I Was Gaslighted & Misdiagnosed, Now I Have Cancer
There are significant moments in time, moments that are fundamental in shaping us into the person we were meant to be. That day for me was June 16th 2021. On this day I was told that I had cancer, specifically a neuroendocrine tumour of the appendix. And although this seems like devastating news, it ended up being crucial for growth, prosperity & heightening my desire to help others.
As a woman, it has always been difficult to be seen, heard, respected. But in 2021, it seemed almost impossible. Since I was a child I have witnessed and experienced the unbalanced, discriminatory behavior against women within our health care system. I was labeled as “anxious”, I was diagnosed with chronic IBS and I really did believe them. Until one pivotal night. I woke up in excruciating pain and decided to go to the hospital. When I arrived I waited almost 6 hours to be seen, they took blood and everything seemed fine. A male doctor came into my room and insinuated it was all in my head and even questioned my ability to differentiate period cramps and the severity of the pain I was feeling. I started to doubt myself, and without doing further testing I went home.
Going home was a moment of significance for me, it signified momentary defeat and suffering. I continued to be in pain and within a span of a month, I had been hospitalized, undergone surgery and diagnosed with cancer. My battle has been continuous but so has my ability to educate myself, and stand up for me and other women. Being gaslit into thinking the physical pain you are feeling is all in your head, rather than listening to you, is only a fraction of what women patients experience on a daily basis. After being diagnosed and going through multiple surgeries it was a continuous struggle. There were complications, infections and still an immense amount of pain. The doctors kept pushing me around to other physicians due to lack of involvement with their patient, me. It made me feel inadequate, small and alone. I was unable to work even after my surgeries because although they considered my cancer “gone” I was still incredibly ill. The doctors kept telling me my body was “recovering” and it was “ghost pain.” Until about two months ago when multiple lymph nodes and glands within my body became extremely enlarged. Only then they decided to listen to me. After a year of fighting once again for them to believe me, they decided it was important to test my lymph nodes for potential spreading. It has been two months and I have yet to have a biopsy on my lymph nodes to make sure it hasn’t turned into lymphoma.
For the last year I have learned more about our healthcare system than I have in my last 22 years of living. Although I am still struggling, I have made it my job to speak to other women. To tell them that no matter what you are told, to always get a second opinion, to listen to your body. Both times I expressed something was wrong, they belittled me and the only way I could get them to listen was to keep pushing. I have come to terms with the fact that women will always have to work harder to be seen in our healthcare system. That is why I believe It is essential for women to create healthy practices at home to lower their risk of disease and cancer. Not only that but it is crucial for us as women to construct boundaries within the health care system when need be. Have a family member there for support, demand respect and always ask multiple questions regarding your diagnosis. The irony fascinates me, we are shown unhealthy eating habits, and lifestyles from such a young age. That results in hormonal imbalances, mood disorders, cancers and several diseases. Yet when we actually acquire these illnesses and express our symptoms we are “over reacting”. The same structured society that poisons us from adolescence and heightens our risk of ill health is also the same culture that belittles us when we’re suffering from those conditions.
I have learned that real health can only be learned through personal exploration. Within our healthcare system I have experienced the band aid effect most are given. They often prescribe medication or diagnosis without further investigation, due to lack of concern or the harsh reality, a paycheck. Putting a band aid on the problem does nothing but suppress the symptoms, it does not resolve the root cause. Many of us trust that they have our best interest in mind, as did I. Nevertheless it is a deciding factor that us as women always question, for our own well-being. I was misdiagnosed for over seven years, and I am determined to create a platform that allows women to feel seen, and to show them they are not alone. It is time for us to change the destructive cycles within our healthcare system. As well as creating healthy habits, because a happy, strong minded, healthy woman is one powerful being.
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