We recently asked members of the BuzzFeed Community if, as women, they had ever felt as if their pain had not been taken seriously by doctors or medical professionals. Here are some of their stories…
1. The Woman With the Breathing Problems
When I was 17, I started having a really hard time breathing. My primary doctor told me it was just asthma. It became progressively worse, and my inhaler wasn’t really helping. One night, I woke up basically having a panic attack because it felt like I couldn’t breathe. My dad rushed me to the hospital, and after giving me an EpiPen for an allergic reaction, the doctor proceeded to tell my dad right in front of me that I was probably making it up to get out of school.
This happened several times with doctors telling me I was overreacting. After two months, I finally went to a specialist who discovered that I had a severe infection on my voice box that was inhibiting airflow into my lungs. —Alex Glenn, Facebook
2. The Woman With E. Coli
A few years ago I had extreme abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and a fever for two days. It just would not get better. I finally made it to urgent care on the third day, and the male doctor said, “It sounds like you’re just having really bad menstrual cramps.” I happened to be on my period at the time, and he advised me to take some ibuprofen and “sleep it off.” Fortunately, the (female) attending doctor who came in to do the actual exam took one look at me and sent me straight to the ER. Turns out I had an E. coli infection and I spent the night in the hospital hooked up to an IV. Some “menstrual cramps,” amirite? —Rachel Hamalainen, Facebook
3. The Woman With a Torn ACL
I was in a skiing accident when I was 17. I immediately knew that I hurt my knee very badly as it kinda just snapped down and swelled up right away. I went to the walk-in clinic and I told the doctor what had happened. I told him what my pain level was at, and he told me it couldn’t have been that serious, that I just bruised up my knee and I’d be fine shortly. So I had no further testing and was sent on my way.
After two months, my pain hadn’t improved at all and my knee was still swollen, so I went to see a different doctor. Turns out that I had torn my ACL, MCL, and my meniscus. I needed a MAJOR surgery, and everything was worse because the first doctor didn’t listen to me and get me to an orthopedic right away. I ended up getting scheduled for surgery ASAP and they did everything they could to make my knee normal again. But because of the initial response to my pain, I have never been able to ski again, I had to stop jogging/running, and my knee will forever and always be a bit messed up. —MrsH810
4. The Woman With Shingles
In college, I got shingles and waited a while to go to the hospital because I had been misdiagnosed by my student health center. Eventually, I showed the spots to my friend, who said it looked like shingles and took me to the emergency room. I walked in and told the male nurse that I thought I had shingles, and he scoffed and said, “Where did you come up with that? The internet? You would be in a lot of pain if you had shingles.” As soon as I lifted up my shirt he said, “Oh my god you have shingles! Isn’t this painful?” Yes…it is painful. That’s why I’m here. —hannam9
5. The Woman With a Cracked Eye Socket
I was accidentally elbowed in the face during a concert and my face started swelling almost immediately, so I went to the ER. The doctor did no diagnostic testing. Before he even asked my name, he said it looked like any normal black eye. Didn’t even prescribe me ibuprofen for the pain. Months later, I still hadn’t healed. I went to a plastic surgeon and he discovered that not only had the elbow cracked my eye socket, but a piece of bone had chipped off and was floating around in my face.
I could have lost my eyesight and/or all use on that side of my face due to nerve damage. I should have had surgery within 48 hours and at the very least a CT scan. Now, unless I have my face re-broken in surgery, I will never be fully recovered. All because a doctor didn’t believe I was really in as much pain as I claimed. —tiffanys4a5076f48
6. The Woman With Leg Pain
I have chronic pain in my legs that sometimes limits my ability to walk when
I have severe flares. One time during a particularly bad flare, I went to the doctor for help and she offered— in all seriousness— to escort me to the psych ward. —miaoupurr
7. The Woman With a Staph Infection
When I was 15, I had a minor knee surgery. The first day was fine, but each day I got progressively worse, to the point that I couldn’t even put weight on my leg at all. It was so swollen that it looked like my thigh went straight down my leg. My temperate reached 102. When I went to the office to get my stitches removed, my mom expressed concern about the excruciating pain and fever. The doctor laughed and said, “It’s just because she’s blonde and 15.”
A week later I came in again because the problem was still there. After unsuccessfully trying to drain my knee, he brought in his colleague. That doctor took one look at my knee and had me rushed to the hospital. Turns out I had a staph infection that had been doing work on my knee for what was at that point 18 days. —kellsieg
8. The Woman With a Giant Kidney Stone
I went to the ER with severe abdominal pain. It was so bad that I was actually screaming. The doctor asked me some questions, did no tests, and sent me home with a diagnosis of gas. I went back a week later for the same reason. This doctor actually did his job and found a giant kidney stone. —elizabethb80
9. The Woman With an Ovarian Cyst
When I was in high school, I was at basketball practice running sprints when I was suddenly overcome with the most excruciating abdominal pain I had ever experienced in my life. I was only 15 years old. My mom rushed me to urgent care. The doctor came in to see me and began asking me questions about what was going on at school and in my family instead of about the pain I was experiencing.
She then noticed that I had an “in memory” button on my letterman jacket. My friend had died in the previous year and as soon as she saw the button she was convinced that my severe abdominal pain was because I was sad. She actually told my mom, “This is common for teens who experience grief.” She then took the button off my jacket and made me talk to it and tell my friend “goodbye” so that I could “move on with my life.” I was so appalled and freaked out I just stared at her. Little did I know that I had actually had an ovarian cyst burst and I was suffering from severe endometriosis. — laraeparker
10. The Woman Who Wasn’t Taken Seriously Because She Was a Theater Major
During my freshman year of college I began experiencing seizure-like spasms and losing consciousness often. I went to the hospital near my university, where I filled out a questionnaire and included, when prompted, that I was a theatre major. I was given fluids and released. A few weeks later I passed out and started spasming again. A friend took me to the hospital. As I was being wheeled on a gurney for testing, still experiencing seizure-like symptoms and extreme abdominal pain, a female nurse ran alongside my gurney to tell the other medical professionals to not take me as seriously, because I was an actress. They decided to do less testing than they originally planned to do, and when I was sent back to the bed in the ER I had been assigned to. I signed myself out AMA (against medical advice) because I felt that I was being ignored.
Later, a different doctor told me that the spasms were due to a reaction I was having to a medication I was on due to having a kidney transplant just over a year prior to this. I was taken off the medication and the seizure-like activity ceased. Fast-forward two years, and I am still experiencing severe abdominal pain over my kidney transplant in my abdomen. I was finally diagnosed with endometriosis and pancreatitis, and spent almost a week in the hospital after becoming septic. Turns out I wasn’t acting, and I was facing two serious medical issues on top of the transplant. It’s been nearly 10 years since this happened and I still think about the pain and suffering that could have been alleviated if I had been taken seriously at that time. —Cait Brogan
11. The Woman With Endometriosis
It took FIVE doctors before I was finally diagnosed with endometriosis. The first doctor told me that period pain was normal even though I said the pain wasn’t just during my time of the month. The second doctor said it was probably gastrointestinal issues and that I should go to a specialist. The third doctor prescribed birth control after birth control that helped in no way. Fourth doctor thought maybe it was endometriosis, maybe it was cysts, couldn’t be sure, and gave me a painkiller to help and sent me on my way. Fifth and final doctor got me scheduled for an ultrasound. She prescribed a birth control that did help but when the pain worsened she scheduled a surgery for a laparoscopy in which they discovered that I did, indeed, have endometriosis. —fyeahrandaj
12. The Woman With Fibromyalgia
After my rheumatoid arthritis went into remission, doctors couldn’t pinpoint why I was still living with chorionic widespread pain. The pain felt similar to my RA but not quite the same, and it became debilitating. One doctor, after seeing my blood work, literally called me a “druggie.” He accused me of looking for prescriptions even though I had specifically stated that I was in desperate need of a diagnosis and didn’t want any pain-relieving pharmaceuticals from him. I walked out of his office in tears and almost gave up. I felt like the lowest human being on earth and didn’t want to go through that humiliation again. Luckily I have a wonderful support system that encouraged me to keep trying and finally found a doctor that diagnosed me with fibromyalgia. —jennymcgrathv
13. The Woman With Hyperemesis
Basically, my entire experience with hyperemesis was a mess. I was pregnant and throwing up 10–15 times a day. It took several trips to the ER and three different doctors before I found someone who believed me and gave me anti-nausea meds. Most people don’t take it seriously because they assume it is normal morning sickness. I lost close to 30 pounds in the first two months of my pregnancy, I could not keep down water, and I was so dehydrated I was having muscle spasms. But I had a doctor tell me I wasn’t sick enough to take time off work. —bortimus
14. The Woman With Severe Knee Pain
I needed knee surgery due to my knees being incredibly hyper-mobile. They would constantly shift out of place and dislocate while walking. It was so incredibly painful sometimes that I legitimately could not walk. I met with a surgeon who acted like I was some weak girl simply because I wasn’t injured playing sports or during physical activity. He would only speak to my mother about maybe getting a brace or working out more to strengthen it (which I did and didn’t help) and would act like I didn’t exist or like I wasn’t even in the room. —aislinnm4f03105da
15. The Woman With a Deadly Infection
I had abdominal surgery and the doctor took me off my pain meds two days later. That night, I experienced the most excruciating pain in my abdomen. It was very intense. The next morning, still in pain, I told my doctor. He said I was being sensitive and sent me home. I ended up back in the hospital 24 hours later with a deadly infection called peritonitis and was suffering sepsis. My doctor almost killed me by brushing off my pain. —micheller40b3c3c80
16. The Woman With Massive Cysts on Her Ovaries
When I was 14 or 15, my parents took me to the ER because I was crying and vomiting from a pain in my lower stomach/pelvic area. It took four hours to get into a room and by that time I had vomited three times. A doctor finally came in and I told him everything I was experiencing. He said I was probably about to start my period. I said no, that I had just finished like a week and half ago. He gave me fucking Tylenol while I was still crying and curled up in a ball on the bed. Two hours later a female nurse came to check on me and everything was still the same. My mom asked for a different doctor because the guy wasn’t listening to me. Somehow the nurse got a female doctor to come in. She gave me an ultrasound, and I ended up having massive cysts that were rupturing on BOTH of my ovaries. —taylorr4af7f9307
17. The Woman With a Labrum Tear
I injured my shoulder during a swim meet and it continued to hurt beyond the time the doctor said it would. Six years later, after begging for surgery to alleviate pain, my doctor barely agreed to exploratory surgery to see if anything was wrong that he couldn’t see or detect with the other methods he tried. After surgery he apologized to me… There was a huge tear in my labrum that required surgery to fix. —jenniferaugarten
18. The Woman With a Burst Appendix
When I was in eighth grade I had extreme abdominal pain and went to my local clinic. Without doing a single test, or listening to my symptoms, he told me I had a UTI. I was rushed in again the next day and this time I had a different doctor. She immediately discovered that my appendix had burst and that I needed to get to an ER right away. I ended up being in the hospital for five days. —makland05
19. The Woman With Stage 4 Endometriosis
I had been going to my OB-GYN for nine years telling him that I was hurting horribly with my periods and cramping between periods. He told me I’d grow out of it. I got fed up and switched to a different doctor in a different town. She had me in the operating room within a month and I was diagnosed with stage 4 endometriosis that probably could have been treated or cured long before it got this bad. —sallylewiss
20. The Woman With Gallbladder Disease
I experienced back pain for months, but being only 22, healthy, and relatively active I knew something wasn’t right. My doctor told me to get a chest X-ray and take some Advil. A few months later I ended up in the ER because the pain was so severe. The ER doctor told me I probably had a kidney infection. When the test came back negative, I was told to go home and see my primary care again. My pain was so severe I refused to leave and asked for an ultrasound of my gallbladder. He rolled his eyes but finally agreed. About an hour later he told me that I have gallbladder disease and need to have it removed immediately. He couldn’t even look me in the eyes! —samanthagoodson33
21. The Woman With Crohn’s Disease
I had chronic stomach pain growing up and the pain was so severe that I was often curled up reeling in pain. There was no relief whatsoever. It randomly came every month or so and lasted about a week. I went to the doctor multiple times. The doctors always passed it off as overeating or gas pains. Last year I finally went to the ER because the pain was so bad I couldn’t breathe. Turns out I’ve had Crohn’s the entire time. —tstatertotter
22. The Woman With a Blood Clot
A couple of years ago I went to my doctor because my left underarm and arm had been extremely sore for a few days and I couldn’t really stretch my arm all the way out. When I suddenly got blue marks down the inside of my upper arm, too, I decided to get it checked out. My personal doctor thought it could be something potentially dangerous (blood clots were mentioned), and she sent me to the hospital.
The doctors at the hospital were a completely different story. They kept asking me if I had hurt it somehow/strained it by carrying something heavy(!)/other mildly insulting explanation. I told them I wouldn’t be there if I knew the reason why it hurt. They took a blood test and it came back negative for any sign of blood clots. That just made them more sure it wasn’t anything serious. But I kept insisting I KNEW there was something wrong. Very reluctantly the doctor at the hospital said that, if I wanted, I could come back in the morning for an ultrasound. I quickly said YES, PLEASE and went home.
The next day I went in for the ultrasound and guess what: one blood clot in my arm. Yup. —mariarokkem
23. The Woman With Ulcers Lining Her Bladder
I have a bladder condition called interstitial cystitis, which means that the lining of my bladder (which protects it from acidic urine) doesn’t form properly, and my bladder and the surrounding muscles often spasm, causing pain and preventing me from urinating properly. When I was 23, I went to a urologist, after the third negative UTI test in a month, for further diagnosis. The first urologist I saw listened to my symptoms, and dismissively said, “What do you want me to do about it?” I was shocked but asked him to please run whatever tests he could. He agreed to do a cystoscopy, and the day of told my mother in the waiting room that he didn’t think he would find anything and I probably just drank too much alcohol, which irritated my bladder.
During the cystoscopy, they filled my bladder with water to expand it, my heart rate went up (indicating pain), and they found tiny ulcers on the lining of my bladder. The doctor sheepishly told my mother what they had found and gave me the name of a urogynecologist who specialized in my condition. —megans4885c0267
24. The Woman With Hip Issues
During the end of my pregnancy I started having severe pain in my lower back and right hip that radiated down my leg into a couple toes. After my daughter was born, the pain did not improve. I went to multiple doctors, including OB-GYNs and primary care physicians. Everyone said nothing was wrong. Three years later, I went to a new doctor for a basic yearly physical. I casually mentioned the pain to him. He ordered a slew of tests, from blood work to X-rays/MRIs/EMGs etc., but everything came back normal. He gave me a prescription for narcotics (I did not ask for them) and told me to come back in a month. When I returned he acted shocked that I was there just before a month had passed, even after I explained why. He berated me and made me feel awful, claiming I was only there to get more pain pills. When I told him that I had hardly taken any of the pills because they did not alleviate my pain at all, he asked me if I was selling them and had me take a drug test. By the time I left his office that day I actually felt like I had done something wrong.
I decided to take a more natural approach because I could not put myself through that again and went to see a chiropractor. He took X-rays. He immediately showed me what was causing the severe pain. He sent me to an orthopedic surgeon. Unfortunately this doctor was in the same network as the original PCP and saw the notes from my two previous visits. He took new X-rays but had me lyying down for them all. He said they looked fine and once again accused me of lying to get narcotics. Once again I had not suggested in any way, shape, or form that I wanted any sort of prescription. I explained what the chiropractor had shown me on my previous X-rays. After much pleading he agreed to take X-rays of me standing. He immediately apologized and agreed with what the chiropractor had said. He said that no amount of narcotics would have any effect on this type of pain. —kimbroslice
25. The Woman With Kidney Stones
I was 19 on a job in San Francisco by myself and thought my appendix was rupturing on my flight over. I went straight to a doctor when I landed, and he insisted it was cramps. The pain persisted and I ended up passing out on the job and had to be brought in to the ER. Turns out I’d been feeling and passing kidney stones for four days. Thanks, doc. —malariez
26. The Woman With an Autoimmune Illness
I’ve struggled with chronic stomach issues my entire life, and I started seeing this GI doctor a couple of years ago. He was literally so sexist that he would only talk to, shake hands with, and properly address my boyfriend. It was as if my boyfriend had to be the messenger for me, to explain how bad my health issues had gotten. I had two procedures done, and then that doctor ended up diagnosing me with IBS. I was crushed. I knew it was something more severe than IBS.
When I got a new GI doctor a few months later, I FINALLY learned that I have a chronic illness— an autoimmune disorder — that can’t be cured and can lead to cancer and other horrible things if it goes unchecked for a long period of time. —mollykat66
27. The Woman With PCOS
When I was 20 and in college, I was menstruating heavily (and painfully) for 40 days before my friend finally convinced me to go to the ER. Once there, I waited four hours in a paper gown. Finally, a male doctor examined me, deemed that my bleeding wasn’t “too heavy,” and gave me two Advil for the cramps. He told me if I was still bleeding in another month I should make an appointment to come back.
After I told my mom this, she scheduled me with her gynecologist, who immediately did an ultrasound and found I was suffering from PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) and that my small cysts were bursting, which was causing the pain and heavy bleeding. She took my pain seriously and prescribed me stronger ibuprofen for the pain and hormonal birth control to control the cysts, and also an iron supplement because of the blood loss. Had I gone another 30 days, as the ER doctor had recommended, I would have been severely anemic from blood loss. —audreyl4272376cf
28. The Woman With Gallstone Issues
I went to the ER a couple weeks after I had my gallbladder removed. I was in terrible pain, completely keeled over. My husband pretty much had to carry my into the ER and talk for me because I couldn’t move. The doctor told me it was just cramps and sent me home. When the pain wouldn’t go away, I went to a different urgent care. The doctor there did an MRI and found that a gallstone had actually been stuck and sealed in a bile duct. It required another surgery to remove it, and if I hadn’t gone elsewhere it would have gotten much, much worse. —Saoirsetrujillo
29. The Woman With Fibromyalgia
I was 36 and had lived with muscle/joint pain since my early twenties. Whenever I brought it up to my general practitioners, it was pushed aside and treated as not important since the pain roamed around my body. I had my knee go out one day after taking what should have been an easy walk. I went to another GP and after an X-ray came back clear, she actually rolled her eyes at me. I insisted I be treated. She told me I probably needed to lose some weight (leftover from pregnancy). I kept insisting something was wrong. She begrudgingly said, “I guess I can refer you to a rheumatologist.” Turns out I have fibromyalgia. And I have for about 15 years now. Don’t give up! Your health is too important! —mariae4e9ce5944
Note: Some submissions may have been edited for length and/or clarity.
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