'Do you think you're homesick?' Medicine's woman problem, illustrated
July 31, 2017 7:33 AM   Subscribe

Aubrey Hirsch's brilliant comic about her long, painful journey to a diagnosis hits painfully close to the bone.
posted by nerdfish (74 comments total) 75 users marked this as a favorite
And it's not just a thyroid thing. Another common endocrine disorder in women (PCOS) is not (on average) caught by the first doctor... or the second.
posted by Jpfed at 7:46 AM on July 31, 2017 [5 favorites]

I spent ten years saying "something's not right" before I got a diagnosis.
posted by elizilla at 7:52 AM on July 31, 2017 [4 favorites]


Back in May I was suffering from gastrointestinal distress. When the pains became so bad it was hard to stand and my stomach was tender to touch, I went to the ER. They did a CAT scan of my abdomen to rule out diverticulitis, and saw an edge of a uterine fibroid.

I have fibroids. I know this, my GYN knows this, and they (fibroids) thankfully cause me no problems. They then did a vaginal ultrasound to confirm the fibroids, and my final diagnosis was -- fibroids. Over my protests that 1) I could barely walk because of my stomach pain; 2) this was not uterine cramping; 3) the fibroids are not new -- they sent me home with a recommendation to follow up with my GYN, and maybe take some Milk of Magnesia for the GI pain.

A few days later, the pain and GI issues receded and I'm guessing it was some type of food poisoning. But I ripped the hospital on the survey, saying this is why women have problems getting actual issues diagnosed. Now, I think I'll write an email and include a link to that comic.
posted by kimberussell at 7:57 AM on July 31, 2017 [7 favorites]

Autism and ADHD are both underdiagnosed in young girls as well.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 7:59 AM on July 31, 2017 [30 favorites]

I always wonder what world people are living in when they say "US health care is too expensive because doctors are ordering all these unnecessary tests!" Then I realize they are living in a man's world, and I am not.

I am so so lucky that I worked at a company which offered free yearly wellness exams, including blood pressure, CBC and thyroid. That's how my low thyroid function was detected very soon after I started suffering symptoms (lethargy, loss of appetite, weight gain). Otherwise my symptoms almost certainly would have been blamed on my weight despite the fact that I was hardly eating anything at the time.
posted by muddgirl at 8:00 AM on July 31, 2017 [31 favorites]

So much sympathy for her! I have thyroid problems, only mine is under- not over-active. And I was fortunate to be diagnosed early, I think partly because thyroid problems run in my family (so I could tell the doc "my mom takes Synthroid, so does my grandma, so does my aunt, so do my cousins...") and probably because I got lucky enough to get a doc who knows that thyroid problems are very common in women.

Seriously, thyroid issues in women are horses, not zebras, and the test is simple and cheap, so it doubly fills me with rage at Aubrey's diagnosis.

You wanna know why Goop is raking in the bucks? THIS IS WHY. The medical system thinks that everything is in our teeny tiny lady heads.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 8:06 AM on July 31, 2017 [46 favorites]

Black women get a double dose of this kind of shit.

My partner complained for years about arthritis pain. Doctors told her to take aspirin. It took a very long time before anyone would prescribe the sort of narcotic it takes to even dull the edge of her pain.

She's got very frequent muscle cramps. She is currently in the middle of trying to get someone, somewhere, to take it seriously and figure out what needs to be done. So far the answers have been, basically, a shrug and "eh, deal with it".

There's a pernicious belief in the medical community that black people feel less pain than white people, or that somehow, in some mysterious way, black people feel pain differently in a way that makes it less important. It's obviously a leftover from slavery when white slave owners would justify their brutality by pretending that black people didn't really feel pain. But it's a myth that has lasted 200+ years and black people complaining about pain are often brushed off

And, of course, women's medical complaints are always just hysteria. So a black woman with chronic pain is doubly ignored.

Meanwhile, as a white guy, I get people taking every medical complaint I have very seriously, doing all the tests they can think of, and basically treating me like a patient instead of an obnoxious distraction.

And yes, this is exactly why Goop, and homeopathy, and holistic medicine, and chiropractic, and all the other various forms of quackery are raking it in. Because even though they're full of shit they actually pay attention (or pretend to anyway) to women with problems.
posted by sotonohito at 8:18 AM on July 31, 2017 [51 favorites]

Oh, that "more sleep, less stress, more exercise" litany is all I heard for years, too. Finally I ended up with the "right" symptom to get a doctor to run the tests that led to my first diagnosis (I have a collection of autoimmune issues). I try not to think too hard about whether some of the damage to my body could have been reduced if someone had figured it out sooner because it makes me ragey and that's bad for me.

And then my primary diagnosis is still a catchall one because "we don't know a lot about autoimmune diseases" *shrug*. Gee, I don't suppose that has anything to do with the fact that women are more likely to suffer from them and medical research has historically been focused on white men?
posted by camyram at 8:23 AM on July 31, 2017 [10 favorites]

Twice now, when I've gone to the doctor for the express purpose of dealing with a gynecological complaint, I've thoroughly explained the problem and then been asked, "So what's the problem?" or "What are you worried about?" This was two separate providers, one male and one female. Both times, I looked at them like they were crazy and said, "Um, I would like to not [experience the painful symptoms I literally just described to you]."
posted by coppermoss at 8:24 AM on July 31, 2017 [25 favorites]

My favourite story is still that I suffered a knee injury and was immediately sent home with 100 big, heavy-duty painkillers. The knee pain wasn't too bad, really, but the medical staff felt I shouldn't have to suffer. So, I've been carefully hoarding those 100 heavy-duty painkillers to ease those period pains I've had for 30 years and which regularly make me faint, vomit and be bed-ridden. Doctors have never seen the need to medicate those — instead I've been told to "soldier through", "be a brave girl", and that it's "just something women have to deal with, sorry".
posted by kariebookish at 8:34 AM on July 31, 2017 [36 favorites]

I recommend taking a large, bearded, white male, capable of running the gamut from sweet reason to icy calm to high-volume chest-beating silverback rage, along with you to act as your advocate and backup. This has worked several times for my daughter.

Needless to day, it completely sucks that this should change anything. But it does.
posted by flabdablet at 8:52 AM on July 31, 2017 [3 favorites]

When you get to A Certain Age, everything that happens in your body is apparently caused by menopause. A shoulder injury was dismissed with "oh well, it's just the hormonal changes causing your joints to loosen up" and I'm all like, no, this is an actual injury caused by something I did, this is not fine.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 8:53 AM on July 31, 2017 [32 favorites]

My sister's chronic migraines were explained away by the foreign-born male doctor at her clinic as the result of her not fulfilling her traditional female role (she was working outside the home and not submitting to her husband).
posted by Lunaloon at 9:07 AM on July 31, 2017 [8 favorites]

I fell on the ice in January and hit the back of my head very, very hard. Went to ER for concussion (spoiler: It was), but I was asked if it was possible the reason for my nausea was maybe I could be pregnant? Not, you know, the immense crash I just took on the ice about 45 minutes ago look at the CT scan you massive idiot.
posted by oflinkey at 9:14 AM on July 31, 2017 [15 favorites]

Wild. I'm a white male. In my late 20s, I went for my annual PCP checkup. He looked at my bloodwork and told me to see an endocrinologist. "Why?" "Oh, they'll know." Went to endo with my bloodwork. "You have Hashimoto's thyroiditis." Endo got me on the right Synthroid dose and said, "You don't have to see me anymore. Your PCP can follow this."

Also can confirm that radicalspouse has totally different doctor interactions when I am in the exam room or even in the waiting room versus when I'm not there.
posted by radicalawyer at 9:18 AM on July 31, 2017 [13 favorites]

this is so so so recognizable for so many women's health problems. and naturally it can be much worse if you're "too young to be sick" (which is when many of these diseases start), or any number of intersectional identities (fat, queer, POC, etc).

here's a link to jen brea's excellent ted talk on medical misogyny.
posted by JBD at 9:24 AM on July 31, 2017 [12 favorites]

Kariebookish, 'period pains ... which regularly make me faint, vomit and be bed-ridden' are definitely not normal. Have you at least had endometriosis ruled out?
posted by genuinely curious at 9:29 AM on July 31, 2017 [4 favorites]

One of the most infuriating things about this comic was the pregnancy tests. Why can't a person opt out of a pregnancy test? Either they know there is no way they could be pregnant, or they don't care (because it could be nonviable for medical or other reasons, and/or impede the emergency care they went in to get in the first place).

I went in for a lap to remove some endometriosis stuff and the pregnancy test (despite the fact that I am in the category of being physically unable to get pregnant) was an $80 line item on my hospital bill. Which, to be fair, was a drop in the bucket, for all the other hospital/medical bills I'd accrued in the years it took to get a diagnosis.
posted by witchen at 9:34 AM on July 31, 2017 [3 favorites]

Heh. When I was a young female college student complaining of constantly feeling awful, I was first diagnosed with "that's just a cold," then "maybe it's allergies, try some OTC pills," then (I kid you not) "maybe you need to make some more friends." That was three different doctors. Didn't get a single diagnostic test of any sort done until doctor #4, who recognized immediately that I had mono.
posted by somedaycatlady at 9:47 AM on July 31, 2017 [3 favorites]

As a teenager, I had a very severe reaction to a drug that almost killed me after major surgery because my surgeon, who very much did not get along with my mother because she was "too involved" in his words, had decided to administer a dosage fit for an adult man of a drug that can do incredible damage to internal organs if it is over-administered. I weighed 75 pounds and was 15. The overdose of this drug permanently damaged me and required more major surgery five years later.

Before this, it took at least six years to get the diagnosis that led to this surgery, because my pediatrician thought my mother was "just anxious" and "exaggerating" my symptoms. Only when I got the flu and could not recover was I finally sent to the hospital where they did bloodwork were we able to determine that no, I was in major organ failure. Surprise. A simple blood test was all it took.

Now, as an adult, it's my turn to fight with doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers when I go try to get care. I'm thoroughly convinced that misogyny has played a major role in my treatment options and my health outcomes. This link really spoke to me as a result. Thank you for posting it.
posted by sockermom at 9:58 AM on July 31, 2017 [20 favorites]

This is very familiar - I knew a young woman in college who was put on anti-anxiety medication and anti-depressants (with horrible side effects) for almost a year before anyone thought to check thyroid function and she finally got a Grave's Disease diagnosis. All the symptoms immediately disappeared once the thyroid medication was started.
posted by Mallenroh at 10:00 AM on July 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm a man, but I have done my time on the "complicated situation with multiple symptoms" treadmill a few times, and I have the advantage of being taken more seriously. I currently have a great GP who listens fully and attentively and pursues options. Even with her, I am deeply anxious about ruining the relationship by being "a complainer." I can only imagine how much worse it is for people without my race, gender, class, and age advantages. And a really really good GP.

Heck, I once had to argue that there was something wrong with my arm after an accident and it demonstrably would not move through more than half its arc. Turned out I had a fractured shoulder, but I was brushed off as... deluded? Lying? For the non-obvious problems, getting them taken seriously is like 1000 times harder. At least.

So, anyway, this had a lot of resonance for me.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:12 AM on July 31, 2017 [6 favorites]

One of the most infuriating things about this comic was the pregnancy tests. Why can't a person opt out of a pregnancy test? Either they know there is no way they could be pregnant, or they don't care (because it could be nonviable for medical or other reasons, and/or impede the emergency care they went in to get in the first place).

It was a bit more justifiable in my case, but pregnancy was one of the first things I was tested for when I turned up in the ER with severe abdominal pain; they wanted to rule out etopic pregnancy. It took them nine hours to figure out what was wrong; turned out to be ovarian torsion, but me and the guy who brought me made sure I stayed put until they figured out what the fuck was going on.

It presented a comedic moment, though, because the person who brought me to the ER was a brand-new boyfriend with whom I was on that exact moment in the middle of our second-ever date, and we had only just had sex for the first time not 2 hours before the pain started. When the doctor came to tell us that I wasn't pregnant, my dude quipped, "....I'm flattered you thought it would be that, frankly."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:20 AM on July 31, 2017 [7 favorites]

You wanna know why Goop is raking in the bucks? THIS IS WHY. The medical system thinks that everything is in our teeny tiny lady heads

Quoted for fucking truth.

Honestly, I can't even read TFA because I don't have the time to be that angry today. Suffice to say this lesbian has had to take a ridiculous number of pregnancy tests and I didn't find a doctor who took my endocrine disorder or my neuroendocrine symptoms seriously until I was 34. A few of those previous doctors almost killed me with their misogyny.

And then were angry at me when they turned out to be wrong.

The rot in the medical community is pervasive. The way medicine is taught emphasizes traits of toxic masculinity and also teaches doctors to have contempt for their patients, which exacerbates existing prejudices.

Guess what I avoid doing now until I have all the latest research at my fingertips and know exactly what to ask for? Yeah.

I seriously fucking hate doctors.
posted by schadenfrau at 10:21 AM on July 31, 2017 [19 favorites]

One thing that deeply frustrates me is the obsession with reproductive function (as in: are you pregnant?) and how that compounds medical care issues.

When I was admitted to the hospital with malaria most recently, they asked if I could be pregnant. I said no. They did a pregnancy test anyways, which pissed me off because if they were going to do a test even if I said no, why bother asking? Anyways, the results of the test came back negative, and they prescribed medication for malaria which is strongly counter-indicated for pregnant and breastfeeding women because of birth defects.

Then, at my follow-up appointment where I had a blood draw to confirm that my plasmodium levels were decreasing, the doctor asked how my pregnancy was going!! It turns out that when they did my intake, they mistakenly wrote down that I was pregnant and didn't fix it when the pregnancy test came back negative. And then prescribed me the medication anyways! So now, not only was I angry that they accidentally wrote that I was pregnant, I was angry that my record said that I was pregnant and they prescribed this medication anyways.

Incidentally, the first time I was in the hospital with malaria, I was actually, briefly and mistakenly, pregnant. And I told them that as soon as I got out of the hospital, I was going to go through the hoops and traps of getting an abortion in the great state of Ohio, so please just treat me with the most effective medication possible. And, they could not, because I was pregnant (even though I said very clearly that I did not want to be pregnant), and so I had a longer treatment with different medication that had more side effects and took longer. I have never felt so clearly like my only societal value is as a vessel for the Next Generation
posted by ChuraChura at 10:22 AM on July 31, 2017 [63 favorites]

And I told them that as soon as I got out of the hospital, I was going to go through the hoops and traps of getting an abortion in the great state of Ohio, so please just treat me with the most effective medication possible. And, they could not, because I was pregnant (even though I said very clearly that I did not want to be pregnant), and so I had a longer treatment with different medication that had more side effects and took longer.

Oh my fucking god.

I mean, this is why I have revenge fantasies about Fury Roading the fuck out of the medical establishment.
posted by schadenfrau at 10:24 AM on July 31, 2017 [27 favorites]

Anne and Wil Wheaton just lived through this very thing; she wrote quite a bit about it, and it's similarly rage-inducing even though it was a much shorter timeline.
posted by uberchet at 10:34 AM on July 31, 2017 [9 favorites]

When I was hit by a car the male dr asked me the routine question if I was pregnant (I'm aware that xrays aren't a good idea for those who are). When I told him no he wanted to know when I last had sex, which was none of his fucking business.

When I was hospitalized for depression the asshole shrink told my parents that I would be put on lithium before bothering to run the tests for bipolar. He still gave it to me even after bloodwork proved that I wasn't.
posted by brujita at 10:35 AM on July 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

Not doubting the misogyny, but the medical establishment sucks, and it sucks for everyone.

When my bf developed a sever pain in his calf, we called the nurse service provided by his insurance, and based on our phone description of his symptoms, the nurse said he probably had a blood clot, and to go to the ER. At the ER, we told the doc that a nurse had said possible blood clot. He ignored that, was annoyed and imperious, and prescribed a muscle relaxant. He also gave my bf a form excusing him from work the next day, which he did not ask for, implying that he thought my bf was faking.

So we went to another hospital ER, waited 7 hours, and he was admitted with a blood clot and given heparin, which fortunately offers immediate relief, but is supposed to be continued b/c of the risk the clot could travel to the lung or heart. When the shift change happened, the new doc took him off the heparin, but he was not released until the next day.

The next day, we went to my bf's primary doc for follow up, and she said he had to get an ultrasound to see what the blood clot was doing. So back to the ER, another 7 hour wait, and the ultrasound revealed he should be receiving heparin, so he was readmitted. Another doc then said that no, he shouldn't be in the hospital receiving treatment. So he was released and we were referred to a vascular surgeon, who said he needed to be readmitted, and since he was a very senior doctor, no one could contradict him.

Blood clots can be life-threatening.
posted by Vispa Teresa at 10:40 AM on July 31, 2017 [7 favorites]

The rot in the medical community is pervasive. The way medicine is taught emphasizes traits of toxic masculinity and also teaches doctors to have contempt for their patients, which exacerbates existing prejudices.

I think this is true, and on the other side of the toxic masculinity coin, primary care medicine in a lot of ways is a service industry, and women get worse service in other service industries as well. I think that a big part of this is because doctors and other service providers are more worried that men will publicly complain about bad service and are more worried about harassment and even violence from male clients.
posted by muddgirl at 10:41 AM on July 31, 2017 [6 favorites]

They also require pregnancy tests in part because the diagnostic process may involve CT scans or X-rays that could damage a fetus. Hospitals are afraid of being sued.

I can't even tell you how many women I know who were told to go home and not worry about that lump in their breast because they were too young to get breast cancer. Months later they notice it's bigger, go back, are diagnosed with cancer that's been sitting in their bodies for much longer than it had to because a professional physician in a position of knowledge and authority told them they were fine. It's very, very common.
posted by something something at 10:42 AM on July 31, 2017 [3 favorites]

I have never felt so clearly like my only societal value is as a vessel for the Next Generation

My mum was hospitalized at the age of 74. She was asked when was her last period.
posted by angiep at 10:48 AM on July 31, 2017 [6 favorites]

In university about 20 years ago, a group of my friends and I were talking about not being taken seriously by doctors, and a friend told us that her father's friend and his colleagues who worked in the ER in a Toronto hospital called the young women who came in to the ER "muffins in distress." Looks like that hasn't changed.

I think every medical student should have to take a semester of schooling that is comprised entirely of having to listen to women (and other people who routinely don't get listened to) tell their stories of being ignored by the medical system and the horrifying and deleterious effects that has had on their physical and emotional well being. Preferably Clockwork Orange style.

-signed, another woman who has had symptoms that were hand waved away by the medical system until decades of suffering had passed and it was basically too late to fix some of the effects
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:49 AM on July 31, 2017 [24 favorites]

Oh this hits so close to home. I have PCOS that took 7 years and 4 doctors to get diagnosed (at which point I was severely anemic and had gained 100+ pounds). It took another ten years to get proper treatment.

More recently, I looked up a 5-year-old x-ray and noticed it said I had a "large" hiatal hernia, that nobody mentioned at the time. (Even though it was written in all caps on the report. Twice.) My PCP blew me off, saying lots of people have them, they're no big deal. I persisted because I was having symptoms. He reluctantly sent me to a surgeon for an endoscopy & CT. Guess what? My entire stomach had been compressed into my chest cavity and was compromising my lungs. I had surgery to repair it, and suddenly I don't have stomach pain or reflux, I don't snore and my asthma is under control. Who knew?
posted by jhope71 at 10:53 AM on July 31, 2017 [4 favorites]

I took a nasty spill at the skatepark yesterday and am currently playing the super fun game of How Much Pain Is Enough Pain To Be In So The Doctor Will Take You Seriously. HMPIEPTBISTDWTYS, by the way, is impossible to win. You either sit at home in pain, or you go to the doctor, who tells you inevitably that being in a lot of pain isn't a valid reason to seek medical treatment, so why don't you go back home and sit in pain ("Have you tried ibuprofen?"), but oh, by the way, we're keeping your $50 copay, thank you and goodbye. Also, if you choose option 1, and then subsequently have to change your mind because it turns out you've really done yourself an injury, you get the added bonus of the particular brand of condescension that doctors reserve for people they think are simple: "You know, you really should have come in earlier."
posted by coppermoss at 10:54 AM on July 31, 2017 [3 favorites]

Blood clots can be life-threatening.

Yeah. After my partner broke her knee, she had a DVT in her lower leg because a genetic predisposition. After a week of pain, they did an ultrasound, which the practitioner stopped prematurely because it was clotted all the way up into her pelvis. They decided to put her on heparin right away but everyone dragged their feet and shuffled their papers and it took days to actually get started. She almost died and now she's permanently disabled. So thanks, fuckers. I hope you made it to your golf game on time.
posted by klanawa at 11:11 AM on July 31, 2017 [5 favorites]

This is so multiplied when you're overweight, too. I had knee/hip pain on and off for ten years (!!) and told myself it was "Just a thing" before I finally asked a PCP. He told me to lose weight. Really, I said, because I've experienced this pain for YEARS including when I weighed a lot less, and more weight hasn't made it noticeably worse. Can I at least get a referral? Nope.

I set up my own appt with an orthopedist who diagnosed me in 30min. IT band syndrome. "Is it because of my weight?" I asked. No, it can happen to anybody. It was so painful I was afraid I had early onset arthritis. Of course it's partly my fault that I waited so long to see someone, but of course women are gun-shy about seeing someone when my first doctor just reminded me that hey, did you know you're fat?
posted by nakedmolerats at 11:18 AM on July 31, 2017 [16 favorites]

The way medicine is taught emphasizes traits of toxic masculinity and also teaches doctors to have contempt for their patients, which exacerbates existing prejudices.

and really it's not as though men need to be taught to have contempt for women. it's a bonus to them to be in a profession where it's not only allowed but encouraged.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:19 AM on July 31, 2017 [23 favorites]

Me: I'm here because my migraines have been getting much more frequent.
Doctor: Any chance you are pregnant?
Me: No. I'm not pregnant.
Doctor: Because if you are, hormonal changes can. . .
Me: I'm not pregnant.
Doctor: In the future, if you become pregnant, it can affect migraines by. . .
Me: (In a forceful tone) I don't want to talk about being pregnant. I am here to talk about my migraine headaches. They have been getting much more frequent.
Doctor: (Looking startled) Okay! Tell me about your headaches.
posted by mai at 11:40 AM on July 31, 2017 [26 favorites]

I recently binged all of the Golden Girls and there was a two-parter where Dorothy ends up with a bunch of symptoms that no doctor takes seriously. "I suspect, had I been a man, I would've been taken a bit more seriously and not told to go to a hairdresser."

The episode aired in 1989 and it really doesn't feel like much has changed. The episodes are titled "Sick and Tired." Apparently Susan Harris wrote them based on her own experiences.

This comic is great.
posted by giraffe at 11:45 AM on July 31, 2017 [19 favorites]

I have early onset osteoarthritis of the right knee. I had a doctor diagnose it as a torn meniscus. Almost a year later he said I had to lose 50 pounds before the surgery - and this was after losing 40. My wife pushed me to go to another doctor who said that the other guy was stringing me along and told me what he saw in a year old MRI. He got me into physiotherapy and it helped a lot.

My wife was having chest pains and I took her to the hospital. They did some tests nd X-rays and told her it was "pleurisy". I, calmly, asked how he determined that. Ever see a doctor stutter to justify himself? I did. They did more tests. They were able to prove it wasn't cardiac or pulmonary, it really was muscular.

I still think I shouldn't have had to intervene, but he took advantage of her phobic reaction when he said they would check for a clot in the lungs, and I did. I also didn't deck him, which his smugness suggested I should.
posted by mephron at 12:09 PM on July 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

Kariebookish, 'period pains ... which regularly make me faint, vomit and be bed-ridden' are definitely not normal. Have you at least had endometriosis ruled out?

This is literally what this thread is about.

As I wrote: I've been told to "soldier through", "be a brave girl", and that it's "just something women have to deal with, sorry." I am in my 40s and still being told to "be a brave girl" is exhausting.
posted by kariebookish at 12:19 PM on July 31, 2017 [14 favorites]

the obsession with reproductive function (as in: are you pregnant?)

When I took an emergency medicine class we were taught that "is there any chance you could be pregnant" was just one of the basic questions you asked a female patient along with getting their vitals and asking, "are you taking any medications," and "what's your level of pain." There are a lot of stories above about doctors pointing to it as a diagnosis, not just a piece of patient history, so it's clearly not handled well, but I thought that was interesting when I learned it.
posted by little onion at 12:22 PM on July 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

Anne Wheaton's story makes me so angry.

A couple of years ago my husband was in the emergency room after a breathing episode where he briefly passed out. He also was recovering from brain surgery. They didn't let us leave the emergency room until his chest xray had been examined by both a pulmonologist and a cardiologist, and his brain CT? MRI? by a neurosurgeon to look for a clot. No one said "Gosh, it was just an asthma attack!" or "It was probably stress!" His distress was taken very seriously.

It would be very interesting to know if Anne's CT scan was read by a radiologist and when.
posted by muddgirl at 12:24 PM on July 31, 2017 [3 favorites]

Feeling nauseous and like I might cry from this article, all your stories, and Anne Wheaton's. I've been in horrible pain after very invasive, major surgery, where it took my dad, a medical professional, to intervene on my behalf to get appropriate, effective pain medication. Surgeon was a dude whose default was not to give meds stronger than tramadol. I am not at all looking forward to aging and having to keep having fights with doctors to believe me.

These stories are also bringing back to me the many times, I have had medical support staff seem not to believe me when I say I don't get periods and then ask invasive questions about it, even at a relatively trans friendly hospitals. The worst was a comment by a mammography tech about being "lucky" not to menstruate. FFS, that tears me up every single day.

Another thing--it's not just medical professionals who don't believe women. Regular dudes are often pretty damn guilty of it as well. Sometimes it's just easier not to mention pains/discomfort, just to avoid the disbelief or 'advice' about what is/isn't wrong. Ugh.
posted by Excommunicated Cardinal at 1:05 PM on July 31, 2017 [12 favorites]

I had a severe allergic reaction when I was on vacation that landed me in the hospital. When I came home and went to schedule an appointment with my doctor, it turned out she was at a conference and I ended up with an appointment to see another male doctor at the same practice. Rather than examining me, he took one look at me in his office and told me that he didn't believe I had an allergic reaction because I looked like I was prone to blushing and that's probably all it was. Never went back to that practice, but living in a relatively small town I still see him around all the time and relive how furious I felt whenever I run into him.
posted by mollywas at 1:33 PM on July 31, 2017 [5 favorites]

I was ill quite often as an infant, so my mother took me in to be looked at. The pediatrician wrote her off as an overreacting mother, telling her that sometimes babies can be fussy. I am the third child in my family. My mother had a perfectly adequate baseline on what would be a normal level of illness. She called her father, a pediatrician. From 3000 miles away, after a five minute conversation, having never even seen me in person yet, grandad asked if anyone had checked me for lactose intolerance. Guess what the problem was? So my parents took me off of cows milk... and found a new pediatrician for the family.

I have a tumblr blog for the purpose of venting and making jokes about menstruation. I've posted that anyone with questions are welcome to message me. So far, almost all of the pings have been from women in their teens or twenties wanting to know if incapacitating pain most months was normal. That and the one woman who was having excessive fatigue during her menses, so her doctor scheduled her for an iron test -- at the exact midpoint between her periods! (Advice on that one included trying to find a new doctor.) Most of my advice necessarily has to boil down to "take thee to a gynecologist, here are the specific issues you should stress and terms you can use to improve your chances of being taken seriously, and assuming you have a choice, also here are some tips on vetting a potential ob/gyn, and some tips on making sure that if you have insurance, how to get your visit classed as preventive and thus cheaper."
posted by Karmakaze at 1:33 PM on July 31, 2017 [7 favorites]

uberchet, thanks for the link to Anne Wheaton's story. That made me so ragey. And I relate to it -- even as I continually put off going to the doctor for what I suspect is a return of my anemia and vitamin deficiencies which were pushed aside as "well, quit being vegetarian" and oh hey look guys I ate red meat four days last week and yet I'm still so tired. But of course all I need to do is lose weight. I seriously won't go to the doctor because I know that's all they're going to say so why bother.

And Samizdata, maybe not with the snark? You may have had misdiagnosis experiences as a male but this article is not about that.
posted by sldownard at 2:08 PM on July 31, 2017 [7 favorites]

Anne and Wil Wheaton just lived through this very thing; she wrote quite a bit about it, and it's similarly rage-inducing even though it was a much shorter timeline.

The interesting thing about the Wheatons' story is that in their case, it was a reproductive system issue that got overlooked in an emergency situation, and Anne said she's heard a lot of similar accounts. It makes me wonder if there are two sides to the same male-centered medicine coin: in emergency situations, the female reproductive system gets blamed, whereas in all other situations, it gets blamed regardless of actual symptoms or test results.
posted by infinitywaltz at 2:28 PM on July 31, 2017

It's alternately infuriating and validating to read all your stories. Validating because y'all free me to be less inclined to blame myself for all my crappy, frustrating, humiliating experiences with doctors and infuriating because nobody deserves to be so diminished (let alone made sicker!), but here we all are.

I have some recurring digestive trouble that is probably IBS but will never be diagnosed because anytime I start bring up abdominal discomfort or pain the doctors can't jam their hands in for a pelvic exam fast enough. Digestive = reproductive, because apparently there's nothing south of my lungs but a uterus and ovaries. And since pelvic exams are deeply re-traumatizing, I deal with this by just not going to the doctor if I can help it.

I once (half) joked to my (white cis male) partner that if I ever get really sick, he needs to memorize my symptoms and present with them himself so I can get an unbiased diagnosis.

I think every medical student should have to take a semester of schooling that is comprised entirely of having to listen to women (and other people who routinely don't get listened to) tell their stories of being ignored by the medical system and the horrifying and deleterious effects that has had on their physical and emotional well being. Preferably Clockwork Orange style.

You're a great deal kinder than I am. If I ran that semester I would give each student a list of symptoms, and make them spend the whole semester seeing dismissive "doctors" (basically reverse patient simulations). Every few weeks, depending on the illness, the student would receive more symptoms, or maybe points that would add up to permanent damage. Ideally this would include a mechanism for wasting their time and letting them know how much all of this had cost. At the end of the semester the "doctors" would introduce themselves as actual patients and explain that every symptom, dismissal, and outcome was their own, and to remind them not to put anyone else through what they'd been through.
posted by Fish, fish, are you doing your duty? at 2:39 PM on July 31, 2017 [22 favorites]

My mum was hospitalized at the age of 74. She was asked when was her last period.

posted by Automocar at 2:48 PM on July 31, 2017

Up until the 2nd half of my thirties I thought this was all normal and I 'just didn't like doctors' (ie: that I was the problem). Then I had a pregnancy/birth with a homebirth midwife and, I believe, the 1st time 'informed consent' was actually taken seriously by a provider. It felt so unbelievably great to be listened to, cared for, seen as a person. She wasn't touchy feely or cooing or super-nurturing in any way...she just

1. LISTENED (really listened! OMG!)

2. Explained stuff like I'm an adult. She encouraged (!!!!!) me to look up stuff on google, do my research. Which I'm perfectly capable of doing, btw. I realize I don't have a medical degree. Still, googling doesn't mean I'm a crazy hypochondriac, thank you very much, every other Dr I've ever seen. She discussed studies and policies with me in detail and helped me come to my own decision. Not 'our', but my decision, since it's my body. She was also very open with stuff she didn't know, or stuff where the science/statistics was unclear.

3. asked permission for ALL procedures and 'No' was always an option. No 'now we're gonna...', but always 'is it ok if I...'. Even for taking my blood pressure.

I had no complications and honestly didn't even 'need' her excellent care but...I'm still crying happy tears just thinking about how she treated me. Gynecology is a field where female autonomy doesn't exist. (see also: The Truth about Cervical Exams)

Of course I still need to see regular, less respectful Drs but now I know I'm not the one with the sexism/paternalism problem. They are.
posted by The Toad at 3:01 PM on July 31, 2017 [8 favorites]

I have had excruciating back pain since puberty. Everyone told me it was bad posture, bad posture, build your core, you're too young to need to sit down, sit in a different chair if you HAVE to sit down, this low-key noise of casual ableism that I listened to for years and internalized until I thought it was my fault that I was 23 and couldn't stand up at my shitty retail job for 40 minutes without going to the bathroom to cry. I told nobody: all of this stuff, the stories being shared above, were why. I had seen enough friends go through this bullshit. I was willing to live with pain I didn't know the cause of rather than the humiliation I knew I was going to face by not being believed. Especially since, as someone with mental illness, it was going to be "all in my head". I'd had that experience too many times already.

It wasn't until three years ago and I went to the gym and one of the trainers pointed out to me that one of my kneecaps was higher than the other that I considered actually telling someone. A female GP, who was wonderful, who ordered x-rays, who was the first person ever to say "chronic pain" to me. It turns out I have scoliosis! It turns out my spine is literally twisted! And while I still blame myself for being to afraid to say anything, I also don't, because the risk of not finding someone kind to disclose to was so high, and hearing "it's all in your head" was going to hurt me more than just white-knunckling through pain flares.

I don't know. It does damage. It all does so much damage. I can blame myself for not saying anything, for waiting so long, but the pain was there for people to hear about and see and comment on and do nothing about, too. You can't win.
posted by colorblock sock at 4:07 PM on July 31, 2017 [13 favorites]

My mum was hospitalized at the age of 74. She was asked when was her last period.

I once had to deal with an electronic medical record system would not allow you to do ANYTHING until you documented a date of last menstrual period. For everyone. So you ended up with a lot of charts saying "last menstrual period: Jan 1, 1900." It was beyond stupid, but there were so many other things wrong with that system that fixing it was waaaay down on the priority list.

On the other hand, this was also the place that diagnosed a pregnancy-in-active-labor via abdominal CT scan (yes, indeed). So... that hospital had major issues.
posted by basalganglia at 4:11 PM on July 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh, wow. This brings it all back. Like having my immune system go haywire, end up in the hospital at least twice when I was in college, with a pain in my lower right side, and have the doctors do nothing, rather diagnose it as "allergies" or "fatigue," until my appendix started to rupture on Christmas, after four years of this. The anesthesiologist came to see me after my surgery and told me that it was the blackest appendix he'd ever seen in twenty years of practice.

Having the surgeon who was taking my wisdom teeth out ignore my request that the IV be put in my left arm. He finally agreed that I knew what I was talking about after the third try. My right arm was covered with bruises for two weeks.

Seeing a neurologist about a severe vertigo attack. Without even doing any tests, this guy decides I have Meniere's Disease, even though vertigo was my only symptom, and I'd been in a major car accident six months earlier. He wants me to go on diuretics for the rest of my life. I go home, read up on the drugs, realize that the vertigo was responding to Dramamine, so decide to keep taking it every time I feel like I'm about to have an attack, and to reevaluate the situation if it doesn't work. I have ONE attack three months later, and that's IT.

As a bonus, he said that if the vertigo didn't go away, they would "just sever the nerve in my right ear. No big deal."
posted by dancing_angel at 4:13 PM on July 31, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have a friend who was also nearly killed by medical sexism. She started having severe shoulder pain about 7 months into a pregnancy; I freaked out at her to go to the damn doctor, because severe shoulder pain with no obvious cause is often something internal. (Which I only knew because a college friend almost bled out from a ruptured cyst years ago.) Friend goes to the doctor. They tell her it's muscle pain and she's just sensitive because she's so far into her pregnancy. I tell her to go back. This time they get pissed off.

So she's at home for another month, bleeding internally, until her other kid kicks her in the abdomen and dislodges the clot and BOOM my friend is bleeding out. She almost died, the baby almost died, and they're not going to know for a while if the kid has any brain damage. And now my friend has incapacitating PTSD.

ANOTHER friend went into labor early during a geriatric pregnancy, drove herself to the damn hospital, and then was stuck on bed rest in the whatchamacallit ward (antenatal?) for two months before she gave birth. Where she had to fight, to the point of screaming, with doctors every damn day. My friend was a powerful D.C. lawyer at the time, so she managed to defend herself. But she got to watch all the other women around her be abused and traumatized for the next two months. (Googling pregnancy rape is...I mean. You get it.) Not all of them made it.

My absolute favorite part of all this, btw, is how people don't generally talk about it.

Did I mention that I hate doctors?
posted by schadenfrau at 4:18 PM on July 31, 2017 [8 favorites]

I am so grateful for the doctors who actually heard me and considered my symptoms carefully. I don't even know the name of the emergency psych doc who diagnosed my bipolar, but she literally saved my life because she listened.
posted by Biblio at 6:55 PM on July 31, 2017 [7 favorites]

Because I'm on disability, my primary health care provider is required to do that "draw a clock" and "do you fall down ever" Medicare exam once a year. I happened to require it when I went in on a minor but urgent issue, and the male doctor who runs the practice (and oversees my female PA) had to see me.


Him: "Do you feel concerned that you will fall down?"
Me: "I have periph---"
Him: "You're 42, of course not." *check* "Do you have access to healthy meals?"
Me: "I only.."
Him: "Obviously, you're overweight." *check*

Like. Whut.
posted by xyzzy at 7:41 PM on July 31, 2017 [9 favorites]

I've mentioned in here in the past that I also had ovarian torsion, like Anne Wheaton did. When I saw Wil's blog post about it, I immediately went over to Twitter and tweeted her some "I've been there too" solidarity messages; she "liked" the one where I said that the fact that we had lived through that much pain made us "freakin' AMAZONS".

Some binkwad of a doctor just went onto her blog comments, though, and mansplained about how she must have been mistaken and chided her for painting doctors with a broad brush because "ER doctors would not fail to consider ovarian torsion for a female with severe abdominal pain". Anne responded, but I couldn't resist responding too, to ask "if that's the case, then how come NONE of the TEN DOCTORS who examined me in 1996 didn't think of that option ONCE in the course of NINE HOURS?"

And they didn't. They were taking me seriously, fortunately - huddled conversations outside my room in the ER - but they kept testing me for other things over and over trying to figure out the problem. My then-boyfriend, who brought me into the hospital and who we had pleaded with the hospital to let him stay with me - reported back to me a couple times that "there are like three doctors outside your room, and either they're all discussing Talmud or they're trying to figure out what's going on with you."

....It has occurred to me now, though, that perhaps his being there is what was MAKING the doctors take my case seriously, and that if I'd been there alone things would have gone differently.

I've often said that that guy "saved my life on our second date". At the time I was referring more to what I know I'd have done if I had been alone when it happened - I'd have gone to bed when the pain started, and by the time it intensified I'd have been too incapacitated to call for help. Now, I'm thinking that he saved my life by just being the Male Presence That Convinces The Doctors To TAke Things Seriously, which is some bullshit.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:46 PM on July 31, 2017 [10 favorites]

I had a hysterectomy in last December. Last month I saw a doctor for a twisted ankle and the medical assistant getting my info asked me for the date of my last period. I told her that I didn't have a uterus anymore and she frowned and stared at me silently, with her pen hovering above the clipboard, until I followed up with 'so, probably last year? Uh, November maybe?'

That was useless information to elicit from me in order to treat my problem, and she made me feel like I was the one who was an idiot for not knowing a date immediately, AND it made me think about my hysterectomy which I'm still very upset about. So just a great experience all around.
posted by DSime at 7:48 PM on July 31, 2017 [6 favorites]

I'm a dude, but this whole thread is enraging. What ridiculousness is it that, thanks to male privilege, I could shut down irrelevant lines of questioning when I broke my hip cycling, and have them actually listen to me. I mean, they still asked bullshit questions, but I was middle aged, educated, white, and baritone, so it didn't last.
posted by uberchet at 8:20 PM on July 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

Uggggh, I too had the experience of having mono in college repeatedly misdiagnosed ("sleep more! study less! try to relax!") for four weeks until when it was finally diagnosed as mono, I had to be hospitalized for several days which is not even a thing I knew could happen with mono. When it started getting more serious and I started going repeatedly to the doctor (including once to the ER because I couldn't swallow) and demanding help, I was tested for strep throat THREE TIMES by male doctors who admired the swelling in my throat but didn't bother to test for mono. A female nurse took one look at me when I stumbled into the clinic (desperately, because I was so exhausted I couldn't even walk to class) and said, "Whoa, let's order you a mono test!"

I had a comedic reproductive stupidity ER incident in the other direction. 20-some weeks pregnant with my third child I was in EXCRUCIATING abdominal pain and got sent to the ER. (It was gallstones, they were galling.) At the ER, if you don't have a sucking chest wound sort of situation, they send you up to Labor & Delivery when you're more than 20 weeks pregnant, just in case. (Only some ERs take women more than 20 weeks pregnant and if you go to the wrong one they will ambulance you over to the one with the NICU.) So I go to the Catholic hospital with the NICU they send me up to labor and delivery and the nurse is doing all my intake questions -- name, age, number of pregnancies (3), how many weeks pregnant (23), how many prior live births, etc. And after asking a whole bunch of questions about my current and prior pregnancies, she gets to, "Have you ever been sexually active?"

There was an extremely long pause while I fought not to say, "No, no I have not, but luckily I hear you guys are used to this sort of thing."

(Don't all Catholic hospitals have a virgin birth protocol?)

"One of the most infuriating things about this comic was the pregnancy tests. Why can't a person opt out of a pregnancy test? Either they know there is no way they could be pregnant, or they don't care (because it could be nonviable for medical or other reasons, and/or impede the emergency care they went in to get in the first place)."

Basically liability -- if a doctor treats a woman who thinks (or claims) she isn't pregnant, but turns out to be pregnant, she can sue the hospital for any damage to the fetus, up to and including wrongful death. The child can also sue (if they live), up to and including for so-called "wrongful life" in some jurisdictions. The hospital can be on the hook for medical and care costs until the child is 18 or even for their entire life, in some jurisdictions. These can be very large awards, especially if the child is born alive but disabled. I ... have many thoughts on this issue but it seems deraily to start my full rant!

It IS super-maddening, though, especially given the number of times I had to tell ER or urgent care doctors, "I can't take that, I'm pregnant," when I was obviously and enormously pregnant and trying to get, like, pneumonia treated. I should not have to know the pregnancy rating for every drug in America to get medical care! That is literally why you are doctors and I cannot just go get my own drugs! They're just following a protocol for finding out if you're pregnant, and then merrily doing whatever they feel like anyway, regardless of the answer. I also lost count of the number of times I'd have something like bronchitis while pregnant and I'd call my ob and they'd say, "Oh, we don't treat that, that's for your GP" and I'd call my GP and they'd say, "Oh, we can't prescribe when you're pregnant, you need to call your ob for that" and I'd say "HULK SMASH."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:13 PM on July 31, 2017 [9 favorites]

I went to a womens' college, and my friends and I had a kind of occasional stand-up comedy routine in which we would compare the spiels we had to give either the university health center or an outside doctor when they asked if we were pregnant.

The winner was usually either J's "Well, unless the Angel Gabriel came down from heaven and said Lo, a virgin shall give birth and I did not notice because of my frickin' finals..." or C's "Oh, wow, do you think I am? Would it have my girlfriend's eyes?", with an occasional vote for T's "If I'm pregnant, how much do I get to sue Norplant for?" routine.

Every female-bodied person I knew at the time, or know now, has a version of this spiel. I don't expect to stop needing mine after I transition.

I only realize now how immensely fucked up it is not just that we all have them, but that we had, by the time we were college undergraduates, all gotten them down to well-practiced, insistent, furiously bitter and genuinely hilarious stand-up comedy because that is how used we were to nobody listening.
posted by Rush-That-Speaks at 10:08 PM on July 31, 2017 [11 favorites]

I told her that I didn't have a uterus anymore and she frowned and stared at me silently, with her pen hovering above the clipboard, until I followed up with 'so, probably last year? Uh, November maybe?'

I just tell them the date of my hysterectomy, as my last hellish period was still gushing strong on that day.

I did, however, have a hilarious and terrifying run-in with A FEMALE HUMAN LADY medical technician who insisted that women still get their periods after a hysterectomy and that "it comes out through the cervix" and no amount of me explaining how periods and uteruses actually worked did anything to dissuade her from this wholly fucking insane belief until I said "and anyway I don't HAVE A CERVIX ANYMORE."

there are not enough yikes in the world
posted by poffin boffin at 10:37 PM on July 31, 2017 [13 favorites]

I'm here from the other post about "Conversations with people that hate me", and what I want right now is some sort of YouTube channel or similar where a marginalized patient, after getting properly treated, returns to the first doctor who fucked it up and interrogates them as to what the hell they were thinking. Possibly Probably with a cis dude along so that answers are more likely to happen.

"You said this was probably just anxiety. Turns out it was mono! Here's the diagnosis. So my question to you is: why didn't you order the test? What does this say about you as a doctor? Remember, this is for posterity!🎙"

It's a total fantasy, but I can dream.
posted by XtinaS at 3:46 AM on August 1, 2017 [22 favorites]

OK I just read far enough down in Wheaton's comments that her dying right ovary was completely missed by the radiologist, despite her complaint of right side pain and a visible cyst in the left ovary!
posted by muddgirl at 6:42 AM on August 1, 2017

My partner directed me to this post yesterday. I was too busy to do anything but read the comic, gnash my teeth in rage, and add the post to favorites. As others have said, reading this thread is alternately enraging and validating.

I was about 25 or 26 when my thyroid slowed down. I had what I now know were mostly standard signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism. My tests were within normal limits. My doctor, a woman, minimized my problems and blamed me and sent me to a psychiatrist, who told me I had a physical illness. I got sicker for two years, took a medical leave from college, and lost all of my eyebrow hair -- a sign of untreated thyroid disease -- before an endocrinologist diagnosed me with hypothyroidism. My doctor was not remotely apologetic when I told her. That's when I realized I could find a new doctor, and did.

I'm a better advocate for myself now, but what we go through is ridiculous.
posted by swerve at 8:24 AM on August 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm really struggling with this right now. There has been two incidents in the past 9 months where family members (both women) were misdiagnosed and dismissed. My SIL had to make multiple visits to the ER to before the doctors took her pain serioulsy enough to find the tumor on her ovary. My mom died when her doctor wrote off her several days of severe nausea and vomiting as a flare-up of colitis. It was a rupture of an abdominal aortic aneurysm. She had multiple factors that should have put her in a high risk category (smoking, heart problems, age) but was missing the most important one - she was not a man.

Both my SIL and mother are/were nurses. If they had to struggle so hard to advocate for themselves, what chance do I have?
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 9:10 AM on August 1, 2017 [5 favorites]

ER doctors would not fail to consider ovarian torsion for a female with severe abdominal pain

In my daughter's case, nobody ever mentioned that ovarian torsion was even a thing. They only found out that that's what it was when they went in to deal with a suspected ruptured appendix and found it pink and healthy.

She got that surgery about 40 hours after first presenting at Emergency in severe, sweating pain that everything short of nasal Fentanyl failed to make a dent in.

A month later, comparable pain recurred and that ovary, by then completely necrotic, had to be excised.

She's 12.
posted by flabdablet at 9:19 AM on August 1, 2017 [8 favorites]

Seven years ago, I started having insane headaches, brain fog, tremors, and other non-descript ailments that were seriously negatively affecting me. My female PCP said (and this is verbatim) "Oh, it's just mommy brain, you'll be fine, but if you INSIST (big sigh) I'll order an MRI." This was in my non-assertive days, and I was upset enough to not push it. However, after I got home and freaked out, I called back and said "Yes, I insist." The MRI ended up showing white-matter lesions in my brain. After my PCP called and said "Well, actually the MRI did show something" I told her that I was leaving her practice immediately. She never did apologize.

I've gone through this multiple times since, but I'm at least better at pushing back on it these days.
posted by altopower at 1:09 PM on August 1, 2017 [6 favorites]

Oh, and how can I forget just last fall when I was experiencing debilitating wrist pain? I went to the surgeon with my MRI report showing extensive damage of varying types, and what did he say? "It's all in your head. Plus you're a drug seeker."

Weeks later when his office called to schedule a follow-up, my exact words were "I would rather be eaten by wild dogs than see him again."
posted by altopower at 1:12 PM on August 1, 2017 [8 favorites]

My husband (cis-male) and I (cis-female) have had the same amazing PCP for about 15 years. Not once has she pulled that kind of crap with either one of us. Not once has my husband had to be my advocate in order for me to get care. This post reminds me how stunningly, bleakly rare that is. Unless we or our doctor move out of state, we're sticking with her as long as possible.

I think she's different in part because she thinks like a scientist. Pat answers and quick exits aren't her thing. Figuring out what's actually going on--using a combination of quantitative and qualitative approaches to diagnoses--that's her thing. She takes the time to explain things, and recommend resources if we want more information. I think she gets that we're there because whatever the Thing is, it's at the stage where we're not comfortable watching and waiting anymore. We're there because we need her skills and resources to figure out what the Thing is, and fix it. She's taught me that patients don't present with problems, we present with questions that we ourselves can't answer.
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 2:22 PM on August 1, 2017 [5 favorites]

So this is probably more appropriate for the green but as a woman, I don't know if I should push - and if so, how I should push - to see if there's something wrong with me.

I have depression and idiopathic daytime sleepiness so I'm always tired. I worry that there's something wrong with my heart. I mean, there's a good chance that something is wrong with it - my mom died from a heart attack at 57 (though she was morbidly obese) and I had preeclampsia so there's a good chance heart disease is in my future. My blood pressure was okay before I got pregnant. But one day a few years ago, I just passed out for no reason. The doctor at the ER was like, sorry, don't know what that was about.

My mother also had lupus and I wonder if that's in my future. Lupus would explain depression, fatigue, and preeclampsia. But those are also just things that happen. I worry that if it's lupus and I get pregnant again, I'll get preeclampsia again and have another preemie who has to spend the first few weeks of her life in the NICU. That broke my heart and I don't want it to happen again. So I don't know. I think of referring myself to a rheumatologist or a cardiologist. I have this hope that there's The Diagnosis that would explain things. But I don't know.
posted by kat518 at 6:39 PM on August 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

I lost my aunt to a heart attack at 57 about a month ago.

Getting the death certificate, I found out she waited 40 hours to go to the doctor. She actually called up my mom, and asked her to drive her to Urgent Care, because she was too dizzy to drive herself. By this point, her organs were already shutting down. They transferred her to a hospital, but were never able to stabilize her.

On the one hand, when it really counted, she didn't give the medical community the chance to take her symptoms seriously. On the other, she was taught by the medical community that she wouldn't be heard.

She was a fat woman. Despite being a smoker, she was remarkably healthy. Always complained about getting read the riot act at her annual physical for her lifestyle choices, and then getting back perfect blood panels.

She wasn't blind to the fact that her choices could be better, or might eventually have consequences. But you can't take care of something you're taught to loathe. And she couldn't tolerate loathing herself. So she mostly disengaged. It was the only sustainable decision she could make in this sexist, fatphobic society.
posted by politikitty at 5:01 PM on August 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

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