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xx is not a disease

12 Feb

Do you menstruate?

Have you been diagnosed with anemia and been told it’s because of your sex and not an underlying medical issue?

If so, print this out and hand it to your doctor as you say these magic words: “86% of women in this study were found to be anemic due to previously undiagnosed internal bleeding. My biological sex is not a disease; and it is likely I have an undiagnosed gastrointestinal illness. Are you willing to work with me to get this solved?”

My celiac disease went undiagnosed for over 30 years because it was easier for doctors to call me weak, fragile, picky, sensitive and female than it was for them to realize I had a genetic disease (and you don’t want to know the various irresponsible, sexist and racist (long story) things medical professionals said to me when I finally got so ill I had to have a diagnosis). This medicalizing of my sex as opposed to actual attention to my health has done permanent, irreversible damage to my body.

Being female is not a disease, and anemia is generally a sign of one. If your doctor says it’s because you menstruate without further and significant investigation: get a new doctor.

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10 Responses to “xx is not a disease”

  1. Beppie February 12, 2011 at 9:50 pm #

    Damn straight. I’ve been fortunate enough, for my entire adult life, to have an awesome doctor (and I’m sure it’s no coincidence that she’s a woman), who has never tried to pull that sort of crap on me. Even when I’ve had mental health issues that HAVE related to my menstrual cycle, she never actually blamed my cycle for the underlying issues (ie, there was no “it’s not depression, you’re just hormonal” crap).

  2. Anton February 12, 2011 at 11:18 pm #

    I read that and was kind of horrified. Especially after the years long saga of increasing problems I had that were totally dismissed by doctors.

  3. Gwydion February 12, 2011 at 11:26 pm #

    This is why it took me five years to get anyone to do anything about my tumor colony. I had to nearly die to convince anyone to take it seriously enough to diagnose it, then there was the finding someone willing to remove it.

  4. Layna February 13, 2011 at 2:50 am #

    Yikes – that’s awful! I had a doctor who took a YEAR to diagnose me with low thyroid, while I gained weight, my hair fell out, and I started falling asleep at work – after that, I realized that however compassionate or skilled, NOBODY is as interested in my health as I am.

  5. Faye February 13, 2011 at 4:14 am #

    Someday I shall perfect a telepathic weapon like the one in “Hitchhiker’s Guide” the movie, only it will make the victims suffer all the physical anguish the user is suffering from. There will be one in every doctor’s office.

    As someone with several medical problems, life-long and recent, but who has managed to dodge the anemia bullet: it is in fact possible to be a biological female and menstruate regularly and not be anemic. It may be one of the few things my body managed to do well, in fact. And if my sickly self can do it, then surely most healthy women should be able to as well.

    This goes in the big bin with all the times a woman is told she’ll “just have to live with” (that is, suffer from) menstrual pain, fibroid pain, ovarian cysts the size of her head, cystitis and urinary problems of all kinds, vulva damage, and a dozen other biofem-related issues that modern medicine rarely does anything about at *all* even when they endanger life. And don’t even ask about having that uterus removed – it might contain a fetus someday, and those have rights, you know. At least until they’re born and might be female. (The number of women I know who want their plumbing ripped out before it tries to kill them as it did their mothers, sisters, grandmothers et al who have been denied because “you might want children someday” (including a nearly-forty married lesbian whose partner had given them several kids) is just horrifying.

  6. 4hour February 13, 2011 at 2:18 pm #

    when i stopped menstruating (menstrual suppression via the pill – to control endometriosis symptoms), one of my doctors made the offhand comment that i should really think about donating blood because without monthly bleeding i’d potentially build up dangerously high stores of iron.

    this bothered me on a number of levels; the biggest one was the assumption that i didn’t donate already. assumption rage aside, that comment led me to research how women store iron, and whether it’s a biological necessity to deplete and replete the stores, and that led to a whole slew of other questions and curiosities – what i found wasn’t answers, though. it was just more questions. the lack of quality research out there is astounding. ladybusiness just isn’t a viable medical research topic and it breaks my heart.

    so i’m especially happy that people like dr clancy are out there, reading and writing and making things happen.

  7. bem02 February 13, 2011 at 9:04 pm #

    Thank you very much for posting that blog!

  8. Nine February 14, 2011 at 2:40 am #

    Thank you for posting this!

  9. jethrien February 14, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    When I was in high school, I had terrible cramps. I mean, really terrible, especially from one ovary–I missed a full day of school every other month to spend the entire day curled in a ball of pain, crying, pausing roughly once an hour to throw up from the pain. I brought this up with my (male) doctor. He expressed mild sympathy, told me to take some extra Advil, said that it was probably aggravated by caffeine and so I shouldn’t have chocolate the week before, and informed me it might get better after I had children. My mother had never had cramps like this herself and had no basis of reference–we were upset there was nothing that could be done, but accepted it as one of those things.

    A year or two later, my fahter switched health insurance for unrelated reasons, and I ended up with a new (female) doctor. After having seen her for months, I made an off-hand comment about cramps issue in reference to something else. Her jaw just about hit the floor. I had a prescription for heavy duty painkillers in my hand faster than I could blink, a recommendation that I seriously consider going on birth control, and a demand that I check in in a month to make sure that the painkillers were doing their job. She (rightly) thought it inconceivable that a teenager should be incapacitated monthly by something so easily fixed. And it really was that easy–a couple pills and I’ve had no real troubles since. I don’t know whether the first doctor didn’t take my pain seriously or was completely ignorant of ways to stop it or unilaterally decided I was too young for heavy dosages of painkillers or hormones without consulting me or my parents. But it’s (kind of unreasonably) put me off male doctors for general health.

  10. hab318princess February 17, 2011 at 2:48 pm #

    I’ve chewed on this for a few days as and I’d really focussed on the negative view of medics which upset me a bit (I work in a hematology department at a hospital as a secretary) and then asked a doctor in our team about this because I wanted a medical point of view and I trust this doctor –

    His point was that the dangerous investigations (such as an endoscopy or colonoscopy, which can lead to injury, after all they are invasive) would not be necessary if the anaemia / iron deficiency / blood loss are dealt with first in the community….. if you then still have anaemia, then these investigations would be suitable – it doesn’t matter how you lose the blood – blood loss leads to anaemia – so iron replacement supplements or maybe a contraceptive device that reduces your blood loss may be a start

    But as RM said: if you’re not happy with what your doctor is telling you: get a second opinion! They are not infallible and you know your body best!

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