Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Talk About It Tuesday ~ Whispers From Within: Paying Closer Attention to Women's Health

Due to recent discussions with some of my friends and colleagues, as well as being asked to write on specific subjects under this umbrella topic, I strongly feel there is a need to talk more about women's health issues.

This is actually a subject I have a lot to say about. I learned, sadly, very early on that being a female (girl, teen, woman...age doesn't really matter) seems to change the sort of medical attention we receive. No, this isn't a 'bra-burning Woman's Libber' post. It's a fact.

If both a female and a male show up in an emergency room with the exact same symptoms for a possible heart concern, for example, (eg: heart races, chest pain, dizziness, numbness in the arms, etc.), the male is more likely to get rushed in for tests and diagnosis, while a woman's initial breakdown would be our hormones, mental health and how we deal with anxiety (unless there is a known existing heart problem). We are female, after all.

We worry more, we take on more of the little stressors life throws out and, supposedly, we're more emotional. Our hormones cause us to freak out, lose it, and otherwise wreck havoc for those around us. We don't always talk about our concerns as openly as we should, which can interfere with our already ever-growing sleep issues. And we tend to ignore health problems, or push them aside, until it's almost too late. Sound familiar?

How many of you out there have finally made the decision to see a doctor with a long list of your on-going symptoms, that won't go away no matter what you've tried, and be told things like, "It's a woman's issue." Or, "You just need to see a counselor to deal with your stress/sleep issues/eating problems/overreactions to things....". Or, my personal favorite, "You are a medical mystery." I know that I have heard all of these and a lot more which darkened my view of the medical profession as a whole. And why wouldn't it?

I mean, come on! I know myself enough to know that:

  • If something hurts, it's not a good thing. Hello?
  • I don't complain often, but if I do please pay attention to my concerns. If my 'ghost symptoms', as you call them, bother me enough to waste a huge portion of my day, and juggling 'To Do's' out the ying yang, to be here, it should tell you it's not just 'all in my head'.
  • Little pats on the head and sending me away with a sample drug doesn't do squat. Please stop, stop, STOP giving me bandaid solutions to my obviously growing issues. Paying attention to one part is great, but there are many other symptoms not being addressed here. I don't want a 'new drug', pill, cream or other kind of prescription for this one issue. I want an overall assessment and diagnosis so I can tackle this as a whole.
  • There is no such thing (unless someone proves me wrong) as a 'medical mystery'. Symptoms are just that. They are hints to an underlying cause that you aren't looking deep enough for. Listen to what I'm telling you and help me figure this out.
  • I am not a hypochondriac or do things for attention. Nor do I like being in the spotlight, having people know the most intimate details of my life, asking for help unless I absolutely need to or sharing my personal stuff. So my being here at all should tell you that I'm concerned enough about my health to allow you help me figure things out. 
  • I can face or deal with anything anyone throws at me if I have the right information to research and learn from. I am a true believer that in order to understand and cope with something, that information needs to be provided first. So, please, for all that's good in the world, give me that much.
  • A true diagnosis, a name to put to what I'm fighting here, is very helpful to do the above. How do you expect patients to even be able to fight when they don't know exactly what they're fighting? Please move your attention to what you think is 'all in my head' to those Requisition Forms on your desk and give me whatever invasive, intrusive test you have available to me (preferably with specialists) so I can finally feel I have some ground to stand on.
After decades of dealing with misdiagnosis and ignored symptoms, it took one physician (who was seeing my personal physician's patients while she was on holidays) to look over my most recent blood work and say, "Wow. You're failing in almost every area here. But this seems to be the biggest concern for me. Let's get this extra blood test done and see what it tells us."

All I can say is hallelujah, and finally. I won't go into a lot of detail with the rest, but let's just say as devastating as it might be to get to the bottom of what's really going on in our bodies there is a relief in knowing what's really going on.

I still feel a tremendous amount of resentment towards the medical system, and have no problem saying so. Some of us may never have gotten as sick as we were allowed to if that one doctor just shut up, looked closer and observed that we don't simply have 'women's issues'. We are patients who deserve the same concern.

Don't let this happen to you. Be strong enough to stand against what you're being told if it doesn't feel right. Be vocal enough to be heard and respected. Persevere until you find that physician who is willing to give you his/her complete time and attention. Gather every piece of information you can on your symptoms so you can't be ignored or shuffled aside.

Despite how you may be made to feel, you matter and so do your concerns.

Your health matters.

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