The Ripple Effect of Medical Negligence on Health, Weight, and Beauty

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

November 21st, 2009 • Patient AdvocacyPrint Print

During the period I lived in Israel, from 2002-2006, I suffered from severe, debilitating pain that left it difficult for me to do basic activities such as walking.  The disability impacted me in many ways.  Among other things, it affected my eating behavior, and I yo-yoed between 190-200 pounds.

scaleIn Tel Aviv, where I lived for three out of four years, there is a relentless pressure on women to look fabulous 24/7, with very conventional and hyper-sexualized notions of female beauty. Fuck Manhattan and Paris. Tel Aviv should be renamed The City of Lost Runway Models. 

The Israeli fashion industry caters to this aesthetic, so it was damn near impossible to find clothes that made me look and feel good. In an effort to get out of stretch pants and oversized t-shirts, I pitched and was assigned a Jerusalem Post article on plus-sized fashion, and I went on a research mission to find where thick-skinned chicks could get a little help with style. 

Fortunately, I found two whole stores (out of, you know, hundreds) with terrific clothing that fit. And so I started to look hip again.

dairyMeanwhile, during my last year in Israel, I cut out sugar, dairy (except nonfat plain yogurt), and, for the most part, bread. I also took other dietary measures, all in the interest of getting my adult acne under control. Interestingly enough, my nutritionist had been trying to get me to cut out dairy for years, asserting it would help with my pain, but only the quest for smooth skin could get my face out of cheese!

I ended up shedding weight quickly and with no effort, and I dropped to 174 pounds. I then got a rockin haircut, had my brows done, bought a pair of jeans that made my ass look slammin’, and otherwise got my groove back. Everyone took notice, telling me how terrific I looked.

Of course, this is all against the backdrop of formulaic notions of female beauty.  When dealing with chronic pain day-in, day-out, however there are only so many revolutions one actively can pursue.

broken glassIn January 2006, I flew to the US to give a presentation at a conference in New York. A few days later, I began feeling as if I were constantly walking on broken glass.  One thing led to another, and I ended up back in California, for medical treatment.

During my visit to a podiatrist, I told the doctor the history of injury to my feet — including one incident with a massage therapist a couple of years earlier and another incident with a chiropractor several months before.  The podiatrist found my story hilarious and joked about how he would have to leave his business card at the office of the chiropractor.

Preoccupied with entertaining himself at my expense, he apparently paid little attention to what I had said about the sensitivity of my ankles. When telling me what exercise to do for the plantar fasciitis and neuroma with which he diagnosed me, he firmly grasped one of my feet and aggressively pushed it back toward my leg.

I had spent months actively self-healing my ankles — giving myself acupressure, engaging in my very new Dancing with Pain® method, channeling healing energy, and regularly walking on the sand. By the time I flew to the US, I was able to walk without pain.

After that visit to the podiatrist, however, I experienced debilitating pain in that ankle again, and it affected everything – my ability to walk, to bike, and to drive. Even getting home from the appointment was difficult, given the pain shooting through my ankle when I operated the clutch in my car.

So there I was, homebound again, once more facing the uphill battle of healing my ankle.

I’ve had all kinds of pain, and I can testify that ankle pain is one of the most difficult to heal. Every time you walk to, say, the bathroom, you exacerbate the pain. What’s more, in California, I lived in a split level unit, with a short staircase to my home office and long staircase up to my living quarters. I was miles and miles from the beach; I lived in a residential area miles from stores; and none of the places where I shopped delivered goods.

TJ BootySo healing my ankle was much more of a challenge than in Tel Aviv, where my apartment was all on the same level, where I was blocks from the beach, where I lived right off a square with every conceivable store, and where regardless of my location, every market — including health food stores —  delivered, placing packages exactly where I wanted them in my kitchen.

Depression. Anger. Frustration. Overwhelm. Immobility. Fear. Isolation. It all spirals together, one thing causing or feeding into another. Food comforts, soothes, numbs. Food is a form of entertainment that does not risk physical pain.

And so, by the summer of 2006, I was close to 190 pounds again.

In August, I joined Overeaters Anonymous. I became “abstinent” (refraining from compulsive food behaviors) immediately and dropped weight quickly. Within a few months, I was back to what I weighed when I came to the US. By the Winter that year, I had healed my feet and was on a renewed mission to look great and get out into the world again.

glassesWearing contact lenses was a big part of it. I don’t feel beautiful when I wear glasses. I feel cute or funky or stylin’, but not beautiful. There’s just a certain glam element that I have without glasses, that I don’t have with them. I mean, there’s this clunky thing sitting on my nose, right, obstructing the view and all.

And something about wearing contacts feeds on itself. I look better as the day progresses. Perhaps it’s because I like the reflection I see in the mirror, and I grow into it – filling up that space, owning it.

A few days before a doctor’s appointment to get a wart removed, I was at Whole Foods Market, hair down, contacts in, and wearing a cute outfit – basic, you know, but cute. Top and jeans. I ran into a guy I had a crush on, and we flirted. I felt fantastic.

Not long after, I went in to get my wart removed. The doctor decided it would be really fun to dump the entire cup of liquid nitrogen onto the examining table, between my legs, to watch the bubbles bounce around. 

right eyeApparently, some of that liquid nitrogen splashed into my right eye, as I felt an immediate stinging sensation, then went on to endure months of severe, debilitating headaches and two years of eye problems. I never had eye problems before this incident, save for nearsightedness and the occasional pink eye.

Depression. Anger. Frustration. Overwhelm. Immobility. Fear. Isolation. It all spirals together, one thing causing or feeding into another. Food comforts, soothes, numbs. Food is a form of entertainment that does not risk physical pain.

I lost my abstinence. By September 2008, I weighed 202 pounds, and I was ballooning with no end in sight.

A significant part of my out-of-control eating was not being able to even look how I wanted, because I couldn’t wear contact lenses. I’d splurged on an expensive pair of glasses, after having shopped in many stores for a pair that would look best on me. If I couldn’t wear contacts, I reasoned, I would have to make do and look as fabulous as I could otherwise.

Still, it’s not the same. And there’s a ripple effect in terms of how I look, how I feel, and how others respond to me. What’s more, there is something about having not only my internal landscape but even my outer look affected by pain. It’s just too much. That’s just taking over my entire life.

A couple of days ago, on November 19, 2009, I weighed in at 177 pounds. Three pounds away from where I was when I came to the US from Israel in January 2006. It’s been a long and difficult ride. And all of it was completely unnecessary, avoidable with some basic responsibility on the part of the doctors.

Last week, I tried once again to wear contact lenses.  Within two hours, the lenses had plastered themselves to my eyes, and I had a hard time peeling them off.  My right eye has not stopped hurting since.  Damn.


nicole fraser November 21st, 2009

First of all, wow that you got to live in Tel Aviv .  I have Lebanese heritage and my people came from Zahalie ,Lebanon.  I would love to have the opportunity to travel there.

I understand your pain, i live it.    I have just put my neck, shoulder and upper back out.  I live with long term pain, i have for 9 years.  I have been walking every day and doing really well.  2.2 km every day at a brisk pace.  This left me feeling like, if i can walk i must be healed!!!!!  SO i stupidly raked the back yard for 20 minutes as it is pitch dark when my husband gets home from work.  By last night i knew i had done damage to my neck/upperback.  Raking is one of those awful movements for me that i can never do.
So today i am couch bound.  on muscle relaxants and tylenol 3′s.  I am in agony.  I NEVER LEARN!
I too battle the bulge.  For me it was a way of coping from past sexual abuse i think.   I have ballooned up to an awful size.  BUT i have joined weight watchers and i am learning about portions.  That i CAN have any food , but in moderation.  For me, it’s kind of all or nothing.  So i pretty much stay away from those foods or i’ll go out of control.  Not easy to do in a house of 5.  With 3 kids i need to pack snacks for at school it is hard to do.   I’m only 2 weeks in but i am pledging that i will stay committed.  I lost 3.8 pounds last week. This week i weigh in mon am.  I guess we’ll see on monday.  Nic

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