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My Name is Inigo Montoya… err, I Mean Bronwen!

October 27, 2011

Sorry about that, I just spent the weekend at a Science Fiction and Fantasy convention, so I’m still a little geeked out.  I’m sure as I resume my normal life (and stop wearing my cat ears), I’ll get back to what passes for “normal” for me.

Introduction posts have always been my nemesis as a writer.  I can never figure out what to say, how much to put in.  What will people think is interesting?  Is it too long or too short?  Seriously, I need to find a PR person to help me with things like this!

I have been an activist for longer than I knew what it meant to be an activist.  As a young child (in the early 1970s), I helped my grandparents “get out the vote” to stop a new school the city wanted to build.  Oh, they weren’t doing it to be mean, it’s just that the building had no provisions for people with disabilities. When my grandparents went to the city council meetings to mention this exclusion, they were silenced by the Mayor and the City Council, and not taken seriously.

One of my first memories of activist activity is being downstairs in the basement and giving Grandma some blank paper so she could feed it into the mimeograph machine (for those who are don’t know what a mimeograph machine is, it is the precursor to a copier machine). The second memory I have is taking an armful of those flyers and carefully putting one on each door on my block, and the blocks that were close to my block.

I didn’t know that what I was doing was called “activism,” or that people would be upset with my grandparents for “making her do that!” What I knew was what my grandparents explained to me: the city wanted to build a school that wouldn’t allow any kids who couldn’t climb stairs to go to it. While I may not have known what “activist” meant, I knew what the city was planning on doing was WRONG!

As I grew up, I continued to be an activist in many areas. I’ve been a part of protests and had my 15 seconds of fame on TV as one of the “mob of people thronging the streets.” I’ve given speeches to conferences of professionals to help raise people’s awareness of mental illnesses.  I’ve always corrected people when they use the “r” word (retard or any form of it).

In 2007, a long-term knee injury (one that occurred in 2000 that I wasn’t able to obtain appropriate medical attention for due to lack of insurance) became critical. I couldn’t walk because of the pain. I lost my job, as it was one where I had to stand and walk for four hours a day, and it was impossible to do my duties because of the pain.  I started using a wheelchair because I couldn’t stand anymore due to the pain. When I finally had insurance, I went to a doctor to see about getting my knee fixed.

The doctor I went to ordered an MRI.  When it came back, it showed lots of problems: inflammation,  bone shards, cysts forming on the bone, cartilage worn out, and many other things.  The doctor referred me to a surgeon and told me that it would take surgery to fix my knee.

The surgeon took one look at me, discounted everything I’d told him about the initial injury (I was hiking a mountain with my husband when my knee dislocated), and how I’d not been able to seek medical attention due to lack of insurance, and he decided my knee was wasted because I was fat.

I’m sure nobody reading this is surprised, amirite?

This wasn’t the first time I’d been told that my physical problems were my fault because I was fat.  I have Polycystic Ovarian Disease. Currently, it’s thought to be an endocrine disorder, but cutting edge research is starting to show that it might be an immune disorder like lupus. One of its symptoms is obesity. And yet, for years as I was complaining about other symptoms (amenorrhoea and infertility, among other things) I was told by doctors to lose weight and everything would fall into place. I even had one doctor tell me that I obviously didn’t want to have children as much as I said I did (or at all, really) because I “refused to lose weight”!

So, being told by this surgeon that his professional (dismissive of everything I’d told him) opinion was that I deserved to be in pain because I was fat was normal to me.  It was also the straw that broke this camel’s back.

I’d never even heard of Fat Acceptance, fat activism, or Health At Every Size® at that point.  But in finding a surgeon for a second opinion, I started doing research on doctors who refuse to treat fat people, and found a world I never knew existed.

The rest, as they say, is history. I did have the surgery by the second surgeon I saw. It turns out that when I dislocated my knee in 2000, and put the kneecap back in place myself, I didn’t get it in the correct spot, so it started wearing a hooked groove in the bones (which is why there were so many bone shards, why so much inflammation, why the meniscus was worn completely down, why the cysts had formed). My knee is now at 90% of what it was before the injury. There are a few things that I can no longer do, but it’s minor considering the life of pain the first doctor was going to consign me to.

Finding the Fat Acceptance and HAES movements gave me a focus for my activism again. In 2008, I took my activism out of my personal blog and began a blog devoted solely to FA, A Day in the (Fat) Life, and have been posting there ever since.

The best thing that my struggle to find competent care for my knee, and finding this community, has done for me is to help my inner healing. I’m doing things today that I never would have tried before hearing the messages, “You are okay, no matter what your size is. You are not inherently bad just because you are fat.  And you don’t need to punish yourself because you have a disorder that doesn’t allow you to lose weight.  Don’t weight until you are the ‘perfect weight’ (because there is no perfect weight) to do the things you want and love to do.”

13 Comments leave one →
  1. October 27, 2011 9:58 am

    love you love this and welcome to the fold

    • bronwenofhindscroft permalink
      October 30, 2011 12:01 pm


  2. October 27, 2011 10:37 am

    We’ve brought in a ringer! I’m so glad you’ve joined the team, Bronwen. I can’t wait to see what you have to contribute. You’re a bona fide badass and you’re a perfect addition to Fierce Fatties. Thanks for joining us!


    • bronwenofhindscroft permalink
      October 30, 2011 12:00 pm

      Thanks for letting me write here! I’ve loved this site since you first opened it (even if I seldom commented).

  3. vesta44 permalink
    October 27, 2011 11:06 am

    Glad to have you aboard, Bronwen, I’ve been following your blog and love it!

    • bronwenofhindscroft permalink
      October 30, 2011 11:59 am

      Thank you very much!

  4. sweet Priscilla permalink
    October 27, 2011 11:34 am

    Love your Blog and I’m glad you decided to grace us with your writing

    • bronwenofhindscroft permalink
      October 30, 2011 11:59 am

      Thank you!

  5. hlkolaya permalink
    October 27, 2011 3:28 pm

    Firstly, your gran sounds completely awesome!! Secondly, this type of medical dismissal is, unfortunately, all too common- but boy it never ceases to make me mad! I’m so glad you eventually got your knee fixed!

    • bronwenofhindscroft permalink
      October 30, 2011 11:59 am

      Thanks! My Grandma is the reason I’ve turned out with a good set of values. I don’t believe she grew up wanting to be an activist, but she never shied away from it when things needed to be done.

      And I’m so glad I was able to find a doctor who actually fixed my knee as well. Being able to walk, hike, climb, is so wonderful, when I wasn’t for so long!

  6. October 30, 2011 12:18 am

    Thank you.
    I am struggling (I know, it shouldn’t be a struggle, I should just be strong) with cutting out of my life a person who keeps talking about how if HE can get to the gym for a couple hours a week so should everyone else and how fat people choose to be fat. I’ve been friends with this guy for a long time so the decision hurts. Also I know that once I do it he and his followers are going to badmouth me to kingdom come and back, and I don’t know if I have the strength to deal with it.
    Your post lets me know I’m not alone.

    • bronwenofhindscroft permalink
      October 30, 2011 11:50 am

      First of all, know that your feelings are valid. It’s hard to cut somebody out of your life. Damn hard. Even when they are bad for you. (Yes, I have that t-shirt.) The fact it’s a struggle tells you (and anybody who wants to see) that you really DO care.

      There is a place for being strong. That place is not calling him when it’s habit to do so. Or not accepting an invitation from him to hang out together, when you really miss him. Deliberately giving up a friendship is very much like a divorce (only modern society doesn’t seem to see it that way).

      But while you do need to be strong, you also need to allow your emotions. To feel what you are feeling.

      It sucks to be in this position.

      You aren’t alone.

  7. SherryH permalink
    October 30, 2011 10:02 pm

    Hi, Bronwen! I enjoyed your introduction, and I’m looking forward to getting to know you better!

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