By Contributing Writer Kendra Johnson
Let’s chat about medical gaslighting. Yes, this is a thing. And it happens to women more often than men.
This is when you know something is wrong, you show up at your doctor’s office, and you are told you are fine. You are just tired. You are just dehydrated. It’s mom life. You are too young for ….. (fill in the blank).
This is so much more common than you might think. This has happened to me more times than I like to admit. There are two times that stand out. When I found the lump in my breast and was told there was no way it could be cancer because I was too young and I was breast feeding. For 5 months my cancer was ignored because I had no risk factors. Guess what? I had cancer. And do you know how many women I have met who were younger than me who developed cancer? It happens.
And now here we are again. In October I started to feel bad. Tired. Sluggish. Numbness in my back. Light headed. Dizzy. Low heart rate (in the 40s). Low blood pressure (80s/50s). I thought I was dehydrated. So I drank more water and Gatorade. I thought I needed more exercise. So I walked more. I thought I was my diet. I cut out sugar and flour. I still felt bad.
I went to my doctor month after month. She told me to add some salt to my diet. She told me to talk to my oncologist. Told me to get a sleep study. Did BASIC, and I mean basic blood work. I had to request more. Still no answers and I just kept feeling worse and worse. And she just kept telling me I was fine.
I did see my oncologist and told him what was going on. He sent me to a neurologist and a new primary care. I had finally found a PC that was listening to me. After MONTHS of no one doing anything. She started ordering tests and asking questions and listening to me. I was so relieved to find someone who listened.
A few weeks after seeing her I ended up in the ER because of my low heart rate, chest pain, and shortness of breath. The ER doctor completely dismissed me. Gave me fluids and sent me home with a heart rate of 44! There has been blood work, MRIs, X-rays, echocardiogram, heart monitors, stress test, a heart cath. And still no answers why I feel dizzy almost all the time. No answers why my heart rate and blood pressure are so low.
And in this mess of life I have found some doctors that listened. It has not been easy. It has not been fun. It is uncomfortable to question someone who is supposed to be an expert. But, I know my body. I know when I feel bad.
After being blown off by an PC and an ER doc I know why so many people get so sick beyond help. We go to these places to get help. And when we are dismissed, we feel discouraged. So why would we go back?
Moral of the story…. It’s okay to find a new doctor. It’s okay to question your current doctor. It’s okay to get a second opinion. Is it hard? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes.
Kendra is 100% correct. Many women face medical gaslighting. It leads them to question their gut instinct because they want to trust their doctor! But your gut (your intuition) is your built-in Internal Warning Device that something is off. Please listen to it! And TRUST IT.
Remember: We are our own best advocates. No one will fight for us like we will!
Shared with love by Jan James, Hope After Breast Cancer
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