Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The demonic Doctor Checks

Walking into my local medical centre isn't a welcoming experience. Several coffee cups have been squashed on the steep front steps with their sticky contents dribbling down the grey tiles and making a nauseating soup when mixed with cigarette ash and butts. The graffiti scratched onto the glass doors doesn't enhance the atmosphere either.

Inside the over-heated waiting room, I'm given the luxury of time to observe my fellow patients and to consider just how the very worst of cheaply slapped-together 1990s architecture has stood the test of time. Answer: it doesn't. The once-white ceiling tiles are blooming with latte-brown water stains, the huge green formica reception desk is so gouged that the chipboard underneath has become a crazy-paving feature and the once-proud 'Chemist next door' enamel sign has been covered with a torn piece of paper with handwriting informing me that the 'Neerest chemist is 300m walk further up the road.'

A three year old boy and his mother sit beside me. Well, she does: he's busy doing lap after lap around the low coffee tables, saying "When can I see Dr Checks? When can I see Dr Checks?" over and over.

Dr Checks? Dr Cheques? Is his mother running some kind of blackmailing scheme...? I put my boring novel down and am rude enough to raise one eyebrow at her quizzically. To her credit, she doesn't say, "It's none of your pharkin' business," but laughs and says, "Hugo likes ---" she looks around, sees her target and points "-----that doctor over there, the one in the houndstooth jacket."

I see a stooped old man in glasses slowly shuffle behind the reception desk to reach for his next file. He most certainly would have been around to see the celebrations at end of World War One.

Hugo rushed over to tug at his mother's skirt. "See Mum, Dr Checks is here! Dr Checks! Dr Checks!"

Hugo is shushed by Mum, and I go back to my book. Both of us still have to wait our turn and she tries to ease her son into the idea that it might be Doctor Blue Shirt he sees instead of Checks. "His grandfather has the same jacket," Mum whispers to me and says brightly and in a louder voice to Hugo, "But blue is your favourite colour, isn't it sweetie?"

"Ye-e-e-e-e-sss...." Hugo's voice had now moved up an octave to a high pitched whine that was starting to rattle the windows. "But I wanna see Dr Checks!"

It was time to plough back into the dull book on my knee and let the mother of Hugo try to cajole him with a trip to the water fountain, the tatty community brochure stand, the toilets and shooshing him again when he saw the enormous nose ring in a punky-emo hybrid guy who'd just sat on the other side of him: "Why is he wearing a bangle in his nose?"
"Um, it's a nose ring, Hugo. Some people wear them as jewellery, like you sometimes like to wear my bracelets and necklaces."
Nice response, I thought, but not Hugo. "Yuk, it'll get boogies on it."
Fair point too.

Dr Checks came back out into the foyer.
"Yay!" yelled Hugo, "It's my turn, Mummy!"

Dr Checks smiled - or was he merely airing his dentures - and said, "Mrs Lockett?" I grabbed my bag and left the room to Hugo's anguished sobbing.

Three months ago, at the urging of Love Chunks, I underwent a cholesterol test.
"We'll call you if something's serious, so no news is good news," said the doctor filling up the test tube with my red stuff at the time.

No phone call was received, so I was in the clear: my cholesterol test was obviously OK and I could continue to inhale chocolate, cheese, chips, meat, pastries, pies, eggs and donuts with greedy abandon. Especially chocolate.

Today however, found me there to get my tumour checked up on - keep an eye on those pesky prolactin levels and have a wee whinge about the unwanted and increasing visits from Mr Migraine. He was becoming the medical equivalent of a stalker.

"You look very fit," Dr Checks said.
"Oh, I am", I sat up straighter, beaming with pride and huge spadeful of vanity. "I run at least three times a week, power walk twice and am a good girl and eat lots of fruit and veges and-----"
"But," Dr C looked down into the folder. "Your cholesterol level is much too high."
"Wha-a-a-a-t?" My smugness disappeared up the anus from whence it came. "But I was told by the other doctor that no news is good news!"

He affected that pose that's so infuriating because you just know you're in for a lecture and you know it's probably deserved but you just don't want to hear it: he lowered his glasses and looked down his nose at me. Pompous git - and look a him sitting there with his old man moobs sweating in crescent marks on his too tight business shirt, about to lecture me, an educated, intelligent, responsible adult about diet and exercise, the nerve..!

"Your cholesterol level is 6.5 and it should not be anything higher than 5.5. The doctor here has made a note saying, 'Discuss this with the patient when she arrives to collect her test results'."
He pushed his glasses further up the bridge of his nose to deliver the final pompous, know-it-all, you-can't-handle-the-truth barb: "That was THREE months ago. Surely you must have wondered what your results were?"

As intended, it was now my turn to play the part of the sheepish, admittedly ashamed and naughty patient and the role fitted perfectly. "Well, um, I just assumed that if it was really bad, one of you would call..."

Dr C held up a tired, I've-heard-it-all-before-young-lady hand. "You're not about to be carted into an ambulance, but you need to do something about it now. Seriously."

And the next fifteen minutes involved talk of cutting out full fat milk, cream, butter, cheese, red fatty meats, chicken skin, animal fats, coconut milk, palm oil from my diet entirely. Yep, okay, fine, nod nod nod, can do all of that. Sure, absolutely.

And no cakes, eggs, bacon, biscuits, donuts, pastries, pies, tarts or quiches. Ye-e-s, okay, it'll be a struggle but yes, my health is important.

Of course I knew what was coming next.

I knew it, he knew it and you know it, don't you?

"How much chocolate do you eat a week, Mrs Lockett?"
"Oh call me Kath, you already know so much about me, inside and out, heh heh, although I don't want to have a pap smear today. Did you know that I'm a chocolate reviewer and writer and manage to look only slightly chubby instead of Jabba the Hutt-like due to my dedication to exercise and the proper intake of vitamins and min--"

"How much chocolate do you eat a week----" he paused, to let his authority and moral detachment sink in more fully "-----Kath?"

Like a mathematically challenged eight year old, I went through an average week, listing each block, truffle and bar and counting them on my fingers. "Well, I had lunch at San Churro - so it was a meal really, not an additional snack, but then there was the two Nestle blocks which were a gift from Helen and M&Ms have released an orange flavour that is only currentlyavailable in the 200 gram bags and it's greedy I know, but it took me three blocks before the willpower to photograph it emerged in order to write the review for the daggy but delicious Cadbury Tiramisu dessert block and just this morning I finally got a hold of the new Lindt Classic flavours and...."

I just can't write the figure here. It hurts too much. Let's just say that if Dr Checks had any hair left, his eyebrows had risen high enough to have hidden amongst his fringe.

"You have to cut that by at least ninety percent or you'll be in serious trouble."

He might as well have yanked my heart out with barbed wire gloves and plonked it into a tupperware container and slung it in the staff fridge to rot amongst the ancient sweet chilli sauce sachets and yoghurt tubs.

A few minutes later, I slowly walked home. The morning sunshine was too bright and harsh, and my backpack was heavy. Love Chunks opened the door and the moment he saw my face, said, "Oh my god Kath, what's wrong, has your tumour grown back again?"
My eyes were blurred with tears. "But I love what I do...."

I hadn't dared show Dr Checks what I'd purchased from the supermarket before my appointment with him; just a few treats to see me through a week in central Australia on a 4WD camping trip that was not likely to fully cater for my specific needs:

Still, if I get to eat ten percent of it....?


River said...

Your list of things you have to cut out looks almost exactly like my list of things I already don't eat and haven't for years. I sometimes eat butter on my toast instead of margarine, biscuit intake is even more rare than my donuts, I go for weeks at a time without cheese or eggs, everything else I just don't eat, especially the animal fats and chicken skin. Ugh! Yet my cholesterol is almost as high as yours. Has been for years. In spite of eating much less chocolate than I used to. I've decided to ignore the issue. For the rest of this year at least.

The Man at the Pub said...

Oh dear! There's always carob (sorry, that was cruel).

Daisy said...

lol interesting post! Thus, I voted for you at BOTB!


Cat J B said...

Oh Kath, I had to laugh at your chocolate haul, yep 10% of that would still be a decent amount!

I had a cholesterol test a week ogo, it came back very ok (sorry!) so I went straight out and bought what I thought was an artery clogging bag of heavily salted chips as a celebration. Turned out they were low fat and the worst chips in the known universe.

I should have gone with the chocolate...

Benjamin Solah said...

That's a lot of chocolate, but it is your job...

And the photo of the heart was a nice touch. I certainly appreciated it.

Jack42 said...

I have the same cholesterol level as you and I gave up everything except butter on my toast and that is only sparingly spread anyhow. I think that the idea that eaten cholesterol will leak directly into your veins is nonsense. There must be some digestion process where everything is broken up into pieces small enough to fit through the intestinal wall and then are reassembled into useful things. I wonder where the truth actually lies?

eleanor bloom said...

Firstly, I must say:
"Dr Checks smiled - or was he merely airing his dentures..." Really, a piece of brilliance Kath.




Heh, well...

uh, chocolate has also been known to be the cause of migraines...


*runs away*

*cowers in a dark corner*

franzy said...

I get sick after two lines of Whitfield's Coconut.

How much?

Come on, you can tell us, we're your readers!

My mum got told the same thing about her migraines, but one prescription of immegran later and she still keeps a veritable casket of the stuff for treats every night.

How much chocolate do you eat a week?

ps. Word Ver.: "supper"

Kath Lockett said...

River, I like the idea of ignoring it too. Dad was bragging last night about his cholesterol level reducing from 6.1 to 5.1 and I said, "But when did you last get it tested?"
"About eighteen months ago" (ie three years or more). And since then he's being munching his bodyweight in cheese, butter, cream and chocolate, resting on his 'score' and trying to live as though it's been set in stone.

....I wonder where I get that from?

Man at the Pub - you are cruel, *sob*. Carob is just as bad as chocolate. In order to make it a smidge more edible than dirt it has to be mixed with vegetable oil (usually palm to save money which is what cholestermaniacs like me aren't allowed to have) and sugar.

Thank you Daisy!

Cat, we've tried those too. Might as well pick up styrofoam crumbs that have fallen out of wheelie bins on rubbish day and then been run over by a truck. They're so bad I reckon they're designed to make you think, "It's either no chips (which is a sensible dietary decision) or these (which'll just be slung into the bin in disgust)"

Benjamin, I thought the 'horror' writer inside you would like it. Pinched it from National Geographic.

I dunno, Jack. (Or should that be 'I don't know Jack'?) Cholesterol seems like a cruel bugger to me, especially when I stuff myself with veges and run like the clappers. Aren't I allowed to have any fun?

Please don't be frightened Eleanor. Believe it or not, but I have kept food/mood/cycle diaries on many occasions and inexplicably (and undeservedly), the chocolate intake hasn't been linked to the migraines. That was *one* positive at least!

Franzy, if I tell you, it must not go further than here. OK? Swear? Ok then - I eat between 1.5 and 2 kilograms a week - that's the whole lot including any pesky nuts, biscuit, creme filling, caramel or wafers that might have found their way in. So yeah, 10% is still a family block a week, instead of that just for morning tea every day.

....you're disgusted, disappointed and shocked, aren't you?

River said...

@man at the pub:- carob?? oh, such blasphemy!!

franzy said...

Actually, I'm AMAZED. Have you ever thought of entering one of those eating competitions?

Baino said...

Oh bloody killjoy Dr Checks. I've had high cholesterol (well around the 6.5 mark all my life) My dad's never came down below 8 even on a fat free diet . . .I don't even go to the doctor's any more unless it's for a certificate to justify a day off with the snots . . I know exactly what they're going to say . ."Give up smoking, lose weight, stop drinking, live on lettuce!" Ok I'm in total denial but then I don't eat chocolate! And Kath, the trams will kill you before the cholesterol!

drb said...

Do all these to lower cholesterol:
1) Proactive instead of magarine or butter, expensive but works,
2) a handful of walnuts and a handful almonds,
3) Omega 3.

Lower mine from 7.2 to 5.5 in one month, still eating 2 eggs a week and a row family choc a day.

drb said...

Eat the Proactive, nuts and fish oil EVERYDAY.

Has LC checked his lately?

Jilly said...

Hi Kath

I told Will about the fact that you are not fat, but you have some fat in your blood because of your chocolate intake (of which my kids are very proud and no matter what we are doing if it's in related to chocolate, your name is brought up in admiration of your chocolate feats (and farting too might I add, but that's another story!)), and he said "Yes, her blood is brown".
xxx J

ashleigh said...

The conventional wisdom about cholesterol is that "you are what you eat".

Its been shown again and again that WRT cholesterol, this IS NOT TRUE. It's all broken up into liddle things and re-assembled. Control of cholesterol by diet generally is totally ineffective, but doctors persist in peddling this line.

It's actually even worse than that. The whole cholesterol <-> heart disease link was put together back into the 1960's/1970's and was basically a theory in search of some evidence. (Normally in medicine, you should use evidence to formulate a theory... doing it the other way around is a bad as believing in iridology or homeophathy). This has become conventional wisdom, and shaking it off is terribly hard. 30 years of indoctrination.

Some other interesting things:

- Low fat milk is actually quite bad. To absorb the calcium in milk you NEED the normal fat content. Don't drink low fat milk, even the calcium fortified ones. It's just crap and it makes no difference, apart perhaps from promoting osteoporosis (controversial... me... hah!!)

- Steering clear of trans-fatty acids is a VERY good idea. In general that means avoid margarines of all types. They will make all sorts of claims but because they are made from vegetable oils WHICH ARE OILS... runny at room temperature... they have to be hydrogenated. This chemical process makes them solid, at the same time it converts a proportion to trans-fats. Butter is safer. It tastes better too. Avoiding butter is complete bunkum.

- Avoiding things like chicken fat, and other fats, is unlikely to have much effect in cholesterol. See above. Where it can have an effect is on your body weight. Fats have the highest energy content of any food, gram for gram. Thats why eating fat was so important back in the agrarian days... it kept you going for a long time. These days its easy to eat a bunch of fat and the energy in it has to go somewhere. So it goes to the bum, hips, stomach, etc. Reducing fat intake can help in losing weight.

- Glucose and its metabolisation is implicated in all sorts of diseases - cancer, diabetes, and being overweight. Same issue as above about energy intake. But glucose also raises the blood sugar level which encourages laying down fat, as well as playing havoc with insulin. And insulin whilst important turns out to be quite nasty. So keep away from glucose.

- Plain ole table sugar / cane sugar is supposed to be very very evil. In fact, its not all that good but its better than glucose, and to totally break down sucrose takes several hours.

- Fruit juices and fruit sugar are not as nice for you as claimed. (see glucose / sucrose)

- Chocolate contains lots of antioxidants which are THOUGHT to be good for you but the quantities are not really high enough and the jury is still out. Chomp some vitamin C tabs, they'll probably do more good.

Based on your weekly purchases, you probably should cut down a little. Just a touch.

drb said...

Hi Ashleigh,
Please tell me where did you get your info from, they are news to me who have a PhD in Biochemistry and lecture at Monash.

Fact 1:
Cholesterol can be absorbed directly from food or made from trans-fat absorbed from food. Therefore, it is important to cut down trans-fat (v.high in palm oil) and cholesterol.

If you have inherited the gene that actively makes cholesterol from the tiniest amount of Trans-fat then diet control will not be effective and you will have to be put on drug that will inhibit the production of cholesterol.

Chocolate is good for you, it the fat that makes it yummy that is bad for you.
Lindt ball has 49% fat!!!! I won't be surprised if most of them are trans-fat.
So, please limit to 1 Lindt ball a week but I supposed you can eat as much 70% dark Lindt chocolate.

Anonymous said...

I always believe life is a balance, a Doctor friend of mine once told me the more you look for problems the more you find, I like to think have a good balance and live my life in blissful ignorance then when my time is up and least I will not have spent some of the time worrying about cholesterol level etc!

nutty notons!