It is never a good sign when doctors call you after house hours. It is also never good when they start the call with, “I have good and bad news. Which would you like to hear first.”
I still remember the day I received a call from my doctor telling me I had been diagnosed with PCOS. It was a beautiful summer day in Lisbon, Portugal; my girls and I were getting ready for a night out when I saw my doctor’s name pop up on my screen. That’s weird. I never get calls from her personal number. With a bit of fear and hesitation, I picked up. I was met with her calm, sweet voice, always so caring and reassuring.
“Hi, Analucy. I am sorry to be calling you on a Saturday,” she began. It was 8pm my time, and I was doing my hair and make-up “it’s okay,” I reassured her. “Is everything okay?” I asked. I am calling about your labs and the report we received from the hospital. I had been hospitalized a month prior due to unbearable pain near my groin area. The pain was so bad I felt that it extended to the rest of my body, and I could not breathe. I went to the ER and waited. Just so the staff could dismiss my concerns and tell me that it was “just cysts” and that the pain “could be managed.” I was confused, angry, and in a shit ton of pain.
Was I crazy?
Was the pain really not that bad?
Was it all in my head?
Those thoughts lingered after the medical staff told me it wasn’t anything serious because it felt extremely serious to me. Within hours I was discharged and went home with less pain but still in pain. My flashback was interrupted when I heard, “you have PCOS.” I have what? I blurted. I was taken aback but relieved because I knew something was wrong with me. My concerns were always dismissed by the ER staff, my OBGYN, and my previous doctor.
She continued to explain what PCOS was. PCOS stands for polycystic ovarian syndrome; until this date, there is no “cure” per se, but there are ways you can manage it. I told her I would come into her office to discuss this in more detail after my trip. I was across the ocean and had just arrived in Lisbon. She agreed. I tried to brush it off the remainder of my trip and enjoyed myself. I became more mindful of what I felt and what triggered specific ailments. I knew there was a reason it couldn’t just be my anxiety. It couldn’t just be me fearing what I read on WebMD. I knew there was something more than what the doctors thought, and I finally received confirmation that my body was going through something.
This incident was not the first time I had to advocate for my health. I say all this because, as women, I believe our providers and medical staff often underserve us. We are often seen as weaker, dramatic, and crazy even. Especially when you add the layer of being a BIPOC woman. There is a bias. A woman’s concern is more likely to be disregarded, and she is more likely to wait twice as much to be seen in a medical emergency setting. There is a huge disparity in the medical field as there is everywhere else. Women, listen to your body, know your body, and if you have to, fight to get the attention you need. Run those labs, schedule that imaging appointment but most importantly, listen to your body.
For more insight into the disparity in the medical field, you can read this interesting article: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/women-and-pain-disparities-in-experience-and-treatment-2017100912562