#ButDon’tYouWantToGetBetter: Women, Doctors, and the Lack of Diagnosis

I wrote recently about how it felt to not be believed by someone in regards to my Chronic Fatigue. 

However, as painful as it is to hear the words, I don’t believe you” from someone you love – or statements that imply something similar that those with invisible illnesses have heard in all varieties – it’s far more painful to hear these words implied by the people we depend on most: doctors. 

I’ve read more times than I can count that doctors are more likely to dismiss women; women are less likely to receive treatment; are less likely to be believed and often have to fight to be heard. 

From my own personal experiences, this is most certainly the case. 

When I was a teen, my parents and I had to fight – constantly – with my doctor over whether my period pain was normal or something more sinister. 

My doctor believed I was overreacting and over exaggerating my pain. 

My parents didn’t believe that having periods should cause so much pain that I would literally pass out. 

My parents were right: I was later diagnosed with endometriosis when a cyst on my ovaries burst. 

Later on, my appendix would cause me intense pain: While I didn’t know it at the time, I had a rumbling appendix and apparently there’s only so long an appendix can get angry before it bursts. 

I was hospitalised twice, at least, during the year where I couldn’t cope any longer with the pain. 

I also saw countless doctors who all said the same thing: that my pain was brought on by stress. 

If you’ve ever had appendicitis, you will know just how bullshit that response is. 

After a year of hearing “It’s just stress” and “It’s probably just bad period pain” one of my closest friends decided that my pain was not normal. 

I couldn’t stand straight, I was sweating profusely, I had an extremely high temperature, I was vomiting continuously and I was using all my strength to avoid screaming. 

After being admitted, the doctors again didn’t believe me. 

I wasn’t even given Panadol. 

At around 9 pm, I decided I wanted to check myself out. I’d be more comfortable at home where I could take Panadol and Nurofen – both more than I’d been given at the hospital. 

The nurse that came into my room, when I explained why I wanted to leave, berated me. 

She actually called me stupid and to “harden up” as I didn’t know what real pain was. 

By the next morning, I was delirious from the fever and barely able to speak from the pain. 

My vomiting had increased dramatically and after two IV anti-nausea injections, they decided to complete blood tests. 

My white blood cell count was up. 

I then listened as my doctor fought with another doctor: my new doctor believed my appendix was about to burst. 

Not wanting to risk a malpractice suit, my doctor won, and I was airlifted to the closest nearby hospital that offered surgical procedures. 

By the time I was admitted into surgery, my appendix had burst. 

Over the next few days, I was pumped full of so many different antibiotics  (and some rather lovely pain medication). 

When I was finally released, I had to continue antibiotics for another week. 

While I returned to work much earlier than I really should have, it took me months to recover. 

My point? 

All of this could have been prevented if my pain hadn’t been dismissed for an entire year. 

All of this could have been avoided if one person, in that entire year, had thought my pain was too intense to be stress-related. 

Women are ignored way too frequently, and this needs to change. 

We need to start listening to people so it doesn’t take years for some to receive a diagnosis. 

After all … how many of you have waited years to receive a diagnosis and made to feel crazy about your “stress-related” symptoms? 

In Emergencies: 000

Lifeline Australia: 13 11 14

1800 RESPECT

MensLine Australia: 1300 78 99 78

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17 thoughts on “#ButDon’tYouWantToGetBetter: Women, Doctors, and the Lack of Diagnosis

  1. Ariel Lynn says:

    Reblogged this on Writing Radiation and commented:
    Took me over 4 years to get a fibromyalgia diagnosis. 5 years is the average diagnosis time, as 80% of the patients are female.

    Don’t let a doctor disregard your pain – especially if you’re female. We know our bodies, we know when something’s wrong, take that s— to another doctor (& another, & another) until someone listens to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Elizabeth Schap says:

    I wish I could say I was surprised but….

    I had to sit in an ER with my foot dislocated and my leg bones broken for 2.5 hours before a doctor came to get me. She looked at me and asked what was wrong (my leg being covered by a towel) and when I told I broke my ankle she gave me the most sarcastic “yeah right look.” Then she pulled back the towel and freaked out. All my care at that hospital was crap and it took 3 years and three surgeries to fix all the shit they messed up. Like the worst.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thingscarlaloves says:

      OMG that is so awful! Doctors are FAR worse treating women than men. And women are FAR better at handling pain, because we’re forced to, so we’re seen less and believed less. That’s just fucking bullshit.

      Did the surgeries help repair the damage, or does it still cause you pain and discomfort? I imagine an ankle would be really hard :S

      Like

      • Elizabeth Schap says:

        I still have some pain and discomfort – mostly in the mornings. It was crazy all the way around and I never thought about it until I read this but it does make sense. The surgeon I ended up with for the first surgery was a real dick and then the other one was always talking down to me and placating me.

        Just glad to be done with it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • thingscarlaloves says:

        That sucks! I bet it’s worse in the cold, too. I’m so sorry both of your surgeons sound like huge wankers!!! I bet you are!! I would be, too!

        Like

  3. Xena says:

    Your appendix experience reminded me of my own back in the 70’s. The doctors assumed the pain was from “female problems” and finally conducted search and rescue surgery to find out the problem. At the age of 23, I was given a full hysterectomy and the surgeon said when he made the incision, my appendix fell — almost rupturing. It was after surgery when the original pain was worst that they conducted an upper and lower GI series and discovered that pain came from colitis. It has been 3 years that I complained about the pain.

    Back in 2005, I was talking to a surgeon friend who told me that they are given instructions on how to “diagnose” patients. The thing back then was to contribute all symptoms to smoking. Stress was another default diagnosis. Now, depression is the catch-all diagnosis. The diagnosis are often introduced by pharmaceutical companies who want to promote new drugs, many with side-effects that cause other health issues and of course, the need for more drugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thingscarlaloves says:

      Oh my god, that sounds awful. And a hysterectomy at 23 – especially back then – would have been so traumatic for you. How are you now?

      Like

      • Xena says:

        The hysterectomy didn’t bother me. I went through almost 30 years of being on hormones but didn’t think of them as being any more inconvenient than taking birth control pills. Now, I just received good news yesterday. On March 1st, I had a double mastectomy and removal of 3 lymph nodes after being diagnosed with Her2 positive breast cancer. Biopsy of the lymph nodes returned no cancer cells. Biopsy of the tumor and surrounding tissue returned no cancer cells. The cancer marker blood test returned no cancer cells in blood stream. Now, it’s just a matter of healing from the surgery. Thanks so much for asking.

        Liked by 1 person

      • thingscarlaloves says:

        I’m glad you don’t have any cancer cells. But still, oh my gosh, you have been through the wars. I can’t even imagine – and you’re so brave and calm. You must have been through hell recently.

        Like

  4. Lexxi Hunter says:

    Wow your story resonates with me
    I too had a ruptured appendix that took 4 ER visits, an overnight admission where I was patronized, accused of drug seeking and essentially told I wasn’t in enough pain. I finally was sent to the OR for exploratory surgery for an ovarian cyst- instead I had a 6 hour surgery and ended up with peritonitis and admitted for ten days on IV antibiotics and drains. The only reason I survived was because I refused to leave the hospital so they admitted me. I’m sorry to hear that my experience is not unique.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thingscarlaloves says:

      Oh my gosh, that sounds terrible. I thought my ordeal was horrific, but holy crap! A six hour surgery would have been so intense on your body, too. I’m so glad you fought for yourself ❤

      Like

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