first time I used a tampon at 14, I convinced myself I had toxic shock syndrome and was slowly dying. There was no cure (there definitely is a cure) and a painful, brutal death was simply inevitable. It was all very sad and as much as I wanted to tell my family, I just couldn’t bear the pain they would feel at losing their daughter to a tampon.
When I eventually broke the news to my mum, she laughed at me and told me that a vague headache and an upset tummy probably weren’t symptoms of a rare disease, and were far more likely to be related to the anxiety I was experiencing about my imminent death.
At first I was annoyed by her rudeness, but it didn’t take long for me to feel better.
Ever since, I’ve had bouts of being convinced that the slightest abnormality is an indicator of a deadly disease. Last week, I was having one of those bouts.
For a while now, I’ve had what I like to call a ‘fat dimple’ in my left leg. It’s not cellulite (I’ve got that too), but an actual dent that looks like someone has stapled the side of my thigh. I’ve been aware of it, but not too worried, until something caught my attention. Did you know that a dent in your breast can be a symptom of breast cancer?
If a dent in your breast can be a problem, surely a dent in your thigh can be? Right??
So, yet again, I spent several days of my finite life sure that I was dying. By this point, I thought, it’s probably too late. I’ve let it go for so long, naively thinking my ‘fat dimple’ was just a side effect of putting on weight around the hips and thighs, rather than the very serious symptom it obviously is.
On Friday, I went to my doctor about it. I awkwardly brought up that I had a weird dent in my thigh, and I’d like her to have a look at it and tell me whether it was an indicator that something was wrong.
She had a close look and started touching the area. ‘There’s a lot of fat…’ she said.
'You just have a lot of fat around the area.'
For context, I'm a 27-year-old woman who very much sits in the healthy weight range for my height. Yes, I have fat on my thighs. But doesn't... everyone?
She asked to take a look at the other side, and commented that there seemed to be a lot more fat on my left thigh than my right. I tried to reason that maybe it's because I'm right handed, so use the right side of my body more, and probably have more muscle there.
'No, it's not muscle, it's fat,' she said, clearly not understanding the point I'd been trying to make.
I told her I really just wanted to know whether there was anything wrong. Do I need to get some sort of test? Should I be worried?
Listen: Mia, Jessie and Rachel discuss Kim Kardashian’s body dysmorphia on Mamamia Out Loud. Post continues after audio.
'You could always get liposuction,' she said, looking closely at my thigh. 'That would even them out.'
Oh. So, um, never in a million years would I get liposuction. I've spent a long time trying to accept my body the way it is (fat dimples and all), and I would never be able to justify the cost of a purely cosmetic procedure. My first reaction was to laugh, thinking the doctor was joking.
She definitely wasn't.
I assured her that I was only interested in whether there was anything I should be concerned about, health-wise. 'No, it's just fat,' she said.
Walking out of her office, I wasn't sure how to feel. On the one hand, I understand that a doctor's job is to find solutions when people approach them with concerns. Perhaps she just thought she was offering a way to solve the problem I had shown her.
But on the other hand, I'm worried this is a typical response when a woman raises anything cosmetically 'abnormal' about her body. Surely, the first response should be to assure them there's nothing to worry about from a health perspective, and that everyone has lumps and bumps.
Or maybe that's my job.
While I could walk out of that office and laugh about the experience with friends, it did make me ruminate about whether my thigh really looks that weird, that 'fat', that a medical professionals first instinct was to tell me to do something about it.
Am I being too sensitive? Or were the doctor's comments in appropriate? Let us know below.