This article on “How Doctor’s Take Women’s Pain Less Seriously” really hit home. I had EXACTLY the medical issue the author’s wife had. The pain of a dying organ so acute I was vomiting, and the pain meds the hospital gave me – at a double dose – were ineffective. I had a slightly better experience. I was still sent home after a few hours with no diagnosis, but came back the next day for a scan, where they found the huge mass, which then meant an emergency surgery, five days in the hospital, and a 16-inch scar down my stomach. But first – “Are you sure you’re in that much pain?”
That was 18 years ago. I was still a teenager. And it was not that experience, but my experience in recent years, that has really opened my eyes to the sexism inherent in our medical system.
Not once in those 18 years – the whole time my medical charts had my additional diagnosis – did a doctor ever tell me I could do anything about my continuing, particularly “female” problems. Take some ibuprofen for the pain, try to lose weight, try birth control if the problems get too out of control.
In the last two years, I have had a complete reversal of nearly all the symptoms I’ve had since I was a teenager. Not because any doctor suggested I take the course of medical action I did, but because after yet another doctor blew through my “female-problem” diagnosis with a shrug, I decided to start researching. Which led me to trial and error on my body. Which led to good results. Which led to more research, more trial and error, and more good results.
And it was HARD. While I still struggle with my own health journey, there’s no accomplishment I’m prouder of than reversing these symptoms, and potentially reversing the syndrome and other medical concerns.
I’ve had many moments struggling with anger at doctors, but less so after I was requesting blood tests from my regular doctor, and she remarked that she thought I might know more about this syndrome than she did. She’s a general practitioner, and had never been given even the basic information that these medical conditions could be reversed.
I had a different appointment with women’s medical specialist, after once again delaying medical treatment she thought she would be giving me because “whatever you’re doing is working and I don’t want to interrupt that.” I found that even though this women’s specialist believed what I was doing was working, I had to NOT TELL MY DOCTOR certain things I was doing (like not eating dairy) because she dismissed them as inconsequential. For that matter, after I told her the most dramatic positive medical change came after a pretty strict diet change, including giving up foods like dairy… she suggested I eat yogurt.
I appreciate articles like this that approach the problem. Women aren’t believed. Their female pain is exaggerated, or just part of being a woman. And consequently, there are serious female medical problems that aren’t taken seriously, aren’t studied, aren’t researched, aren’t taught in medical schools.
So now – what’s the solution? Awareness is part of that, which is why I bother to post this when there’s still that part of me that goes “They’ll think you just want sympathy and attention.”
But what can I do to help create real change around this? What can we do?