Ellen Maud Bennett, a cancer patient, passed away aged 64 on May 11, 2018. But before she succumbed to the inoperable cancer she had two requests for her obituary. Ellen wanted to share an incredibly important heart-breaking message about the fat-shaming she experienced from doctors. Her second request was that wanted a beautiful picture of her to accompany the words. Ellen asked her family to make her story public, in hopes that it inspired other women who have dealt with the same issues.
The photo in her obituary was chosen by her and she told her relatives, ‘I look so good for someone almost dead’. As for her message to all the women out there who have experienced fat-shaming from medical professionals, her obituary read: “Over the past few years of feeling unwell she sought medical intervention, and no one offered any support or suggestions beyond weight loss. Ellen’s dying wish was that women in size make her death matter by advocating strongly for their health and not accepting that fat is the only relevant health issue.”
Her wish was indeed heard, and it inspired many women who are struggling with the same issue. While some wrote on Twitter sharing their stories of similar experiences, others wrote on her online Guest Book. All of them expressed their deepest gratitude to Bennett for making their voices heard.
One commenter wrote on the guest book, “Last year I had a knee injury and no doctor, physio or osteo seemed to hold any hope that my pain would lessen, or my mobility improve because of my fatness. It has improved enormously. They made me feel like my life was over. It was so depressing, and I now know there were therapies that might have helped. They just couldn’t be bothered.” While another wrote: “I have experienced fat shaming from doctors all my life. I have gone through many illnesses because I didn’t want to go to the doctor for my illness just to be told how fat I was. I am learning how to stand up for myself after years of being pushed around by medical community. I am so sorry this happened to you. I admire your strength to speak out about this discrimination against people of size.”
Michael Orsini, a professor at the University of Ottawa who specialises in health policies told Buzzfeed News that fat-shaming in doctor’s offices can dissuade patients from making important trips to see medical professionals altogether. Ellen quit her job to establish a popular vintage clothing store in Ottawa which eventually inspired her to pursue her passion for Costume Design, as written in her obituary.