Fat Activism Conference

It’s been a busy few months and I’m excitedly preparing to embark on a major new project that I’ll have more information for you on soon. Until then, please consider registering for this amazing conference. It’s virtual, so you can listen to it from a computer or phone anywhere. I’ll be speaking with many other talented and amazing people.
Fat Activism Conference Sept 23-25th Online - listen from anywhere, Powerful Speaker, Practical Tool

How to Love a Fat Girl or Boy

480900_451243814958361_1530752660_nI’m a major fan of the meme “how to get a bikini body.”  You know, the one that then tells you to buy a bikini and put it on your body, then you have a bikini body (pic).

Well, I’m pretty sure that loving a fat girl or boy is similar.

It’s ok, try not to go all huffy, hissy fit on me and start talking about how complicated love is and such. Love is not complicated. Relationships can be and I’m not in any way attempting to minimize that. Also, just like you can find articles that will tell you how to get a bikini body in just 6 short weeks, there are articles, blog posts, and other such stuff with lists of rules and suggestions about how to love a fat girl (boy).  If you feel you actually need these rules, they are a simple “how to love a fat girl” google search away from your fingertips right now. This, is not that.

Fatties (aka fat girls or boys) are human beings. I know this because I am a fat girl. There’s nothing special or particular about us. All women and frankly, men have or have had body issues at one point in time, society basically dictates it. Some of us have lingering feelings and emotions about the ways we’ve been treated about our bodies, some of us don’t. Some of us may require a little more convincing that you really do love us, some of us won’t. I don’t think the variations are really that different from any other combination of individuals with different body types when coming together in a love, like, lust connection. I don’t believe that loving someone who is fat requires a special list of instructions (you may not agree with me and that’s ok). So basically, I’m going to keep it simple and direct. How do you love a fat girl or boy? Find a fat girl or boy that stirs that feeling in you that is undeniably about wanting to share your days and nights with her or him in all the ways a human being lives and moves through life and if she or he feels the same way about you, go ahead and love them. And be happy.

That is all.

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why I #selfie

Reason 1: I can, I am amongst the privileged many who can afford the technology, time, and energy that being a regular taker of selfies requires.

Reason 2: I’m fat. Yep, you read that right, I’m fat and it’s a reason why I take and post regular selfies. I believe that people of all sizes should be seen, not just in places where it’s expected and feels safe, but also in the unexpected, unsafe spaces. And that certainly includes places like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Selfies, and selfies of a fat girl are not safe or exempt from hatred trolls. Nor are we exempt from fetish trolls and trolls who think we should be charmed and excited that a stranger (male or female) finds us attractive enough to message multiple times with unsavory and not anywhere near grammatically correct comments.

Reason 3: Is related to reason 2 but goes deeper. While I can now proclaim loud and even proudly, without a quiver of my confidence that I am fat and completely comfortable in the body I live in now, that hasn’t always been the case. For years, and by years, I mean over a decade, maybe even two decades, I lived without a full length mirror in my home. I had been taught and believed that I should feel shame for the size of my body; that no one wanted to look at it, so, why would I want to look at it? And so, for years I didn’t look in a mirror to check my appearance, the outfits I was wearing, nothing. I applied the minimal makeup I wear with a hand-held compact mirror and later a small round mirror hanging on my bathroom wall.

Until I started to selfie…

Like most of us who selfie, mine began on FB. I came to FB mid 2008 while working at Stanford University. At first FB was a distraction with games and a way to connect to people I hadn’t spoken with or seen in years.  I didn’t really interact much and I didn’t post very many pictures of myself. And when I did, they were definitely not full body selfies.

Profile pictures in 2009

Profile pictures in 2009

ONLY selfie 2010

ONLY selfie 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 2010, I discovered a welcoming size-friendly–positive even–community that I became actively engaged with.  I had new friends and a burgeoning new social life. I started taking pics with friends going out and then in 2011, selfies prior to going out. As my confidence grew so too did my desire for more options in my wardrobe and thus more pics of me in new outfits.  It was an avalanche of confidence, acceptance, self growth and the beginnings of activism. I know not everyone agrees that selfies are a form of activism, and that’s ok. I wouldn’t say all selfies are, but I take mine with the intention of activism, a fat body being seen; being seen happy, healthy, active, relaxed, having fun, working.

2011 Selfies

2011 Selfies

2012 Selfies

2012 Selfies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 2013, my taking and posting of selfies increased quite exponentially (the following is a sampling).

 

2013 Selfies

2013 Selfies

2013 Selfies

2013 Selfies

2013 Selfies

2013 Selfies

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the beginning of 2014, I started the new year with a goal to take a selfie in a different location every day.  This has proven to be harder than I thought it would be and I’ve not really kept up with that, but I have taken and posted selfies nearly every day. Some from interesting places I traveled for work or vacation and others just at home or out and about with friends or at my place of work. Again, I post them primarily, because I and others like me deserve to be seen. We should be seen enjoying life: going out on the town, bathing in bikinis by the pool, chillin’ on the beach, or shopping at the corner market. All bodies are beautiful in their own ways and all bodies deserve to be seen and acknowledged. If you can’t acknowledge my body, then you can’t acknowledge me as a whole person; and my body is more than just a part of my physicality, it’s a part of my psychology, spirit, and emotion. I feel and witness all things through not only my mind, but also my body.

2014 Selfies

2014 Selfies

2014 Selfies

2014 Selfies

2014 Selfies

2014 Selfies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I guess I have a hope that by visibly living in the body I have now; truly living, not just accepting but embracing its differences, its strengths and its weaknesses that others will see that it’s a much better way to live than loathing ones body or pretending that it doesn’t exist at all because it can’t be seen in the mirror I’m looking in.  And if perchance my activism by selfie method does nothing at all to change the world or another human being’s perception about bodies, its done an incredible amount of good for my own body image, my own acceptance for my own perceived body flaws. And on the “bad days,” because yes, I still have them occasionally, I can look back at the legacy of self-acceptance and be reminded of another reason I selfie…

Reason 4: I’m stunning…to the person looking in the mirror.

2014 Selfies

2014 Selfies

It’s On (like Donkey Kong?)

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It felt kinda like this!!

It’s not like I wasn’t expecting the call, but once it came in, everything began to feel like it was happening too fast and it took a moment to get my bearings.  I’ve been tolerating the pain in my body and the frustration with medical professionals for so long, it hardly seems real that I now have an actual date for surgery to remove the hostile uterus in my body.  I answered the phone while driving to work because when I saw that the caller ID said “Kaiser,” I knew it wasn’t a call I wanted to miss.  The nurse said they had an open date of June 21st and I was like “ok, I’ll take it.”  Hanging up the phone, I felt like a heavy boulder had settled in the pit of my stomach, I was nauseous and my mind was spinning with all that this date meant and with everything that now had to be done before this date.

Its taken a couple days, but I’m relieved and settled.  I’m ready to get on with life.  I’ve had some encouraging phone calls from dear friends.  More offers of support and lots of time to think, process, and accept that this is REALLY happening.  I’ve also spent the last couple of days at Kaiser doing some pre-op lab work.  It seems that the needle pokes might never end.  I’m nervous and excited.  Putting together a list of things to get done before June 21st, both personally and professionally.  I’ve made my arrangements for sick leave from work and have informed the most important/necessary people in my life about the timing and details.  The list of things to do is growing…at some point I’ll just have to say “enough is enough.” Its not like I don’t have time after the surgery.  But isn’t it funny how suddenly everything becomes so important to accomplish, when some of this has been on the “to do” list for months.  I think it’s probably linked to the whole mortality complex…not that I have concerns about that, but there’s some instinct I think, much like how “nesting” works with pregnant women, that creates this need to get it done now.

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Davinci Surgical Robot – my new best friend.  Wish those were my doctors.  It looks so futuristic and reminds me of some of my favorite scifi shows.

The thing I feel the best about in my preparations for going under the robotic knife, is my plan for a quick recovery.  Part of this is about the preparation, right (mind and body).  I’m a pretty active person, but I’ve been increasing my activity lately as well.  I participated in the Color Run last weekend (oh so much fun) and am continuing to increase my walking time each day.  I plan to be up on my feet, moving as soon as the Dr says its ok.  I’ve set a goal to be able to participate in the AIDS Walk SF, 10K on July 21st!  I’m joining the FFE Community Team to help raise $2013.  I’ve set a personal goal of $300.

sf_logo_2013-pms-finalIf you’d like to donate as a way of encouraging my quick recovery and supporting a great cause, please visit my personal fund raising page or for amounts less than $25, you can donate through Paypal.

So, I think I got this.  I’m focusing on the after and not the during.  I feel like I’ve moved past shaking my fist at the sky in anger and frustration. shaking-fist-at-God

I’m not excited about the surgery itself.  I’m excited about the possibilities after. I’m not fooling myself in to believing it will all be busy, but focusing on it all just being better.  There’s still a long way to go between today and that 10K walk.  I’m riding the wave of hopefulness.  Of course, you can check back here for updates on how the process, procedure and recovery unfolds.  I really appreciate all the positive feedback and kind words I’ve received from friends and blog readers about sharing this journey.  I’m hoping you continue to find something of value in my sharing as it all moves forward.  I wait now with a deadline on this anticipation…with a great deal of hope.

Medical Mayhem and the Hostile Uterus (not a bedtime story)

I read this quote recently that reinforced what I’ve long believed about our bodies not being our enemies. sonya quote for blog

As often happens, it came across my path at a time when I desperately needed it.  Just last week I sent this text to a very dear friend “My body has betrayed me!” And it will be no secret to my FB friends and family that I have spent nearly as much time at Kaiser Permanente over the last few months than I have anywhere else. I’ve put off writing about what’s been going on in part because I’m still fighting for some internal peace and also because I’m not sure how much or little to share. And I’m the first to admit I have a tendency to over share. I also am hesitant to sound like I’m whining or looking for sympathy. Then a friend asked if I thought writing about it could help someone else (besides providing a way for me to further process). And I acknowledged that perhaps it had the potential and so here I am, writing.

To make a very long story short, I have a hostile uterus.

From the pages of my art journal.

From the pages of my art journal.

After several years of heightened issues, I’m well versed in all sorts of medical terminology, but to boil it down, my uterus creates chronic swollen villi (clusters of grape sized “tumors”, not fibroids) which hang out and wreak all kinds of havoc internally.  Over the past 3+ years, doctors have treated this non-cancerous condition with a combination of surgical (d&c) and chemical removal of uterine lining. As well as a combination of high dose hormone injections/pills and pain meds.  The biggest issue for me is that it causes persistent painful cramping and unpredictable, prolonged heavy bleeding. The past year has been perhaps the worst, as symptoms have increased and the nonsurgical treatments simply aren’t working any more.  In November, I allowed a new Dr. (whom I really like and trust) to convince me that an IUD would help alleviate many of the symptoms.  I was willing to try almost anything at that point.  By early February I was insisting on a permanent resolution.  Though not quite at the point where I was willing to part with an internal organ, I sought from my doctor a more viable option.

As we all know, I’m fat.  To the majority in the medical profession that equals high risk and/or causation.  I’ve spent several years piecing together a medical team that does not treat me based on my weight.  My primary care physician is an “obesity” specialist who has never once mentioned to me weight loss surgery, diets, or any other topic related to weight in regards to my health.  In fact, this issue being the exception, I am a healthy fat person (most of us actually are).  My gynecologist matter o’ factly addressed my weight only as a potential risk factor for surgical options, primarily anesthesia.  This I knew and was not bothered by.  She suggested a uterine ablation, an outpatient procedure where they burn back the lining to the base of the uterus; sounds painful, apparently not so much.  This raised the question of ongoing birth control as an IUD would no longer be an option with a thinned uterus and I’ve pretty much ran the bases of hormones and their usefulness.  She suggested a nonsurgical sterilization process (since my hostile uterus makes full-term pregnancy a nonviable option anyway).  I said ok and was referred to one of the two doctors who perform this procedure at the clinic.  The FIRST thing this doctor said to me was, “have you considered weight loss surgery?”  The SECOND thing, “ALL your problems would go away if you would just lose all that weight.”  Note the use of “that” as if it weren’t even in the room with us, but some abstract evil thing hovering outside the door.  I was so unprepared for THIS conversation, I was dumbfounded, paralyzed. I can’t even imagine what story the expression on my face was telling. I was prepared to discuss sterilization procedures. I had questions to ask. I had things to confirm. But none of that mattered because A) she was going to refuse to do the procedure because of my weight and 2) I would not have let that woman touch my beautiful fat body with a ten foot surgical instrument.

I left that doctor appointment in shock and complete hopelessness.  What I knew is that I couldn’t sanely tolerate what was going on inside my body much longer and every plan that had been put in motion to resolve the issue had just been bulldozed by this weight bigot in a doctor frock. I got to my car and cried.  Not just for me, but for all the stories I’d read and been told about of other wonderfully rad fatties who had received similar treatment from medical professionals. I never had; I thought I had been able to imagine how it might feel. I couldn’t. It was much much worse, dehumanizing, degrading, shaming…. When I spoke with my gynecologist two days later, she was livid.  Even the medical notes had read like a bad fat shaming story.  She was ready to go to the mats for me, to find a doctor who would perform the procedure. But I was done. That had been my breaking point.

Publication1

A card given to me by my boss at the university.

I told her it was time to just take it out.  I wanted her to find the least invasive means to have my hostile uterus removed. I was asserting ownership of my body and was ready to evict!  She took a deep breath and said ok.  Next thing I know, I was scheduled to meet with the Chief of the women’s health department.  He conducts robotic assisted laparoscopic surgical procedures on high risk patients.  And she assured me that if anyone could make this happen it would be him.  I went to that appointment prepared to defend my weight and its non-connection to what was going on in my body.  But I didn’t have to.  He discussed the procedure with me, answered my questions, and asked a few of his own then told me that it was time for a definitive response to the issue.  He inferred that it was likely only a matter of time before the cells in the uterus would become cancerous so it was best to act now.  He said it was not without risk and that although the intention would be to do the procedure laparoscopically, there is a very real chance that they may still have to do an open cavity procedure once they have me on the table.  I am resolved.  And so in late June or early July, I will be having a Robotically Assisted Laparoscopic Hysterectomy with Bilateral Salpingectomy, Possible Bilateral Oophorectomy, Possible Laparotomy, Cystoscopy.  In layman terms, a laparoscopic hysterectomy, leaving my ovaries intact, with the possibility that they may need to cut me open.  The doctor mentioned above, should take note: THIS, THIS is going to make ALL my problems go away!! (ok, not all of them.)

Here are the things I wish I would have done differently during this journey of medical mayhem (and perhaps where others might learn):

  • I would have had more compassion for my body and accepted early on that this was my body’s way of trying to work its way back to wellness. Instead of feeling betrayed by the very body I claim to love and respect every day.
  • I would have liked to come to an earlier realization that this one organ, which is a part of me, does not truly define me as female.  It would have made it much easier to insist earlier on that they remove it.  I would have spent far less time in pain, discomfort, and worry.
  • I would have taken someone else with me to doctor appointments.  Either to just help “hold on” to all the relevant information, to act as a sounding board for the many thoughts and emotions swirling around in my head and/or to act as an advocate when I was struck dumb with disbelief.  And yes, I have a whole host of friends who would have willingly agreed to sit by my side during the many hours of appointments.
  • I would not have agreed to the IUD.  In the midst of all this other stuff, the IUD has “gone missing” (insert Scott’s joke about the UN looking for WMDs here). In women who have not had children, the IUD has a tendency to migrate (good to know).  Mine has…and the hunt is on, with ultrasounds, x-rays, CT scans, etc.
  • I wish I would have said to the weight biased doctor something along the lines of “oh really, ALL my problems? Will my student loan payments go away? Will my dog’s chronic diarrhea suddenly disappear? And, so on…” It wouldn’t have helped, but it might have made me feel more emotionally satisfied.
  • I wish I would have been more open to asking for the support of my friends, being more honest about the amount of pain I have been in and confided more openly about it all.  I fancy myself to be so independent that sometimes I don’t let others in in ways that would be helpful.  And I have the most awesome friends and support network, so why would I shut them out on any level?

This journey is not over. The procedure is not on the doctor’s schedule yet. There were some reasonable hoops he asked me to jump through and I’ve done so. Now just patiently awaiting his return to the office (he’s been out for a week) and word that it will be scheduled. I’m eager, but scared. I think that’s healthy. There will be recovery time I’m not looking forward to. A need to rely on the kindness and good hearts of my friends to assist during this time, which is hard for my independent spirit to accept.  And the need to allow time and space for emotional healing as well.  Sounds like a fun summer though, right?

It’s not my idea of a good time, but I’m so looking forward to having the medical mayhem and hostile uterus out of my life.