Being told by doctors to simply ‘lose weight’ is as dangerous as it is dismissive, as this story proves
There are so many things that can go wrong during pregnancy, delivery, and post-delivery. That’s just an inarguable fact women everywhere face. So when a new mom kept experiencing worrisome symptoms even after the delivery of her daughter, she knew she had to follow up with medical personnel immediately. Unfortunately, she didn’t exactly receive the help she needed.
When comedian Jen Curran was pregnant with her daughter, Rose, she said she displayed symptoms of preeclampsia — a spike in her blood pressure and protein in her urine. She was placed on bed rest by her doctors while they kept an eye on her condition.
In a now-viral Twitter thread, Curran shared that even after delivery, she discovered she had protein in her urine. She was urged to visit a kidney specialist by her obstetrician, who was concerned that the high levels of protein were indicative of something more serious going on. Turns out, it was.
Wanna hear a crazy story? I’m a new mom & I had protein in my urine during and after pregnancy, which is bad. A doctor told me to “lose weight” & it would go away. Didn’t want me to see me back for months. So I got a second opinion. Turns out I have bone marrow cancer. THREAD: 1/
— Jen Curran (@jencurran) August 12, 2019
Curran says she didn’t ask for a recommendation for a kidney specialist, but just went with whatever doctor was covered by her insurance. She said when she met with her, her protein levels were even higher than they were during pregnancy, which is abnormal and concerning. Well, not enough for the doctor, apparently.
But the doc wasn’t concerned. “It can take up to a year for things to return to normal after pregnancy.” I didn’t like that answer. It didn’t seem typical for my body. 10/— Jen Curran (@jencurran) August 12, 2019
In fact, because Curran appeared to have recovered from childbirth in every other visible way, her doctor did was far too many doctors do when they can’t pinpoint an exact diagnosis for a female patient: she suggested she lose weight.
The doctor blinked at my lab results. “Can you start dieting and exercising? Try to lose some weight?” Hmm. Interesting. I was familiar with this move by a medical professional. The old “lose weight” diagnosis. 12/— Jen Curran (@jencurran) August 12, 2019
“Okay,” I said.— Jen Curran (@jencurran) August 12, 2019
“If it comes from a box it’s not good.”
“Mm-hmm,” I said.
“Yes. Go lose some weight. Then the protein will go away. Come see me again in 4 months.” 13/
She says that while she didn’t instinctually feel this was the right answer, and that she was being dismissed by the doctor, she went home and considered her options.
I went home and spent a couple weeks trying to decide what to do. I stared into the fridge wondering what to eat, hearing her words in my head. Diet. Exercise. Nothing from a box. Lose weight. 15/— Jen Curran (@jencurran) August 12, 2019
She was reluctant to make her weight the primary factor to focus on, health-wise, knowing how much diet culture and the “just lose weight” mentality holds women back in a multitude of ways.
Finally I decided to get a second opinion about this protein which would supposedly disappear with weight loss. This time I got a recommendation for a kidney doctor from my OB (the one who was first concerned about the protein.) 22/— Jen Curran (@jencurran) August 12, 2019
The NEW kidney doctor took one look at my lab tests and said, “This is not good. And there’s nothing diet or exercise can do to touch it.” I was surprised BUT ALSO NOT. She was clearly concerned. She told me we needed to biopsy my kidneys. And I hoped for the best. 24/— Jen Curran (@jencurran) August 12, 2019
For the sake of getting to the point, you’ll just have to trust me that a kidney biopsy is not fun. Do not recommend. Would not endorse. Unsubscribe. 25/— Jen Curran (@jencurran) August 12, 2019
When the preliminary biopsy results came back, they hadn’t found anything wrong. Yay! But then more detailed results came back a while later, and it showed something bad. I had too many kappa light chains in my blood. 26/— Jen Curran (@jencurran) August 12, 2019
[As far as I can tell, kappa and lambda light chains are made by your immune system. If your body starts making more of one or the other, the extras can start showing up in your blood, urine, organs, etc., and it’s not good.] 27/— Jen Curran (@jencurran) August 12, 2019
This resulted in Curran’s new kidney doctor referring her to a hematologist-oncologist who biopsied her bone marrow. Which is an invasive and painful procedure. Definitely not something shedding a few pounds can prevent.
Her official diagnosis just proves how dangerous the whole weight-loss stigma can be for women seeking medical attention.https://twitter.com/jetpack/status/1160967426088947712
Shocking. Gut wrenching. I have a 5 month old baby. I’m not even 40 years old. I’m not even caught up on Big Little Lies. 30/— Jen Curran (@jencurran) August 12, 2019
She shares that she knows if she hadn’t had a baby, they might not have ever had reason to believe anything was wrong — none of her other tests came back abnormal.
And if I hadn’t gotten a second opinion? Duh. I‘ll already be weeks into chemo by the time the followup with that first kidney doctor rolls around. And who knows how much longer it would have taken her to diagnose me? 32/— Jen Curran (@jencurran) August 12, 2019
So here we are and here we go. I’m 38 and I have a new baby and I have bone marrow cancer. Definitely not what I expected. Definitely don’t wanna have to deal with this. But I’m going to beat it. 33/— Jen Curran (@jencurran) August 12, 2019
Though it’s a daunting diagnosis, especially for a new mother with an infant, Curran hopes sharing her story helps other women.
Here’s the moral of this particular story. Lose weight if you want to. But if you think something is seriously wrong with your body, and a doctor tells you weight loss is the key to fixing it, get a goddamn second opinion. 39/— Jen Curran (@jencurran) August 12, 2019
Also, advocate for yourself. Get to know your body, trust your body, and listen to your instincts. And don’t be intimidated to question your doctor! This last one has been really hard for me but I’m getting better at it all the time. 40/— Jen Curran (@jencurran) August 12, 2019
Curran admitted to TODAY that parenting a 5-month-old is no easy feat, especially with cancer, but it’s helped her cope in many ways.
“I certainly wish this was not happening,” she said. “But I feel really lucky and grateful that this baby is here. She is so much work and she brings me so much joy.”