Monday I visited my endocrinologist for my quarterly(ish) checkup. During this time, I was accompanied by our two first-year medical students in the Family Centered Experience (FCE) Program through the University of Michigan Medical School. They do this, what is called their clinical visit, once a year — that is, if I’m game for it and I don’t mind them joining me in the exam room. I don’t mind. See, as far as talking about my illness, I’ve nothing to hide. As far as them seeing me…how do you say…indisposed, well, these visits aren’t really that. Lots of talking with my doctor. The most exposed I am is lifting my shirt when my endo says, “Let me see your sites.” He examines my midsection, which is where I attach my infusion sets (never got into the thighs or arms or anywhere else for my infusion set attachment).
I’m one of those guys who spent his adolescence and a good chunk of his adult life worried about his body. I could write a book about this, and then some. In an entry in 2010, I relayed my story about being on the cross country and track teams in college and having around 4% body fat and still feeling as if I was too heavy and was therefore anxious about taking off my shirt. (Oh, and here! I found the entry.)
These days my body-fat percentage is much higher than 4%. Yeah, it has to be. I’m a big guy. I mean, I’m a tall guy. Six foot four. By big I don’t mean heavy, either, although I weigh about 260. No one would call me fat, except me. I could lose about 10, maybe 15 pounds, but when I think about cutting out or cutting way down on some of those foods and drinks I really enjoy and (sometimes) overindulge in, I opt for keeping those pleasures in my life. I work out a lot. I’m in great cardiovascular shape. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been and continue to put on muscle — which is why the 260 doesn’t really bother me. (When I was diagnosed with Type 1, I’d lost 25 pounds in a month and was at around 225 pounds and seemed very, very thin.)
Emotionally I’m better off than I’ve ever been. All of this provides me a perspective I wish I had about 18 years ago, but such is this human condition that we learn as we go and we can’t go back.
This is all a roundabout way of saying that I’ve gotten over most of my insecurities about body issues as time passes. I attribute this to age, of course. When I made my triumphant and committed return to the gym about a year and a half ago, I pushed through the anxiousness of undressing and showering in a locker room for the first time since my undergraduate days. That’s a long time away from being used to standing naked in front of a bunch of men. Perhaps it’s something you don’t give a second thought to, but being back in the world of the locker room initially made me hesitant, self-conscious. I was 14 again and just waiting for someone to say something that would ruin my life.
I know, right? Do we ever really grow up.
I pushed through it. It’s good now. I’m good, mostly. When I reflect on my body issues stuff, I’m happy with me, especially when compared with how I used to feel about me.
I owe a good deal of my current state of physical self-perception to my exposure to all of those good people in the medical community. Going through countless doctor examinations, as well as the numerous disrobings, I’ve come to view these bodies of ours differently. Thyroid cancer and the surgery to remove my thyroid led to a huge shift in how I think about my flesh (though I’m in no way advocating chronic illness or other illness).
There’s really nothing these days about my illness, or about me, that I feel is worth hiding, making a big deal over. Certainly I shouldn’t worry about the extra flesh around my midsection and having two future doctors in the room when I lift my shirt. What. Ever.
Except I do have to end this entry by saying that, regardless of time and wisdom and overexposure to doctors and fellow gym members, I wonder if there will ever be a time when I don’t continue to have my teenaged insecure self pop into my brain with its anxiety and other worries about some horrible unnamed unknown that will end my world when someone god forbid sees me for the laughable human specimen that teen-brained Eric believes is reality.
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Eric Lagergren: Eric Lagergren was born in 1974 but didn’t give much thought to diabetes until March 2007, when he was diagnosed with Type 1. He now gives quite a bit of thought to the condition, and to help him better understand his life as a person with diabetes, he writes about it. Eric is the senior editor for the Testing Division at the University of Michigan’s English Language Institute in Ann Arbor. (Eric Lagergren is not a medical professional.)
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