I recently had a hysterectomy that might have been avoided if past medical professionals had taken my complaints seriously. The surgery removed a fibroid tumor that had grown so large my body thought I was pregnant; and because of its size, the weight of the fibroid torqued my ovaries and convinced my body I was simultaneously going through menopause. The surgery also eliminated a lifetime of invasive surgeries I faced due to endometriosis and a strain of HPV responsible for the majority of all cases of cervical cancer.
Unfortunately, my story serves as a cautionary tale so you might become more comfortable asking for a second opinion if doctors dismiss your own reproductive health concerns.
I was 16 when I started having periods so painful I had to stay home from school. As I grew older, increasingly heavy bleeding forced me to miss out on important milestones. I was fired once because a former boss didn’t think a hormone imbalance should impact my job performance. A long-term boyfriend blamed me for a boring sex life because he had a hard time understanding how our miscarriage impacted me.
My wildly malfunctioning uterus was ruining my life; and what’s worse, I didn’t know anyone who shared the same experiences. Unreliable Google search results often hinted that I might be as alone as I felt, and so I started asking every doctor I could find if there were other people out there that suffered from any combination of similar symptoms.
Instead of finding help, I found female physicians who accused people with problems like mine of being dramatic. Male gynecologists told me menstruation was just an inconvenient curse for all “perfectly normal women.” Why did I seem to be the only one who recognized that it was abnormal to pass blood clots the size of golf balls? Why was no one concerned that I wanted to kill myself because I felt like a prisoner in my own body?
No one should have to suffer through what I did in order to finally find relief. In my search for answers I have found others like me who have detailed pointless stretching exercises and soy-free diets doctors prescribed in order to alleviate very real, severe menstrual dysfunction. Ill-informed medical professionals should be aware of treatments that make symptoms worse for people with problems like mine.
No one should have to put up with another birth control trial and error if their body has a history of not responding appropriately, and under no circumstances should anyone be expected to accept chronic life disruptions as a part of “being a woman.”
If you think that your own voice is being muffled because the healthcare system that you trust to keep your body healthy won’t listen to you, start yelling as loudly as you can. Whatever you do, please don’t listen when people say that getting upset about a lack of comprehensive reproductive health is an overreaction.