No, you are not an hysterical female, and this is not just anxiety.

Heart Feathers

Heart Feathers by RiverLuna (Etsy)

 

“He’s working with a med student shadowing him today. Do you mind being seen by her first?”

In the spirit of education, I said, “No, of course not.”

She had long strawberry blond hair and big glasses. We talked. “What brought you here today?” she asked. “Well, I was seen in the ER three weeks ago for a blood clot in my leg and they told me I needed to follow up.” I watched her write down “Deep Vein Thrombosis.”

“It wasn’t a deep vein thrombosis, but they did find a blood clot, and told me to follow up with you.”

She marked out “Deep Vein Thrombosis” and led me through my recent history since the Bad Fall Onto My Head on November 1st: concussion, double vision, vertigo, blood clot, and now this follow up, which also added recent chest pains to the list.

“Yes, a tight band of severe pain across my chest on the least exertion – going to get a cup a tea can cause it. Feels like your lungs feel in extreme cold when you have bronchitis and you take a deep breath. Significant pain and then I have to lie down for it to resolve.”

The doctor came in after a bit and explained things more thoroughly with this new audience, teaching while not listening, rather than just not listening.

We talked for a while. And then the bottom line, as the doctor talked to the med student.

“What we really are dealing with here is anxiety. Because it is anxiety that would take her to the ER on a Saturday with what might be a blood clot. Most people would wait until Monday and call here to get an appointment, but she went to the ER. This is just anxiety we need to be treating.”

“HELLO? I AM SITTING RIGHT HERE,” I thought to myself.

“AND HELLO? THEY ACTUALLY FOUND A BLOOD CLOT IN MY LEG, SO THERE!” I thought to myself.

And then, I couldn’t help myself. I said both those things out loud.

That’s part one of this story.

Part two happened two days later, which happened to be last Saturday.

It happened in the big snowstorm of ’16, being picked up by firemen and transported over snow and ice to an ambulance that couldn’t get to our house in the snow. And then into an ER, elevated troponin levels, T-wave inversions on my EKG, suddenly things started happening very quickly, and an overnight stay, then a transfer to a larger hospital, then a heart catheterization that was almost turned into bypass surgery because of the 90% blockage in a main artery, then an unfortunate, big bleed that has left me flat on my back for the past 38 hours.

Yeah, that sounds just like anxiety.

And the sad fact is that I waited. I waited because I felt shamed into feeling like an hysterical female, shamed into feeling like I was just anxious. JUST anxious. Like anxiety itself is something that isn’t real when we know that it is. Like anxiety is something to be ashamed of or embarrassed by. When our lives, bodies, souls, are in distress, anxiety is a likely outcome. Wear it proudly. It might save your life one day, and it can be treated, too.

He is not the first doctor to do this, and it is not always men, either. When I had double vision after my Bad Fall, the female ER doctor lined my chart with “Anxiety” “anxiety” “Anxiety.” As if seeing double was a figment of my imagination because I might have been anxious about seeing double. #meta #SeeWhereThisLeadsTo? #endlesscircle

“DOUBLE VISION, DOUBLE VISION, DOUBLE VISION,” I screamed inside my head.

I think there are many things you could call me. You could call me stubborn. You could call me opinionated. You could call me outspoken. You could even call me anxious – when I am anxious – just don’t let that be the benchmark for my healthcare, or a Bingo call number, or a convenient thing to write when you can’t find anything else wrong, or are so intent on not listening to me that you can’t hear me.

So, Little Miss Anxious went to the ER in the snowstorm after pain so bad it made me throw up at home in the shower. Heart attack, stent, and now a complication from the procedure. Anxious, anxious, anxious? No. Heart attack, stent, complication.

Want to be my doctor? 

Listen to me. No, really. Put down the stylus to that irritating little beeping machine you have attached to yourself, and look at me. Listen like I am giving you the secret to the meaning of life, because I am. Mine. And you’ll have to hope someone listens to you so you can get to the meaning of your life someday soon.

Respect me. And respect me even when I’m overweight and eat too much sugar. Even then, I am fully human and deserve the best healthcare you can give. Even when you tell me every single time I see you that I just need to sweat more and that yoga isn’t sweating. I beg your pardon, and here’s a free coupon to a yoga class, dude. Sweat on.

Drop the almighty thing you’ve got going on. Be fully human. Say “I don’t know” when you don’t, in fact, know. Let’s make this a partnership.

How to save your own life:

Value your life enough to make hard, and what could be unpopular decisions. I was leaving the next day to teach a writing retreat on Tybee Island. I knew I had to get this checked out, hysterical female messaging be damned. That decision saved my life. The retreat would have to wait.

Fire doctors who shame you in any way, shape, or form. Will I ever see that doctor again? No, I will not. Though I will write and tell him why.

Listen to your own body. We live disconnected from our bodies, and we must stop that. We are disembodied, clever heads walking around on bodies we don’t understand, know, or pay attention to. This will kill us. Start tracking what your body is telling you. Daily. Know when changes occur. Pretend this is your 8th grade Science Fair project and you desperately want an “A” because by god, Jackie Ervin is NOT going to beat you at the Science Fair again this year.

Listen to this story: 

A woman had yet one more hard year, after three very hard years. She didn’t sleep for months because of her Autistic child becoming manic. Then, in November, she stumbled on an uneven stair, and hit her head very sharply. She lived with headaches, and developed double vision. She had her head scanned three times for different things, she had ultrasounds and CT scans with dye, she had an MRA to see if enough blood was going to her head, she developed debilitating vertigo, she developed a blood clot–all in two months–thought “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH” and her doctor even said, “This is all evidence of just anxiety.” And she thought, “well, maybe this is all the result of anxiety.”

And then she had chest pains, a heart attack, a stent, and another chance. Because she wasn’t just an hysterical female, and this wasn’t just anxiety.

Listen to your body. Ignore everyone else.

Please know the heart attack symptoms in women.

And yes, my patient number ends with “37.”

EDITED to include this note: We, none of us, are infallible. Not this doctor, not me, none of us. This is not an indictment of any one person as much as it is a warning and a “please note” and a “you’re in charge of your own body, life, healthcare, happiness” and a “keep seeking answers” post. I am not adding this addendum for legal reasons, but because it is important. Doctors are humans. All humans make mistakes, even those in uniform. And I wrote this story in part because this event was, in fact, part of a too-long pattern of not being listened to by this particular health care provider, and part of a too-long pattern of not being my most effective advocate for myself.

185 Comments

  1. I just shared this article, again, for a friend I love who is basically being told what she’s feeling in her body can’t be what she’s feeling. (wtf?!) I am so grateful to you for writing this.

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  2. Hi Patti,
    When you said you had to miss the retreat on Tybee, I had to write a few lines since we met there on the beach once. Please take care of you. Otherwise we are incapable of taking care of the rest of them. Patient ending in 37. Interesting. Thank you for writing about your experience. XOX

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  3. I love it when you suddenly realize that your inside voice has actually said what needs to be said out loud…

    This is so brilliant, Patti. I’d love your permission to reblog it on my site, Heart Sisters.

    I’ve written a number of posts over the years about female patients worrying about being labelled “anxious” or “difficult” (including one story from one of my readers who tried for years (finally successfully!) to get the words “anxious female” removed from her medical charts: http://myheartsisters.org/2012/06/04/anxious-female/

    Hope you are feeling better day by day….
    regards,
    C.

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  4. I keep reading this again, because you wrote it so well. Please, yes, DO write the doctor who misdiagnosed you. It might be the most important wake-up call he ever gets. Yes, he might not pay attention. But you did and that’s what counts. The next thing he reads (from someone else) might be a malpractice subpoena.

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  5. I am sorry for your experience. It definitely highlights problems in our medical system, and lack of compassion amongst doctors. However, there are some facts you brushed over lightly or did not explain (to us, so who knows what you told the doctors).

    1. I had to read several paragraphs in, to learn you were overweight, and had had 3 years of misery, caring for a difficult autistic child. If you didn’t preface your story with these facts, you probably didn’t tell your doctors.

    2. It is definitely a fact that doctors dislike and resent overweight patients, and treat them differently than regular weight or slim patients.

    3. On the other hand: an overweight middle-aged female, possibly with Type II diabetes or high blood glucose, is at extreme risk of a heart attack and I wonder why they did not even consider this when you described CHEST PAIN?

    4. Nobody goes to the ER because they think they have a blood clot in their leg. A patient doesn’t think “clot” — they think “gee my leg hurts”. You went to the ER with what I assume was severe, frightening leg pain. An ultra-sound probably detected the clot. Clots are serious; you can die from one if it passes into your lungs or heart.

    5. Unfortunately for all of us, even though YOU had a serious medical condition — thousands of people go to the ER daily, who are not really sick. Some have minor conditions that could be treated at a doctor’s office or “minute clinic” or at home. I have seen people go to the ER — in an AMBULANCE — for a bleeding hangnail. I am not kidding. This clogs up the ER and makes waits horribly long, as it takes time from the seriously sick folks.

    Many, many, many people — especially those on Medicaid or with no health care (hence, it costs them nothing) — use the ER as a walk-in medical facility for any or all problems. They love that it is free (*to them; we’d be billed $$$$) and they can go on any whim, at any time of day or night, without planning. This is a serious problem. Ironically, Obamacare (which expanded Medicaid to many more people) has actually made the problem much worse.

    ****

    Obviously the takeaway here is to be calm, cool, collected but FIRM and describe your symptoms in a calm manner — but be PROACTIVE. If you must, see another doctor for a second opinion. If you are in pain, MAKE IT CLEAR. Don’t diminish it, or say things that are contradictory (“it’s not that bad….”). Be honest about your pre-existing conditions.

    BTW: a fall where you strike your head is ALWAYS SERIOUS. Chest pains in an adult over 35, anyone obese or overweight, or with other factors for heart disease (like Type 2 diabetes) is ALWAYS SERIOUS, and must be treated as a real emergency. Immediate proper treatment (clog-busting drugs) are the difference between life & death — literally. YOUR LIFE IS ALWAYS, first off, IN YOUR OWN HANDS. Even the best doctors and hospitals cannot help if you don’t go, are not pro-active, don’t speak up.

    SPEAK UP. I hope you are better today, and hopefully, will never take passive/aggressive B.S. from another intern again.

    Reply
    • 1. These were known facts. I’m pretty sure being overweight is hard to hide from a medical professional, and he has known about my child since I started seeing him, since he was her doc as well.

      2. Yes, indeed, whether they are healthy or not.

      3. Not diabetic, and have never tested positive for diabetes. As for the reason why? Not listening.

      4. Extreme pain, and yes, there was a clot found via ultrasound at the ER.

      5. Yes, I understand that. The glories of triage sometimes help sort those things out, which was the case of my blood clot and chest pain – at the ER, not at the doctor’s office.

      Thanks for your note.

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    • Lola – I have been a health care researcher studying the reasons people visit an ER, and physician responses. We found that there were 3 kinds of physician response: 1. Everyone belongs in the ER if they feel they should be there – emergencies are only defined in retrospect. 2. In a perfect world, other appointments could take of most urgent care BUT this is not a perfect world. Physicians are not available 24/7, and some suggest an ER visit when they are not available. 3. Get out of my ER.

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  6. This makes me cry, each time that I have read it, Patti. My own terrible medical experiences aside, this post points out such a crisis in healthcare. Nobody can really ‘blame the system’ for a health care providers’ lack of commitment to ‘do no harm’. Simply put, there is nothing more harmful than refusing to hear what a person is saying and experiencing.

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  7. I got here this morning because Paul ‘the ripples guy’ commented on another post of yours on Facebook. I just got back to my iPad and couch after responding to my doctor about a visit I had in December. I had some labs run for a chronic problem I have, but this was a new doctor and she ran different labs than every other time I’ve been in. No explanation on the results, just that they were similar to last time and basically nothing. I work in healthcare. I hate being the patient for this reason. No one listens. And I read this, thought goddammit, I paid for those tests, I deserve an explanation, I shouldn’t need to do the research myself, what the heck am I paying for.

    Thank you. Thank you for this reminder. We all deserve better from the healthcare system.

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    • Patti, I hope you are feeling better. Stories like this get me so heated. I am a paramedic in CA and I have witnessed this kind of dismissive attitude by doctors, RN’s and medics alike. Whether they are overworked or just crappy at their job is no excuse. I have also had this experience as a patient..and oh boy was that an eye opener. Of course I could speak for many heartfelt, empathetic and thorough care providers as well, but that is not the point here. We all have to be our own advocates. And ALWAYS trust your gut..it can, will and DID save you. Care providers need to slow down and pay attention ( I remind myself of this often) and we as patients and humans need to keep making our voices heard. No one knows your body like you do.. Sending you thoughts of strength and healing. Your message is needed.

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  8. I’m glad you are still here to tell the story and give such an important reminder to us all.

    thank you,
    wishing you good healing and rest,
    C

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  9. My Mom started having three types of seizures, including grand maul seizures. Because my Mom was mourning the death of my brother and my twin sister, the health professionals diagnosed my Mom with psychosomatic seizure brought on by severe anxiety and depression. We insisted she gets a second and third and fourth opinion. Each doctor saw her chart and assumed anxiety as well. Yes. Assumed. Just like that. We kept insisting that Mom see another doctor but she told us, “It’s anxiety. Every doctor agrees. I guess I just need to get a handle on my nerves”. When Mom finally agreed to see a fifth specialist who actually listened to her and didn’t give her “that look again” and re-write what previous doctors wrote on her chart. One brain scan and we got a definite diagnoses. A cancerous brain tumor. Yea. She had had that tumor for at least a year and a half. The responsible Doctor said if Mom had been properly diagnosed by any of the four doctors she saw in the beginning, the tumor would’ve been 100% operable and she would have been free of the tumor. Also after the year and a half of wasted time being treated by an irresponsible doctor, the cancer from the tumor in her brain had moved and taken root in her lung. Yea. Well, the tumor was so large and it had rooted in her brain so operating was no longer an option. Even with aggressive treatment, Mom died within 6 months of her true diagnoss.

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    • I am so sorry to read that. Such a tragic and unnecessary loss.

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    • My daughter died from misdiagnosis

      A couple of times I went with her to her psychiatrist. He looked at his computer and modified her meds. Ten years later she died of a massive cancer in her brain.

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  10. Prior to Mom’s heart attack and double bypass a year and a half ago she was told by doctor’s in the ER at Deaconess and by doctors at Deaconess Heart Hospital that she was just having anxiety. When her blood pressure spiked while doing a CT scan…anxiety, when she had obvious signs of distress during a chemical stress test (chest pain and trouble brething) they said she was fine because the computer did not indicate distress. They sent her home with a diagnosis of ANXIETY! Two days later she was still having symptoms. She hesitated on going to the ER because the doctors said it was anxiety! We got a second opinion at St. Mary’s. Mom had a heart attack while in the ER at St. Mary’s. They did a heart cath and found that her left coronary artery was 99% blocked and she had to have emergency bypass surgery. She was so lucky that she was in the hospital when it happened or she would probably not be here today! If the doctors at the Heart Hospital would have listened to their patient instead of the numbers on a machine, instead of whatever seed the ER doctor planted with anxiety, she would have gotten the care that she needed…a heart cath to rule out blockage!

    You know your body!

    If you have a doctor who doesn’t listen to you…find a new doctor, it is your life they are taking care of!

    If you don’t agree with a diagnosis/treatment/recommendation, GET A SECOND OPINION!

    Do your research, I am not saying google your symptoms and diagnose yourself, but be informed. If the doctor says you have “x”. Look it up, know the symptoms, the treatments, the outcomes.

    You health is not something to play around with!

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  11. I’m a doctor and I hate going to the doctor. I think this every time I go to the doctor: “they aren’t hearing me.” I won’t go on about the reasons for this – as an insider I know there are many and varied problems that end up with doctors not listening. But I am saddened and embarrassed especially because your story isn’t so strange or so surprising. Tragic, atrocious, just plain wrong, but unfortunately I have heard it happen in many different shades, to many different people, many different times. When I was in medical school autoimmune was jokingly translated as “I’m not sure why you have this set of symptoms.” I think it’s safe to say anxiety fits that definition too. My suggestions to everyone – myself included: LISTEN TO YOURSELF. We all need to do this more. ADVOCATE FOR YOURSELF. We all need to do this more. When we are sick or hurting or scared it’s sometimes impossible to do, so consider bringing a friend or loved one, to the ER or doctor visit, with the job of being your advocate. QUESTION EVERYTHING. You are worth it, understand what is happening as best you can, and if you don’t, ask questions. If you don’t get answers that make sense, get another opinion. And finally, find an Osteopathic Physician who uses their HANDS to listen to you. Especially if you are having double vision after a fall, or head pain or any other ongoing health issue your doctor is calling anxiety. The easy truth is, lots of times we don’t know what’s going on. In fact, a good deal of what we learned in medical school is now known to be just plain wrong. The body is complex, amazing, and mysterious. We should be in awe of it. We should respect the mystery. We should listen.

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    • This is a very helpful response. Thank you.

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  12. Just because someone is a doctor doesn’t make them compassionate or even knowledgeable. People become doctors for many reasons- ego, money, compassion etc. Many compassionate people become doctors. And these doctors strive to learn and help you and do the right thing. Find this kind of doctor.

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  13. Wow, Patti. So very glad you are healing, and still able to speak the truth on behalf of so many of us who don’t have your ability to write and express ourselves with such eloquence and clarity. I am grateful you & my sister lived together once upon a time, otherwise I may not have started following you via social media. My life is richer and better from reading your words. This piece perfectly described my feelings and own experiences with various docs over the years. I, along with many many of your followers, will take this piece forward with us, benefitting from your gift of describing your experiences in a way that moves and educates. Thank you, and as others have encouraged, please continue to heal and get all the rest & nurturing you need to keep being your incredible self! (Oh, and as one recent “orphan” to another, I am sorry for your loss, and thank you for acknowledging mine)

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  14. Thank you!

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  15. Like so many others, particularly women, I’ve had this experience, too. I have Lupus. Just saying those three words should let anyone who knows anything about Lupus have bells go off in their head. I was diagnosed after a year when I was twenty-one, but the doctor only told me that I might develop Lupus at some point. After seventeen years of pain, constant illness, and pain and fatigue that were blinding at times, I was tested again because my hair was falling out. I requested my records from the idiot who chose not to tell me I had Lupus seventeen years prior. And, there it was in his handwritten notes. ” Patient has Systemic Lupus Erythmatosis. Not informing due to probable fatality in twenty-four months”. Since then, I often hear the anxiety thing, especially when I go to the hospital. Or the question from some hospitalist, ” What makes you think you have Lupus?”. Could it be the lab work? The Lupus cerebritis that brought me here? The hair loss, tooth loss, incessant fatigue, kidney disease, lesions on my brain and spine from Lupus meningitis, etc.?

    We need to be our own advocate. Don’t ask. Tell doctors what you’re feeling. And, make them listen. If they don’t, find a new doctor

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  16. I am in the midst of a health crisis. I AM anxious, brought on by a broken knee cap, a knee cap surgery that didn’t work, a fall two weeks ago where I broke multiple small bones in my foot. The latest was an acute appendectomy 10 days ago. (Gangrenous and abcessed. Full stomach incision.) I started having panic attacks the day I came home from the hospital (last Saturday) with a husband who no longer has the patience for a Crazy Woman who was hyperventilating in the car. I entered the house with difficulty because of the unrepaired knee and he chose a fight over money and my incredible demands rather than being a care giver. My husband is a diabetic with full-blown anxiety issues when his sugar get low. When the ambulance came, they noticed I was hysterical and took me to a special room in the hospital for people who seem to be psychotic or high on drugs. I got minimal care and had a friend pick me up and take me to the local Hampton Inn. (She had to go home and get her husband’s walker so I could walk.) Mine was left at home by the State Policeman who brought down a brand new door because I couldn’t stand and go to the door quick enough. All the other doors were unlocked when my husband drove off but they did not check. I spent 3 days at the Hampton Inn before my husband was willing to calm down enough to give me a ride home. Today my doctor, taking out 20 staples from my belly, said the anxiety was from the anaesthesia and the hospital confinement. (This somehow confirmed to my husband that I am nuts.) I have gotten two night’s sleep after 10 days of no sleep and very little food. My husband baked me fresh bread and made me a nice meal or 3. He is taking care of me now, therefore he does not understand why I keep getting upset when he refuses to do what I asked. (Can you bring me all the medications by the bed into the living room?) He often responds that he is not a maid so I have to stop making for so many requests and refuses or pretends to refuse to do anything close to what I asked. I am living in hell. The home nursing kicks in next week. I will have Nursing, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, a talk with a Social Worker, all at home. Can’t wait. Fortunately, I will be driven by church members to church Sunday. I am looking forward to getting a hug from my friends at the local church. Be grateful for your health and what positive people you have in your life.

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    • Holly: your husband drove off, while you were in acute pain from appendicitis, and waiting for an ambulance? he drove off, rather than TAKE YOU TO THE HOSPITAL? After surgery, you went to a hotel rather than your own home?

      You don’t have a medical problem here (you have medical problems, but that’s not the SUBJECT). You have a serious MARITAL problem. You are also asking for caregiving from a person who either cannot do it, or won’t do it (or who has a completely different view of what has happened than you do).

      A family member in your home, who refuses to bring you medications when you have both a broken foot AND are recovering from abdominal surgery….that person has issues way beyond the topic here (which is “insensitive doctors ignoring symptoms”). Your doctors sound like they are mostly giving you good care. Your anxiety and depression are because you have severe problems with your spouse.

      Nothing will get better until you confront these problems, and work on them, and talk honestly. I’d give marriage counseling a try. You also need to talk to a therapist about meds and techniques for controlling your anxiety. They are very effective. If you don’t do this, the hysteria and panic attacks will make everyone (from your spouse to doctors to EMTs) NOT BELIEVE YOU or think you are mentally ill. Just a word to the wise, from someone who struggled with panic attacks for years.

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  17. 50 y.o. professional athlete. Extremely healthy……Chest pain etc. Dec. of 2014, Echo showed enlarged aorta and a new murmur. I didn’t have any risk factors so no worries. Plan to recheck Echo in Dec 2015. Between that first Echo and August 4, 2015 I had continuous symptoms of pain and shortness of breath, but since NO ONE FEELS an enlarged aorta or a murmur I was eventually told by both a male and a female cardiologist that it was “psychological”.

    How in the world do they get away with making a diagnosis they are NOT QUALIFIED to make. My thoracic aneurysm and full dissection on 8/4 at last provided an explanation for my distress that had nothing to do with non-existent anxiety.

    This must stop. This sexism and inappropriate diagnosis would have killed me but for my quick response, excellent EMT’s and a very capable surgeon.

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  18. Wow. You have no idea just how much that resonated with me. I have Lyme disease and saw a specialist yesterday, for the 2nd time, mind you, and he told me they were treating me ‘as if I had Lyme.’ I wasn’t sure I was hearing him right! I said, You have the results! I tested positive. He had to check the COMPUTER to see if I was telling him the truth. Long story short, he was an ass. I was polite, told him I disagreed with his opinion, and will never return again. There are asshats in every profession, but a Dr. being cocky, condescending and playing god is just wrong. I love you, Patti. Thanks for being a wonderful, strong woman. Blessed journey!

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  19. Folks, please file official complaints against every doctor or nurse or healthcare facility who does this to you, every time it happens.

    If you can’t get their heads straight during that visit, then a nice letter later is unlikely to make a difference. And we cannot continue to tolerate this insidious medical malpractice.

    Please, take action against it.

    The life you save may not be your own.

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  20. So glad you’re alive, Patti, and so sad, angry and dismayed you went through this. I’d like to be aghast that you did, I’m not too surprised. Sadly.

    As a mom and when my husband died, I’ve come to the conclusion that doctors do NOT like to say, “I don’t know.” They substitute “you have anxiety” instead. Argh. I was told that when my daughter was in such pain she couldn’t walk at night that I was coddling her. Or a more accurate translation–“I can’t #$%ing figure out what’s going on, it must be your fault that I can’t.”

    Sending refuah shlemah–Jewish prayer for healing of body, mind, and spirit.

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  21. so true…after my own fall, I ended up having so much anxiety going for those Dr appointments! they just didn’t seem to listen or care!! Thankfully I was functional enough to demand their attention.

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  22. I had a very similar experience with a medical issue a few years ago. I’ve lost all faith in the integrity of that system. I’m sorry you had to go through this and wish you a speedy recovery from all of it.

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  23. Wow! How terrifying for you! That’s enough to leave you with PTSD, if you didn’t already have so many other reasons. I do know that panic attacks present much like heart attacks, but that’s no excuse for not testing. Or for blatantly disregarding the symptoms that were validated (the clot). That’s not just crazy, it’s gross negligence. Definitely, write the letter. Maybe even sue (not something I advocate widely, but this was absolutely gross negligence and these doctors need a serious wake-up call before they kill someone). So glad that you listened to yourself and that you made them come get you in the snow and didn’t let the fear of shame kill you! Hope they are listening now!! Hope you are getting good rest and will soon be feeling much better — maybe better than you have in a long time, since this didn’t develop overnight.

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    • Wow and double Wow! I just went through something similar in August. Symptoms were extreme vertigo, severe headaches and very low resting heart rate. Hospitalized for 5 days with no answers. Team of trainees visited daily – only saw the cardiologist once and the neurologist once. Diagnosis – stress with anti-anxiety meds (of which I didn’t take because it seem to exacerbate the problem).

      Still looking for resolution but it is nice to know I am not crazy! Thanks for posting this article!

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      • Have your doctors checked for POTS syndrome? I have it. Very similar symptoms.

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  24. Wow! How frightening to see all of these similar stories! This popped up on my newsfeed today and it was fate. I had an experience on Tuesday as I was watching TV. My heart suddenly started flopping in my chest! I shot up and wasn’t able to breathe. It lasted only 10 seconds but I was frightened by it. For the next 24 hours I felt terrible. Heart pounding, dizziness, fatigue. I went to the walk in clinic where the NP said my heart was going in and out of atrial fibrillation. She listened to my heart and said she could hear it and clocked my heart at 160bpm. She tried to capture it on the EKG but couldn’t due to it coming and going. She took the findings to a cardiologist, and upon returning said the cardiologist said it is just anxiety! I told the NP that while I do suffer from anxiety attacks, I could tell the difference and this was not it. She agreed based on the other symptoms I had. She decided to go ahead and do a full cardio work up. This was just yesterday. Today I have my tests done. Part of me hopes to find something so the NP can take it to the cardiologist and say “does this look like anxiety to you?” We don’t deserve that from a doctor.

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  25. I’m so sorry about the heart attack and the fight for treatment. I’m glad to hear that you are on the mend and I’m sending my best to you.

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  26. I love you “Want to be my doctor? ” points, having spent a lot of time in hospitals I really get what you are saying. I really hate when doctors smirk and tell us that “you are imagining something” or your pain isnt that bad. “Hello, I know how bad my pain is”

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  27. I printed out this blog post to send to the doctor I left AND to the doctor I, then, chose. Thank you for this expression of your experience so that others can share their stories and the preconceived notions of doctors can be challenged.

    May your recovery be swift and complete.

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  28. Oh, Patti, so f-ing scary. I am so glad you were FINALLY cared for and so ANGRY at the doctors and the process you just had to endure and are enduring.
    Deep breath.
    I send love, warm, healing thoughts.
    XO

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  29. Patti, thank you for sharing your experience. First let me say I am grateful you are here with all of us and recovering. Second, this happens way too much, especially for women. I will be sharing your experience with others, including doctors and medical students who I know. But mostly I take to heart your message that we must continue to advocate for ourselves! Love to you and some good healing vibes.

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  30. Patti – I am thankful you are still here with us. And grateful that you will write a letter to the physician who examined, “treated,” and “diagnosed” you with anxiety. As a “mentor” or teaching physician, he exerts great influence on med students and his (lack of) care to you could well have a negative influence/ impact on the future practices of this (and potentially other) med student(s). I encourage you to also send a copy of your letter directly to the hospital’s Administration and request that the care he provided/ you received be formally reviewed.

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  31. My (now former) doctor made me feel ashamed that I got crabs from my husband. He had been out of town on business. To this day, I honestly don’t know if he picked them up from a fling or off the bedspread in the hotel. When I asked my doctor that very question, he lectured me on monogamy. I felt so ashamed and I hadn’t done anything wrong. While my husband was out of town, I was home, alone, with my two small children.

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  32. Moved by your story, your fierce reflections, All I can say is right on and thank you for your honesty. May this make a difference, may others benefit from you sharing your experience. Thank you!

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  33. Please sue these lousy f*<#s.

    Love, All of Us

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  34. Oh Patti, I know just how you feel. I’ve been there too…

    I’d had bouts of fatigue off and on for for a few years but thyroid and normal blood tests showed nothing. Then I had months and months of foot pain. I noticed my hands were numb when I woke in the morning, and mentioned this to my doctor. He didn’t think it was important.

    Eventually I had foot surgery surgery, but afterwards I didn’t feel right and I knew something was very, very wrong. I developed terrible insomnia, became very irritable, had shooting pains in my legs, felt extremely sick and I knew something was very, very wrong. Tests showed nothing, so my doctors thought it was all in my head. What really hurt was my husband and daughter did, too. My GP put me on an antidepressant which made me feel worse so I quit taking it. Then I started getting anxiety attacks, resulting in two trips to the ER in my city. They sent me home with anti-anxiety meds, and my doctor sent me to mood management classes.

    I attempted to return to work, my doctors and family thought I’d get better but I didn’t, lasted less than two weeks as I felt too sick to work. After a particularly rough day, a good friend took me to the ER (in a different city closer to my job). The staff internist there was very thorough and ordered a lot of tests. A couple days later I received an email message that my B12 was low and I should look into it. My GP didn’t think that was the cause of my problems but he was very, very wrong about that.

    Turns out I have pernicious anemia (caused B12 deficiency). The long delay in diagnosis caused significant nerve damage in my feet and I am now disabled as a result. I have digestive issues and I no longer sweat so heat stroke is a real danger.

    Had my doctors listened to me when I complained about fatigue and depression in the years before my foot pain, or listened when I mentioned morning numbness (a sign of B12 deficiency) and tried to find the cause I probably wouldn’t be in the state I’m in now.

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  35. I send much Love to your pretty, hard working heart. Get better soon my dear! You are important, you are valued, you are appreciated and so very deeply loved.

    Reply
    • Holy shootamole Patti…all this after Difficult Conversations this summer? You know that endeared you to so many at such a heart wrenching time. Dear Heart! Even then, your heart was breaking. We could hear it in your anguish…

      Rx: love/care/tending (take it in…after three+ years you’re adrenally kapooped!), time, good philosophy, gentle action, quiet laughter, gratitude, friends, heart nourishing soups and stews…and there are some amazing Chinese herbal formulas, even acupuncture, you might consider in consultation with an experienced practitioner.

      Thank you for taking the time to write this piece. So necessary. And I hope it helped you as much to write it as it’s helping me and no doubt so many others based on the comments below.

      Thank heaven you lived to tell the tale. Thank heaven you are curious and persistent. Thank heaven you are articulate, thoughtful, action oriented. And to have to be your own advocate while you are the agonized patient. That’s. A. Lot.

      Now let’s all take this in, shall we, and listen to our bodies. And stubbornly speak our truths.

      Reply
    • Actually my experience was the opposite. I did visit the ER at least four times, convinced I was having a heart attack, until I learned that was my primary symptom when I was having an anxiety attack. So while of course in your case you are quite right, your symptoms were NOT indicative of anxiety but physical ailments, other people like me probably do go to the ER for anxiety rather than purely physical reasons.

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  36. This is horrifying. The minute I read, “tight band of severe pain across my chest,” I immediately thought “heart attack,” and I don’t have a medical degree. I have a chronic illness (POTS), but it took doctors 26 years to diagnose me, because they were assuming it was just anxiety. Our medical system is a huge, inexcusable mess. I’m so sorry you had to go through this.

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  37. A close friend of mine, and yours I think, shared your story with me at dinner tonight. Before I even saw this article. When she told me about the vomiting in the shower with the pain, I immediately interrupted her and said either a heart attack or a stroke. Turns out my first instinct was correct. If your doctor had had any clinical wherewithal, he or she would have known that high anxiety is also a symptom of a heart attack. Scary story that could have been written by millions of women most likely. As an employee in the healthcare field, find anxiety to be the catch all for many missed diagnoses.

    Reply
    • Ah, yes. Anxiety. The same anxiety they diagnosed me with 17 days postpartum that turned out to be a massive heart attack. I had my Double Bypass that same day and had I not gone to the hospital AGAINST the advice of the paramedics, I would be dead today. Women (and men) LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. Don’t let anyone discount what you’re feeling and demand at least basic bloodwork and an EKG be done to rule out a heart attack. It saved my life.

      Reply
      • We are working in California on improving maternal outcomes. We saw this in pregnant and postpartum women who died of cardiovascular disease. “New mom anxiety” they called it. Our CVD toolkit will be released later this year. (Www.cmqcc.org)

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  38. found your article. well written, so glad you acted on your own needs although they were delayed due to the physicians’ poor assessments. This ‘anxiety’ diagnosis is not exclusive to women patients. I am an RN, my husband a hard-working self-employed worker in his mid-50’s. He started having problems swallowing, unable to eat, chest pains, and weight loss. We ran the extreme gamut of physicians telling him his problems were all ‘anxiety’…. anxiety from self-employment or long hours or etc. etc. etc. After over 60 pounds weight loss, inability to eat, with tests that were told to us as ‘normal’, to allay OUR concerns my husband was sent to a surgeon for ‘exploratory surgery’. Imagine our surprise after almost 2 years of being told all is ‘normal’, to find that the surgeon immediately saw the problem from the xrays and repaired the hiatal hernia that had allowed 75% of his stomach to slide into his chest. And yet, ‘anxiety’ remains on his records!!

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  39. This makes me want to cry. I am literally in this position right now, and I fear every day that I might die. They have repeatedly used this excuse on me, even after I was hospitalized for pre-heart attack (at 23!!!). I have seen so many doctors that don’t even bother to listen to me, to the point where I have actually given up. I am now on social services, unable to work at the ripe age of 28. No one listens to me when I say I have symptoms, and that they are life threatening at times (why am I getting stroke high blood pressure readings?). I have had tests, but they did not find the cause in those tests. and have not bothered to look down other avenues. The last doctor I saw about this was 2 months ago. I genuinely tried to ask for her help, she shut me down and said “Some day you might just have to accept that there is nothing wrong with your heart” When I KNOW there is. Friends and family have looked at me like I am crazy. My mother locked me in her house when I tried to call for an ambulance, and literally told me that it was all in my head, that I was “crazy”. Being on social services does not give people the adequate healthcare to get specialists help. I have literally heard my doctor say to me “I cant run this test on you because your insurance will not cover it”. I feel stuck, trapped, scared and alone in this. I feel like I will die without ever knowing what was wrong with me, or if I could have prevented it. I cannot afford to get the help I desperately need, and I am stuck not knowing how to live my life or what I might need to change in order to keep my symptoms managable.

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    • SM…I am so sorry! You very well could have had (and could be having reoccurring) SCADS – Spontaneous Artery Dissection(sl. You need to be thoroughly checked!!

      Reply
    • SM have you ever been tested for Fibromuscular Dysplasia? It’s a rare disease. Do you have constant high blood pressure? I also had a heart attack at 40 which was from a scad spontaneous coronary artery dissection. Check it out.

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    • What other symptoms are you having? I wont tell you what I think it is untill I know other symptoms. My daughter has a rare condition.

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  40. I am horrified you had to experience this, with all the previous warning signals. I am thrilled that you stood up for yourself, even when you couldn’t stand up. And glad that you seem to be on the mend. Sending love, light and healing to you and your family.

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  41. Hi Patti,
    I’m also in Asheville, and I had a spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD) which caused a widow-maker heart attack that nearly killed me in 2013. I was 43, a vegan, distance runner. And a woman. All that you’re not supposed to be to have this kind of thing. I was very lucky, though; the emergency room staff listened when I said I was having severe chest pain. I was airlifted from Cullowhee (where I work) to Mission Hospital in Asheville. They went in through my femoral artery, but my surgery almost became open heart as well, as they couldn’t bust up the clot. And then I nearly bled out on the gurney afterwards. In the time that’s passed afterwards, I’ve tried to get my cardiologist to let me speak at his practice, to his fellow cardiologists, about the seriousness and severity of women’s heart issues. But no one has ever followed up with me. I went to the Mayo Clinic to make sure that SCAD was the correct diagnosis, and I felt really cared for while I was there. Here’s my story (and I live in Asheville if you ever want to connect): http://veganbodyproject.blogspot.com/2014/03/vegan-heart-attack.html

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  42. Wow! Great read. I had a similar situation after the birth of my daughter! I was in full blown post pardon heart failure and all the while thought it was anxiety from having a baby. I dint listen to my body even though I knew something was very wrong. I spent days telling the doctors I could not breath and my lungs were “crackling”. Sent me home anyway & was back in the ER less then 17 hours later. THANK GOD! One ER doctor listened & recognize it! There are good doctors out there you just have to be lucky enough to get one. Thank you for sharing your story, it helps me know I am not alone. I wish you a speedy recovery!

    Reply
    • You are the first person I know who went through this also. 24 years ago I went through the same thing! When my husband called my OB 5 days post C-section to tell him that I couldn’t breath, he sardonically asked him, “Is she turning blue?” I had my head out the window to take a deep breath. I could hear crackling in my lungs. I was sweating profusely and completely weak. I refused to let my family call an ambulance because I was sure it was “nothing” and I wouldn’t burden my mother with a newborn and two other kids. My OB wouldn’t even see me and sent me to my internist, who told me not to waste his time “because he was seeing me as an emergency” when I started describing being able to hear my lungs and sinuses making noise. I sat for 8 hours in a waiting room to get a lung scan which was inconclusive. They decided I may have had a pulmonary embolism that was absorbed. I still feel shamed by the doctor’s reaction
      – how crazy is that!

      Reply
      • Loretta-You could have died waiting in that waiting room with a pulmonary embolism. I had one while in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery. Even though I was a prime candidate for a PE and began to show all the symptoms they decided to give me an “anti anxiety” medication first. The nurses decided I was just freaking out because I was in pain and not pushing the pain med button(my own fault!). Another decided to diagnose me with COPD without looking at my chart. I had no such condition. Lucky for me a doctor finally read the situation correctly and I survived without permanent damage.

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  43. Oh my goodness, YES! fire the doctor and send the letter. Find someone who will look you in the eyes and LISTEN. They are out there. I found one and I love her. You’re in my thoughts and prayers. xoxox

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  44. I love you for writing this. I love you for listening to yourself. I am glad you are here. Thank you.

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  45. Oh, Patti! So sorry you have been put through this awful experience! Thanks goodness you are on the road to recovery. It’s so damn hard to be an advocate for ourselves on good days when we’re feeling fine and have all of our faculties about us– but when we are sick or hurting or scared or all of these and more together– it’s damn near impossible– and should not really even be necessary! I’m sending you a virtual hug with gratitude that you are coming out on the other side of this and will undoubtedly use it for a teaching lesson and a way of improving the “system” for others– but right now, feel and know that you are loved and so appreciated by such a large community of your readers and “followers.” Do take care of yourself!

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  46. I had a diagnosis from two specialists. The new PCP changed it to “depressed divorcee”. I recited to him every symptom that proved it was not depression (rash, fever, swollen glands, etc.), and he persisted in thinking I was just depressed. I came in with a temperature of 95 — hypothermia — and he insisted it was only because “you were outside” … yeah, for 5 minutes on a 60-degree day. Anything to justify his stereotype that all divorcees are depressed and cannot possibly have anything else wrong with them. The diagnosis that I handed him the last specialist’s written report about — was noted in my chart as “self-diagnosed”!!!!!!!
    Because he had already written “depression” in my chart, that was the working diagnosis for the second opinion doctor, too. I was getting loud and obnoxious, so the second opinion doctor agreed to refer me to the specialist in their medical group, who changed “depression” to “anxiety” and noted that I “was never diagnosed with” my original diagnosis that was confirmed by two specialists.
    All of them in some way put into my chart that I wanted Disability so I wouldn’t have to work after the divorce. Apparently, none of them heard the part about my 20-year career, nor the fact that I was still working. Whenever I brought up how the symptoms made it difficult to keep working, the subject was changed so they wouldn’t have to hear the uncomfortable truth that I was not the stereotypical housewife who wants alimony, not a job. One even said that I’d quit working the day I was diagnosed; guess it didn’t dawn on him that Social Security Disability would have the income records to prove which of us was lying about that statement.

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  47. I just saw a story on TV about how women with cardiac problems are misdiagnosed. The important thing here, since you are already diagnosed is that the study also showed that women are not given cardiac rehab as frequently as men are–so make sure that your doctor gets you into cardiac rehab.

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  48. Fifteen years for me. Health decline started in 2000. Had my first Brain MRI in 2005. Finally wound up in the ER with major neuro symptoms in 2013; released with (you guessed it) “anxiety”. Started listening and fighting through the best NYC hospitals and Johns Hopkins to boot. Rehab medicine. Finally a female doc that knew me and had been on maternity came back and ordered my conclusive MRI brain with contrast: Clival Chordoma. It WAS in my head!!! Hope you heal swiftly and hope I get my damn book written already bc this is seriously epidemic.

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  49. That you went through this, dayenu. That you went through this, have to lie still and still wrote this, dayenu. Grateful for your fierce spirit and commitment to tell the truth. No matter what. Besides healing, being on drugs, having a huge life/death situation, recovering and all of that, I hope you are still doing your duty as my scout. What about me and MY needs, fer cryin’ out loud? Today is a good hair day. The rain always works in my favor. I am imagining your cells congealing and clotting perfectly, as needed. Let’s get through this one part of the recovery so we can get you vertical again. You are the moo moo head of my joyous heart. xoxoxoxo Morty

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  50. This makes me SO angry I could spit fire–while I print this up to hand to my own doctor–because they could be the same man, always a sentence ahead of me, proselytizing AT me, because I have anxiety too. So every, single, note, in every, single, health check starts with the words ANXIETY, so everything else is often dismissed here too. Luckily, last week a doctor thought “hm, maybe more” & then I was in the ER. It wasn’t a stroke–like he thought–thank god–but it was vertigo & they did all the scans, etc. & I’m still on “watch” by MYSELF. When I finally do get in to see MY doctor. I am going to rail for myself. I’m going to hand him this post & MAKE HIM READ IT. Or I’m getting a new doctor too, because I’m so glad you wrote this. I am a lot of things, but anxiety should not my only lead-in.

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  51. I am an “older” med student – your story is one of many that inspired me to want to go into medicine. I’m easily discouraged and lose my self esteem, when I look at my younger counterparts. Thank you for sharing your story! I need reminders from time to time of why I’m going into this field. Hoping you have better experiences in the future and a steady recovery for your body & spirit. Sending support!

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  52. Thank you for sharing your experience and for listening to your body despite being shamed…it’s a sad but true reality that we MUST advocate for ourselves and our loved ones. Please rest and allow yourself to heal…you deserve it – and NEED IT! <3

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  53. Thinking of you and blessed to have your voice for this world, Patti.
    Sending healing everything your way. Much love.

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  54. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I have had endometriosis since I was 15 and have had to deal with many ignorant doctors. They told me i was exaggerating my pain that it was anxiety. I had a radical hysterectomy at 21 for stage 4 endometriosis, and have gone through 32 surgeries since I was 16. I am 41 now and still have the disease even though some doctors still tell me this is impossible, even with medical proof in front of them. It’s on my bladder and I have cysts around my pelvis, and a lesion beside my bladder. Their is no cure and the treatments cause more damage than good. I live in chronic pain and frustrated with the ignorant medical field. So thank you for sharing your story.

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    • My last name is Roy not rot

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  55. Thank you for sharing this. I had an experience with the hysterical female phenomenon also.

    I started experiencing weakness in my legs (having trouble walking up stairs) and tingling in my hands after having bronchitis when I was 35. I went to my very good internist and they ran a battery if tests and found nothing so I waited.

    Then I developed excruciating pain in my back keeping me up all night. I went to the ER the next day. The (male, middle aged) doctor did a cursory exam and told me I was having anxiety and the tingling was cause by hyperventilating and the pain was cause by the bronchitis and sent me home with Tylenol codeine. The next day I woke up and half of my face was paralyzed. My son’s babysitter drove me to another ER where they took me seriously and ran a MRI and sent in a neurologist who finally diagnosed me with Guillian Barre syndrome. By that time my entire face and legs were paralyzed. Six weeks in the hospital and rehab hospital with a breathing monitor because my respiratory system could have become paralyzed.

    I wish I would have written the original ER doctor and hospital a letter. I probably could have sued – but I was a nice little girl at 35. I’m 55 now and KNOW when I’m not right to stand up for myself.

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  56. Wow. There just are no words except to say that I am still holding you gently in my thoughts and praying for you daily. Please, be well. And keep finding your ‘something good’ in all of this. Erin

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  57. I am so very happy that you listened to YOU. I had an experience when I was Dr. shopping once I went on Medicare. Filled out the obligatory forms…waited..waited, went into the office, Dr. came in and started asking for the same info I had just written down…although now he is on a computer. A little irritating but I figured it was a get to know you time and a good thing. We got to the part of vaccines…as he asked about each one I repeatedly said that I do not take vaccines as I have high allergic reactions with those and meds and that I had chosen to undertake a less invasive route with most of my ills which were few. He continued to ask about the vaccines as if I had not spoken at all. I went along with it and then he arrogantly pushed his computer tray away with the comment “well it sounds like you want to be in charge of your own health care!” I told him that I was simply looking for a partnership. With that he stood up preparing to leave the room and informed me that this will not work. Needless to say I was feeling stunned and blessed all at the same time. On my way out he advised me from another room that I would not have to pay for that visit. The next week I had a friend tell me that she had visited the same Dr. and thought he was the most incredible doctor. If YOU get that gut feelings it’s not right for you, then IT’S NOT RIGHT FOR YOU!

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  58. I was 30 weeks pregnant and ended up in the ER twice (in my previous 8 pregnancies, I never had an extra visit). I was there because I fainted several times and had a rapid heart rate.

    They diagnosed me with anxiety twice. Gave me a xanax the second but never noted my heart rate didn’t go down. The cardiologist did an echo which came back negative, but in his compassion, understanding that I really thought I was going to die in my sleep, put a 30 day heart monitor on me.

    The next day, he called, I had v-tach – a very serious heart arrhythmia. I was put on a beta blocker and monitored the rest of the pregnancies.

    But, yeah, they blew me off – I knew something was seriously wrong. It turned out the issue was caused by a uterine torsion – my uterus had twised 180 degrees putting serious pressure on the uterine vessels. But, the OB never made note that my posterior placenta turned up being anterior until I ended up with an emergency c-section that was a nightmare.

    Again, if they’d paid attention, they would have noted the shift in the placenta. We could have planned a much safer c-section. We both could have died during that labor. But they wrote me off as anxious.

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  59. I finally went to a female dr. for my devastating fatigue, aching joints, lack of concentration and focus. She told me…literally, that I “just needed to exercise more” and that I needed Paxil because I was in a stressful relationship…which I only took one or two pills of…. I knew in my heart I did not need it. I never went back….. thru a friend I found a specialist in Infectious Disease who practically saved my life and he could not understand how I could even be moving after diagnosing me (thru many tests) with Lymes Disease, ME Chronic Fatigue Synd, Epstein Barr virus., hypothyroidism, cat scratch disease….yes, I was quite a mess. When one of my bone density test results got misdirected to the female dr and they called about it (osteoporosis, too)….I let them know all what my new specialist dr. had found.

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  60. Sending love your way. Ans a big thank you for sharing this. Last year was my year for firing three doctors, reporting one for abusive language and behavior, and finally landing with a doctor that listens.

    Wishing you comfort, healing and whatever you need the most right now.

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    • Oh, Patti! No words for what you went through. May you have a speedy recovery from excellent medical care in front of you!

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  61. Patti, I am so sorry, horrified, scared, and angry to learn of your most-recent health-related hero’s journey. What else can we term it? It is only by your strong will and indefatigable spirit that you are here today to tell the tale.

    Add me to the list of those wholeheartedly grateful for your determination to keep going. And do, Patti. Do keep going.

    Love to you, John, and your kids.

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  62. Sending Healing thoughts and Prayers.
    So sorry that you had to go through all of this.I can relate in so many ways as the other women that have told their stories.
    Doctors need to learn to listen to their patients first and foremost and quit humiliating people with this “anxiety”label when they don’t want to take the time to do their jobs.

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  63. Thank you for talking about this. My younger sister died at the age of 33 years because everyone thought it was her anxiety. She was slender, no health problems, happily married with a 5 month old baby, and just soaring as a horse and hound artist. Her doctors did not take her shortness of breath seriously. We were too traumatized by her death to have an autopsy, but doctors now say it was probably bulbar’s aneurysm. Had she insisted on more medical tests, something could have been done. I think doctors are generally wise and wonderful, but they are also humans, and we cannot expect them to be all knowing. So pay attention to your body and insist on being heard.

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  64. Patti – I feel your pain. No, I mean, I really do. I’ve fired 6 oncologists because they surmised that my condition was everything from gas to multiple myeloma. Applause for standing up for yourself. If the tables were turned, and that pinhead doctor was treated like that, he would surely go running for his mommy…and his lawyer.

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  65. I’m crying reading this. I’ve been told I didn’t have strep and was just a tired single mother, and ignored. (Which pales in comparison to you, obviously)
    What makes me cry though is that I have wrestled with mental illness. Now that it’s in the files, that I’m on the meds, that I have an abusive husband(we’re divorcing but stuck cohabitating a few months longer), that I’m open about it to my medical professionals, it’s just used against me. At times I’m trapped in some 1950’s nightmare of mental health for women you couldn’t believe exists anymore. Where my abuser manipulates everyone by simply uttering, “she’s bipolar”.

    Reply
    • I know how you feel. .. I am on the milder end of the bipolar spectrum but nonetheless it is documented and I do take meds. Bipolar does not mean crazy. Mental health has such a stigma attached to it yet every single person on this planet has experienced worry or anxiety or sadness or depression therefore we all should express an understanding for each other.
      I have had a sick feeling upon realizing, after having an intelligent conversation with a new doctor, that he was not talking to me as me being a person, he was talking to me as me being a labled person.

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  66. Holy shit, girl. I am so glad you trusted yourself.

    Sending every healing vibe I have.

    I love you very much.

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  67. Thank you for this. I had some sort of “heart event” just a few days ago, and even though the ER doc was great, I was treated disrespectfully by one of the nurses. I overheard her say “She put on mascara and did her hair before coming in? Seriously?” I firmly corrected her when she came back through the curtain – no, I just got dressed, and that was rude – and then never saw her again. In fact, I didn’t see a nurse again, even though I was in the ER for another 90 minutes. 90. Minutes. Her comment hit some sort of mark, however; I started to feel embarrassed, questioning my decision to go to the ER, questioning whether or not the pains were real.

    Your blog is timely, and important. I needed to see your last comment. I right on the verge of ignoring the doctor’s advice – no exercise until after the echocardiogram – and, even worse, considered cancelling the stress test. After reading this piece, I’m back on track. Thank you. I wonder how many lives you just saved?

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  68. You’ve been in my head all week. Yay Patti!

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  69. Sending healing energy, love, hugs, sunny skies, a nap, a delicious lunch and dessert when you want it, and anything that soothes your soul.❤️,music, hot bath, a good book, movies.

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  70. you are beautiful. sending so much goodness to you. xo,lori

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  71. It is truly unbelievable that I saw this today…when my anxiety is so out of control and I am murderously crazy that doctors don’t seem to want to fix or even know about the never ending vertigo that is handicapping me. Yes, I am anxious, but that is the result not the root cause of my dizzy, over-medicated existence. Thank you for writing this, posting this, being you. Love you.

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  72. I’m so sorry you are going through all this! When I was 18 years old, my abdominal pains were first diagnosed as constipation by male doctor #1, then as anxiety by #2. Neither bothered with or recommended a pelvic exam. I finally went to emergency when I started vomiting and turned out to have a pelvic infection that ultimately caused infertility.

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  73. I am so sad to hear your body is screaming and the doctors aren’t listening. Know that you have thousands of women standing with you on this. Thousands of us. You are not alone.

    I am a great patient advocate and a lousy caregiver. When both my parents were diagnosed with terminal cancer within 2 weeks of each other in 1997, I learned quickly to step up my game and be an advocate. Not quickly enough for my dad – who died 8 weeks later from complications caused by the nurse’s aid not having enough sense to help my dad. The doctor gave my mom 18-24 months. I gave her 40 weeks. And I had to fight all of them, except dear kind Dr. Weinberg.

    Thank goodness there doctors like, Lissa Rankin who are helping other medical professionals reconnect to the difference in medicine vs. healing arts. She gives me hope.

    Somewhere, we were taught to treat doctors like gods. They like it and they act like they are gods. That is unacceptable. It is my body and I’m taking back my power.

    All your assertiveness training is needed to fight this battle with the establishment. Sad that it has reached that point.

    Do you have someone who can be your patient advocate? I know you are not shy to speak up for yourself, and I know that when you don’t feel good it is hard to work up the energy to fight them.

    As I reach that age, I’m starting to wonder who I can get to be my patient advocate. Definitely, not my husband. He is still under their spell.

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  74. Wow. This Sucks. Sadly, I too have a similar story, 24 hours after my doctor told me what I was feeling was in my head/no big deal and recommended OTC headache relief (which I was smart enough to know was BAD for me because it’s been noted in my chart for more than a decade) I was in the ER. Admitted for another 5 days and 5 transfusions.

    After I was released from the hospital I received a call from the doctor’s assistant — I thought to apologize? or even try to avoid malpractice?

    Nope, they wanted me to know that my blood work showed severe anemia and dehydration and recommended I get back to the doctor.

    I informed them I’d been in the hospital for a week – and yes, I knew there was a problem, even when the seriously under educated doctor did not.

    And yet, I made an excuse for him — because, after all, he was new in the practice and trying to get down all their systems.

    I take full responsibility for that one and fired that entire practice, wrote a review on yelp and called the rest of my family/friends and medical team together to create a real plan of action moving forward.

    I am MUCH more aware of my body now and all the small signs before the big ones that signal a relapse of my disease, because I am diligent and no longer trusting what the doctor says without running it through my own filter.

    This is hard, as the daughter of an RN I was taught that the docs knew what they were doing and it was my job to be a good (docile) patient.

    It’s difficult to break that conditioning, isn’t it? But oh so worth it.

    No wonder you were in my dream the other night Patti – I’m so happy to hear you’re on the other side of this — I’ve known too many heart attack patients in recent years! The road is long but I am so glad you’re here!

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  75. The only thing I can ad to what Patti and others have gone or are going through is that you can’t let someone else tell what or how you are feeling. I’ve also felt put down or that I’m not able to do or understand some thing. Feels somewhat demeaning.

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    • That’s been a big lesson for me to. Vocalizing myself, that little (big) inner voice that just seems to “know”

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  76. Oh, Patti, thank you for sharing such a personal story. It was a huge mirror put before me. Reading this, I realize how often I look to the other person in the room and take on their perception of how I am feeling instead of validating my own experience.

    My thoughts and heart are with you in hopes that you heal swiftly.

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  77. I’ve been on both sides, working inside this system and (as seldom as possible) being a patient. I’ve certainly seen what you describe, and yes, it happens more often to women. My way of dealing with it is to use the relationship as an exercise. Make eye contact. Make observations, out loud, in non-confrontational ways – “I notice that you’re already diagnosing this as anxiety. Are you confident that you’ve ruled out other possibilities that may need to be addressed? Can you describe the diagnostic path that brought you to this conclusion?” or “I would be more comfortable trusting you if you made eye contact when you talk to me.” or perhaps “dismissive much?”. Should this responsibility be yours? Well, yes and no. It’s your responsibility in every situation, but because doctors often see people in especially vulnerable moments, they carry an extra responsibility toward you. Does that mean they’ll live up to that? Nope.

    I don’t know if it helps to consider that a lot of docs were the smart kids who didn’t figure out how to do basic human social things, like being kind, because you’re expected to start working single-mindedly toward medical school when you’re barely pubescent. That having a position they can hide behind is a comfort blanket. That they’re terrified. And that fear is self-fulfilling.

    There was a data study a while back, pretty well known, that concluded that the likelihood of litigation correlated much more with interpersonal skills than medical ones. So, write that letter – and write it with your best and kindest intentions. Hopefully you’ll actually be heard.

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    • Jeannie, You are right on target. The way you take control and drive the communication and diagnosis will foster les ‘shooting from the hip’ conclusions by clinicians and more insightful investigation of symptoms- resulting in truly meaningful and effective care. And, like you, my career in healthcare taught me to question and assert.

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  78. Sending you continued healing prayers and appreciation for YOU in speaking your voice! I am so glad you listened to you and what your body was saying!!! It makes me so sad that many in our world don’t really listen. Imagine a world where everyone listened with all their heart and soul to each other, maybe some pain can be eliminated. Thank you for teaching us yet again the value of really listening to not only yourself, your body but also to others. Heal sweet Patti, you are indeed a gift.

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  79. Patti, deep bow of appreciation for the beautiful gift of you. Sending love and prayers for healing and restoration <3

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  80. Oh Patti, so glad that you went to the ER and blast that doctor for being so quick to assume it was just anxiety! Sending healing vibes to you and all my love.

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  81. Oh crap, Patti. I am sorry you are having to deal with this. I am sending you love and prayers for rapid healing. You are such a blessing to the world. Only you would turn all this into something for the rest of us to learn from. Thank you from the depths of my soul.

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  82. Patti, sending cyber hugs your way, and wishing you a quick and healthy recovery. This reminds me of the neurologist who ran dozens of tests on me, pointed out all the things that were wrong with me physically, and then said, “I’d like to send you to a psychiatrist for depression.” When I responded that I was in pain, not depressed, he added “Everyone with fibromyalgia is depressed.” Uggh!

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  83. Patti,

    12 years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My doctor wanted to give me antivan. I said, “I have cancer. I don’t have anxiety.” And then she wanted to push effexor (I think that’s the name of the drug) on me for hot flashes from chemo. I told her I have hot flashes, not depression. She said “this drug will help curb your hot flashes.” I told her, “it’s just sweat. So what?” It’s like my doc was trying to push anxiety and depression on me. I kept telling her “no” and finally she quit pushing drugs on me.

    The medical profession has done more harm then good (in many cases) when it comes to treating women for any disease. Either it’s anxiety or they want to give you anxiety meds for non anxiety related issues.

    Thankfully you were and are your own best advocate.

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  84. Thank you for writing this. Yeah! that you listened to your body and saved your life. I’m feeling anger in my body right now thinking of how you were treated and how many of us are treated by some medical professionals. Hope reading this has convinced others to listen to their bodies, hearts and souls and reach out to get help. Sending love and healing thoughts to you.

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  85. Goodness! Thank you for stopping and not ‘soldiering on!’ And yeah, write the letter to both of the doctors, share it with us and protect the names of the guilty. Hopefully that young doctor will learn the lesson early to listen first and then sort what she is hearing into the medical knowledge she has learned. A speedy recovery and much love to you. Our world needs our Patti Digh!

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  86. I am so sorry you’re going through this!
    I am coincidentally writing this from my hospital bed where in two hours, they will be taking my appendix out. Last night, at urgent care, they sent me home because they didn’t believe my pain was bad enough to warrant further inquiries. An outpatient ct scan today and a rushed phone call from an embarrassed urgent care doc and here we are.
    Women are dying because doctors don’t goddamn listen.

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    • Wow.I’m so glad you are ok now. Take care.

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  87. I will continue to lift you up in my thoughts Patti and hope for ongoing improvements in your health! Your story resonates with many and is just plain scary. Not right not right not right…. I will be wearing my red for YOU next Friday ( the first Friday in Feb ) for National Wear Red Day. For you and all women.

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  88. So valid and well put –a cautionary tale for us all. Please, please, please make yourself a priority. Put everything on hold and let your body heal itself. You are so valuable to us — not to mention to John and your children. And you deserve to be healthy and to take whatever time and rest that you need to get better. With love. Nancy

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  89. When I was in the psych ER following 2 years of post partum depression during which time I was self injuring, the condescending ER Doctor said , “all mommies get a little sad sometimes. I’d like to admit you so you can have a vacation from the baby for a little while”
    He patted my arm.
    !???!!

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    • For me it started with a tick bite that developed cellulitis, and like a domino game kept escalating through dismissive conclusions from medical appointment to appointment. I had to learn medical solutions I could do on the wing, because i am not only an “hysterical woman,” I’m poor and live in a state that will not expand Medicaid. On top of that the state will not extend Medicaid to childless women (we are “worthless”). I could not figure out all that needed to be done to work through the pain and dangers of the cellulitis, and was surprised by acute atrial fibrillation one night. This was the part when they started calling me hysterical, after the first medicine given to me caused even more episodes of a fib, and anxiety and severe depression were part of the symptoms rather than the causes. They scoffed at the symptoms. When I honestly said I must stop that medication because one morning I woke up suicidal they decided “that sums it all up.” And when the a fib continued, sometimes with attacks that were extremely severe short bursts, they decided they were panic attacks. Four emergency room visits, two brief stays in the hospital, and no reasonable suggestion about a doctor to see later, this hysterical woman reached out to friends and family to help find a solution. It took a personal intervention from a government official to get me placed with a local doctor I could actually go see. I don’t own a car and though I borrow one for local trips I can’t safely drive distances anymore. But the doctor, while listening better than the others, still is skeptical of what I’ve been telling him as I track what makes me have a fib attacks now – I had somehow become so unbalanced in my body chemistry and condition I have to carefully balance everything from my nutrients to my body positions to my exercise level to stay just all right. I not only need more medical tests to discover just what medication I should be on or not on, they still don’t think them necessary, because I am a woman. And on top of that, I have to repeat every single time I go to the doctor “I am not diabetic” because one look at me long ago made a free clinic doctor decide to just write diabetic on my records without a single solid thing to go on. There’s so much more, but I won’t go on. You’ve seen enough of this particular frustration. I am my own primary care. And I am spending most of what little money I have to get insufficient and still incorrect medical aid.

      Reply
      • Woah, Sandra, that sounds like Lyme disease, especially beginning with a tick bite! Tests your local doc will give you will not show your true status. Run as fast as your poor body will manage to a lyme literate doctor (LLMD).

        I know of which I speak after ten years of being told it was all in my head, and finally finding out I had lyme, and now, four more years later of treatment, I am nearly fully recovered. At last. Would have been a lot sooner and a lot easier road back if the docs had bloody listened to me and actually tried to find a way to put my sudden list of symptoms together into a diagnosis instead of seeing me as a hysterical lady of a certain age!

        Please don’t ignore me on this one, creepy as the idea of Lyme might be!

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        • I agree with the issue of Lyme – one of my friends had it and was misdiagnosed several times, finally found a doctor who knew about and understood lyme disease and it’s complications. Stuffa can get worse if untreated…..hope you find the right dov

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  90. All I can say is AMEN to that !!!Well said my feelings completely !
    Wishing a speedy recovery and healthy life????

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  91. Thank you for posting your story and your advice to doctors. You probably have saved lives by your post.

    Two years ago i was taken to ER in a squad after a couple of days of vomiting/diarrhea/pain that was escalating, and months prior experiencing flu-like symptoms on and off. The ER doctor came in, propped up his feet, didn’t look at me, and asked “So how long have you had anxiety attacks?” My response: “Never”. That was the last time I ever saw him but two different times nurses brought in anti-anxiety pills and tried to make me take them. I refused. During the hours I was there (with no IV for fluid loss, no anti-diarrhea, no anti-vomiting meds, no pain pills, no Respect), I suffered greatly. My blood work came back normal for some reason (lab mistake?), but I was adamant that something really was seriously wrong. They just assumed I was grossly overweight even though I kept telling them that I was overweight but that my whole torso was completely bloated and did not look like my body at all. Finally they decided they would do a catscan. Well, guess what? The catscan showed something abnormal and a surgeon was called in. During surgery the surgeon found that my gallbladder was gangrene! Gangrene! I never received an apology from the ER doctor nor the ER staff although I was in the hospital for a week after surgery.

    On follow up with my family doctor he said it was a good thing I was so assertive because otherwise…then he stopped speaking….so I ended his sentence for him with “otherwise we would not be talking right now, because I would be dead.” He nodded his head. So again, thank you for your blog and thank you for letting me share my story in hopes it might give people (especially women, as I really think I would have been treated differently if I were a man) courage to be assertive when it comes to their health care.

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  92. Oh Patti – thank you for delivering this integral message with godspeed – and with your usual grit and grace. Bless your heart – and I mean that most earnestly. :)

    I hope this post goes viral far and wide, is republished via HuffPo and finds its way to a national women’s health mag. We all do well to deep listen to the urgent whispers and learn to be our own best health advocates.

    Wishing you rest and a new lease.
    ❤️

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  93. Your account is amazingly similar to my experiences in the ER last October prior to learning that my chest pain and arrhythmia was the result of a heart virus. Amazing condescension combined with ineptitude is not only infuriating, sometimes it’s lethal. It’s well documented that women are treated very differently from men with cardiac issues, which also present differently in women.

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  94. Patti,

    Thank god you listened to your body screaming louder than your shame.

    And for every woman who died because the shame won – well, f*cking shame on the medical system for causing so many of us pain, humiliation, shame and ptsd from their callous mislabeling of our symptoms.

    Today I read your post. Today Facebook showed me a ‘memory’ from 2 years ago of my posting a picture of a tin of muffins dropping onto the floor – the first time my right hand gave out and failed me. Many, many doctor appointments later I still have no diagnosis that explains all of my symptoms. I’ve also been to the ER for symptoms and been labeled as suffering from anxiety.

    Who wouldn’t feel anxious when their medical needs are dismissed out of hand time after time?!?

    Thank you, so very deeply I thank you, for sharing this with us and adding your voice to this. Somehow this system has to change. I have no answers for how – I wish I did.

    Thank you.

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    • I hope you have been screened for multiple sclerosis. I have two family members with MS and both of their symptoms started with dropping things.

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  95. Oh Patti! Wishing you healing and sending love.

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  96. Ms. Patti

    I was rushing to tell you how much I appreciate you for the books they arrived today only to find the news. I know I was destined to meet you for a reason and now is not the time to be checking out. I thank God that you are so in tune with your body that you were able to listen when it was speaking to you, which was a desperate need of care. You are very well respect, cherished, and appreciated just from all the responses I just read, you are a innovator who is changing lives and everything that you take to time to share or do it will be carried with great value. When I meet you at the Global Swarming you didn’t even have to remember my name but not only did you remember my name, you blessed me will you kind words of encouragement and two of your books. Now today I received five more books sponsored for our event by you for our non-profit YTL (Youth Transformed for Life) program that help homeless teens, at-risk youth, and adult offender. Words will only express the least of what I want to say right now. When I think of you Ms. Patti? I think of water in all three forms! When a liquid, you can be poured into or out of something, when running you splashes everywhere. Froze solid, the weight of you thoughts and words sets in us as solid foundations, not easily move from one place or another but as a figure that is always notice. A Vapor, images of you speaking as I read the remarks of you is like me turning the oldschool jack and the box, one minute I see you so clearly teaching me through each word on every page and as soon as I close the book you vanish like a vapor. Every time I read your books it just reminds me that even though I’m not around to wish you well in your recovery I will communicate with you through every line I read in your book. Thank you again for being such a inspiration to me.

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  97. Oh, Patti, this all sucks. Period. And I too have been worried about my heart lately…and yet postponed my doc appointment because my Mom had doc appointments and because of a faculty eval meeting for all these so unimportant reports that everyone else thinks are so important. Anyway, I can’t believe that you had heart attack!! And now I’m wondering if waiting another month to see my doc is the right decision. I am deeply truly madly sad that you are going through this, and that the docs kept labeling all this “anxiety.” Shit, yes, Sherlock!! Sending love, healing prayers, for waves of healing calm to wash over you to allow the pressure to dial down for everything you have been doing and partaking in. You are held in love and respect by so many. I know you know this. But, really feel the waves cleansing all the crap out and all the healing love in.

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  98. This makes me so angry. My mother had some severe medical issues for about a year. She went to doctor after doctor and none of them could figure out what was wrong with her. They sent her to see a neurologist who told her not to come back because there was nothing wrong with her and it was all in her head. He suggested she see a shrink and start taking anti-anxiety meds. She was beginning to think maybe she WAS crazy. She finally ended up in the office of a small, local neurologist who asked her if she ever had an MRI. She had… many of them. They all showed nothing wrong. So the neurologist looked at all her scans and realized they took images of her entire back “except” one small part of her spine. Mom went in for another MRI and wouldn’t you know it… that one small piece of her spine was hiding a TUMOR! Nobody else even thought to look there. She ended up having surgery to remove it (it was benign) and pretty much ALL her symptoms went away. Sorry this is so long, but it’s another example to ALWAYS trust your gut instinct when it comes to your body and your health.

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  99. I too wish I had listened to myself. I am a health care professional and I knew the knot on my leg was something but my dr ignored the knot because it wasn’t red and I was not in excruciating pain. Chalk it up to overweight, middle age woman. Months went by and I still had the knot. After a 1400 mile round trip I woke up the next morning struggling to breathe. Echocardiogram, stress test were normal- no problems. I was diagnosed with exercise induced asthma. Months go by and I finally move to my new destination and luckily see a new dr. Was diagnosed with a DTV in each leg and multiple bilateral pulmonary embolisms. Lucky to still be alive but if I had just pushed a little harder…

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  100. When you write the Dr please make sure you copy the young trainee. It might be one of the best lessons she learns.
    Thank you for writing this post it is so needed women especially have to give themselves permission to assert themselves. Your post may well save someone else’s life.
    And I am truly sorry you had such a rough go. And tremendously grateful that you’ll be ok after the surgery.

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  101. What the holy fuck.

    1) I want to punch that doctor. Right after I sit down and tell him that his judgmental ass almost lost me a friend and that as a mentor, he has a RESPONSIBILITY to teach others to SEE: see the human, not the charts and numbers, but the HUMAN sitting right in front of him.
    2) I want to hug you hard.
    3) I still want to punch the doctor.

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  102. Dear Patti,
    We do not know each other at all except our paths crossed yesterday with your post. I responded respectfully with my chosen words.
    Words with the core of love.
    It’s all I know…it’s all I can be.
    Even though I voiced my concerns and opinion, I view this as respecting what I deeply love, this truly beautiful country I have been blessed to be born in.
    If I did not value America so much my words would not have been written. I feel you and Tracy would have never post and shared your words if you did not have a great sense of love for this country.
    So brave you both are for doing what you did and sharing your love with us all.

    I want to add that I recognize an incredible survival technique you are exhibiting with your art.
    You are writing your way to better health.
    Everything inside you is pushing this forward. Are you aware of this?

    How do I know this?
    I am to doing the same thing but I am painting my self to better health. Yes, I am learning to live with lung disease from childhood Tuberculosis complications.
    I paint every day to stir my feel good endorphins in my brain.

    So you keep writing, I’ll keep painting, and we’ll all keep loving for its what we Artist know what to do.

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  103. Oh,Patti.I have so often wished that I could give you a healing Hug or,if not that,sit quietly by your side in support.
    Thank you for Being who you are,for listening and learning from your vast,crazy Life and for caring enough to share what you are learning with the rest of us.
    Big Love sent your way.Heal well,and quickly!

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  104. Thank you for the intimacy…. for sharing your pain, your anger, your story, your shame. Thank you for finding your voice. Wishing you wellness. Health. And the blessing of the right kind of doctor and the right kind of care.

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  105. I’m so sorry you had to go through all this. It’s such a shocking, but not uncommon story. Heart problems run in my family. I like this female-orietned resource : http://myheartsisters.org Wishing you all the healing in the world and sending love.

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  106. I am so sorry to hear all of this. I do want everyone to know that there are some doctors that listen. I had two of them. I kept thinking I was getting anxious all the time when I had chest”twinges”. My pcp ordered tests, stress, and echo. All were negative. He insisted that he felt something just wasn’t adding up, and that If I felt really anxious with chest pains I should go to the ER. Well, 2 days later, I did just that. Cardiologist performed Cath, and I had three very blocked arteries. I am now a member of the Chest zipper club with a triple bypass. Seven years later, I am so grateful that he knew that women have different “heart Attacks then men” Get well Patti, you mean so much to we Bogers.

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  107. For years I was told my period pain, which was horrendous, was all due to polycystic ovaries. After going to my gynaecologist for a check up, which I only ever did every 3 years, she decided it was about time to find out what was going on and why I had this pain for so long. Please note, I had only been seeing her since I had fallen pregnant as my obstetrician. So we had an internal ultrasound and they couldn’t find anything to warrant the pain. So she moved to another area and the pain was incredible. In that instance she said I didn’t have ‘ladies problems’ but instead diverticulitis, which it seems I have had about 20 years. At least!!! My mother was also misdiagnosed with the same issue for years. If it wasn’t for the fact I am adopted so why would I think I had the same problem as her, then I may have had it diagnosed a lot quicker. You just have to ask those questions and change doctors.

    Oh, and I do call my doctor by his first name. He is getting on a bit now, but always takes my lead. Which I love.

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  108. Big love to you. I said metta prayer for you as I was lying down in acupuncture tonight. My “may she be safe, etc.” kept getting interrupted by fits of anger about the medical care you didn’t receive. In the end, I had to do metta for the doctor too–“may he not injure anyone else” was the best I could do. But there you go. I hope you can rest. And I hope you can sleep. And I hope you will let us all hold you and yours as you heal.

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  109. oh this makes me sob, with anger, with deep deep appreciation and love for you. YOU. Here you are sharing with us such important lessons. Sending you so much love and praying for healing & rest & gentleness.

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  110. It’s actually quite interesting to hear your Doctor’s thoughts outloud.

    My Doctor also has a med student shadowing and learning with her for 6 months.

    I’m actually grateful, in a sense, because as the med student listens, she is listening. I tell her things that wouldn’t be heard by my Doctor, who is busy typing her observations, conclusions and recommendations into the computer while I speak because she needs to get all this done before moving on to the next patient.

    When my Doctor comes in and asks the Med Student to summarize what’s she’s heard, she has it at least 90% accurate. She is trying to solve a puzzle…

    Then my Doctor responds, which is great, but she also says things I know aren’t right … and then I speak up, calling my Doctor out on her misconceptions.

    It’s actually great to have the opportunity to understand the thought process.

    With specialists, it’s even harder. I’ve been fired by every Internist in our community. I saw the last of them this week. I’m not sure if I’m going to go back to him.

    It’s not like he reminds me of the Shrek character Lord Farquaad, which my last Internist reminded me of (btw, he was talented and I appreciated his deep dive into my medical records, but he’s an absolute d*ck and his reputation extends as far as I dare to comment.)

    This new specialist spoke to me with his eyes closed 90% of the time. He needed me naked from the waist up to listen to my heart and lungs. He listened to a few observations I’d made and said that I need to go back to my Doctor to get a referral to a neurologist and an endocronologist.|

    I also have a whack of test requisitions, which, with our British Columbian health-care system, means I cannot travel for months because that’s how long it will take to get appointments for all of them.

    It’s very, very frustrating.

    The reason I love my Naturopathic Doctor (which the Medical Doctors all poo-poo) is because she listens to me. Some of the stuff going on in my body might be beyond her skills and her supplements but she listens, she makes suggestions and I get an entire 30 minutes of her undivided attention.

    Typing this response has been therapeutic, so thank you for reading this…

    I am so happy you wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. I’m also happy you got the treatment you needed and you are with us to share. <3

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  111. Thank you for saying what needed to be said and thank you for listening to your heart…it was crying out to be heard. Sending love and healing dear Patti.

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  112. I had a similar experience with a doctor who said my weight gain was due to lack of exercise and over eating. I knew that was not the case and told him to call my trainer at the gym if he didn’t believe I was exercising enough and watching my food intake. I begged to be sent to a endocrinologist with no help from my doctor. He put his hand on my arm saying, “Women your age!” After 30 days of calling his office asking for an appointment with a specialist, I finally told his nurse she better go ahead and call 911 because I was coming with the news media and it would take the police to drag me out of the office. I got an appointment the next day. I was diagnosed with insulin resistance, put on meds and have lost 50 lbs. This helped me avoid diabetes and other medical complications. I went back to my doctor and he was shocked at my weight loss. I told him to sit down and told him what he had done and then told him I hoped he never dismissed another woman again because we know our bodies better than he does. Long story I know but ladies be an advocate for yourselves even if they think you are nuts.

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  113. Patti, you’ve been in my thoughts and prayers. Now, after reading this I’m so incredibly angry!

    Healthcare providers need to learn that they are your PARTNER in your health, not the boss. I worked for the medical director of an HMO years ago and he gave me the very best advice I’ve ever had. A lot of people, especially women feel uncomfortable with this, but I’ve done it for 30 years and believe me, it makes a difference. Sam told me, “Do not call a doctor, Doctor. Call him or her by his first name.” Does that sound disrespectful? It’s not. He/she has a degree and may know more about some things than you but NOT YOUR BODY! When both are on a first name basis the entire dynamic changes in the relationship. If I’m meeting a new doctor and he or she introduces his/herself, I look at their name tag or just ask for their first name. And then I say, “Jane, I’m Tina. I’m glad to meet you. CHANGES EVERYTHING and I’ve never had a physician complain or “fire me” as a patient. They might look at your with a little wariness but that’s a good thing. This is a partnership and the sooner a provider is made aware of that I believe they have more respect for you. I tell everyone I know to do this. I’ve also found that when you do this the 5 minute rule goes away too. Again, and I can’t say this enough, YOU are the expert here working with a partner to do what’s best for YOUR body.

    OK, I’ll get off my soapbox now. Patti, just know that doctor needs to be fired or at least go back to med school. Or see a shrink. I used to think doctors were way above me, smarter. After working with them and after transcribing for 18 years, I can tell you and anyone who will listen that there are fabulous healthcare practitioners our there, but not one of them is any smarter, any braver, or any better than any of us.

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    • I like what you had to say…NO ONE knows your body better than you. NO ONE cares about your body more than you. These are not my words. They are from the doctor who told me I had cancer. He empowered me with those words. It helped me be strong.

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  114. I am so glad you are now in good hands. I wish you only well.
    Thank you, as always for your words.
    I must add mine. I am so very proud of my husband who has dedicated his life to caring for his patients. I know he is a good doctor. One who listens well.
    There are good doctors.
    He is one. Who is struggling with the state of the medical system in this country. This is so much more to this side of the story.
    I send you so much love, Patti. Get well soon.

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  115. This is the most important thing I have read today. I hope many women read it and refused to be shamed by words like, “anxiety,” hysteria,” or “hypochondria.” You are a brave woman and a wise one to share your wisdom with us. A doctor once told me I was “probably jealous of your husband’s success,” when my appendix was bursting. Not much has changed in 30 years, not with all the technology in the world.

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  116. Brava, my friend!

    Let first of all say that I am so happy that you were finally “heard” and that you are on the road to recovery.

    I just recently “fired” my oncologist. I had had one too may appointments that left me waiting for up two hours to be seen…waiting in the same room I had to wait in to be called into the infusion room. Far too many emotions to wait that long…only to be told after a cursory exam that I am too fat and that breast cancer LOVES fat. I know that I’m too fat, sheesh. Now I will rely on my wonderful compassionate surgeon, the man who listens and hears everything. I feel empowered and in control.

    Take care of yourself, you are needed. Your family needs you and your readers love you.

    I am sending love and healing mojo your way.

    Nanc

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  117. Patti, I’m so sorry you are going through all of this. At the same time, I’m glad you are coming through it. Thank you for sharing your story. It is heroic, gut-wrenching and painful to read. Many of us, myself included, go with what ever the doctor says, even though our bodies are telling us something very different. That God you got help when you needed it the most. There is something in your story that we should all heed. I’m sending warm thoughts and prayers for your full recovery.

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  118. Oh Patti, your story is so, so similar to mine! And so much I’d like to say on this subject, but for now just this: Thank you for letting us know how you are, and please just rest and take all the time you need to recover. It will take some time to fully realize what has happened. Love to you, and to John and Felix and Emma.

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  119. xxoo Patti. I hope you are healing quickly and well. I can also relate in that I had ringing in my ears and was told it was anxiety. I said no, the ringing in my ears is making me anxious. Solve that and the anxiety will go away. When my first child was born and I was in pre term labor, instead of being treated I had to answer a million questions from a medical student. . . and when in pre-menopause I was bleeding for 16 days a month I had to find the medical answer and advocate for myself. Why won’t they (mostly male)doctors believe us. We know our bodies! Thank you for sharing and please get well. Love to you!

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  120. Bless you for sharing. Here’s a toast to you, your health, and your always-teaching to your tribe. Always the gift from you to us. Thank you.

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  121. My late father was exactly the kind of doctor you’d have liked. My mum, now in her mid-eighties, still sees the lovely doctor who was my Dad’s junior partner. When I go in with Mum, I’m still blown away by the care and attention she gets.

    There are still doctors out there who provide the right kind of care. And the more we continue to insist on it, the more we’ll get it.

    Kudos to you for such a powerful article, and for reminding us all of the importance of standing our ground and insisting on good care.

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  122. Having worked in the medical field for years, I wish I could say this is rare, but I will not. However, there are providers that are good at what they do and they care, people please find them! Don’t apologize or feel the need to explain, leave bad care and seek good care givers. Patti, I am so glad you took care of you and are getting better care. When you are better better, please report every poor practioner to the hospital and the medical board and your friends and neighbors.
    Hugs, p.s. By not being here, you have given us space to gush about you non stop like the smitten groupies that we are.

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  123. I am so glad you are getting answers and are doing well finally!. I had ignored a problem for years and finally had surgery this past year and wondered why did I not demand better answers sooner. Because I was ashamed and SHAMED also. You are alive! You are writing! And we, your friends and fans, are enormously grateful. Your very hard lesson may save more of us than you will ever know!

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  124. I’m so angry–on your behalf; and on the behalf of the women I know who DIED because they were dismissed by doctors who didn’t take their symptoms seriously; and on my behalf, at the new doctor I met last week after switching insurance (which required switching doctors), who told me my migraines “are not migraines.”

    What else would this (female, btw) doctor disregard?

    I went home and immediately went online and switched to a new doctor, and I will keep auditioning doctors until I find one who LISTENS and RESPECTS ME and does not believe s/he is God.

    I am sharing this post far and wide. I’m horrified and deeply sad that this happened to you, Patti, and I am grateful that you wrote about it so other people might avoid the same situation.

    I now power pose before every doctor appointment, and even DURING the appointment–hands on hips, elbows out, even sitting on that stupid table, wearing that stupid, dehumanizing “gown,” because I do not want another Dr. God to make me feel too small and unimportant to be heard and taken seriously, dammit.

    It helped me with that doctor I immediately “fired.” And now thanks to this post I am going to write a letter telling her WHY I fired her.

    Thank you. Sending you so much love and all good thoughts for speedy healing.

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  125. Perfect, spot on, and so, so important, as always- but get off that computer and go back to resting! We miss you a lot here at Tybee, but please know that there are BIG powerful shifty things going on here in your honor… little miracles each day and night. I am frankly blown away by them. Thank you for putting this group of wonderful women together. XOXO

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  126. My mother had similar symptoms last year and also a 90% blockage. Thank goodness her doctors listened to her and thank you for listening to yourself. I’m so sorry youve had such a terrible experience and beyond grateful you’re still here.

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  127. Patti,
    Thank you for sharing this story. Any physician, who diagnosed ‘anxiety’ with your history and list of signs and symptoms, needs to go back to med school. Seriously. Hope you find competent and compassionate care. #listen

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  128. Being a voice to unjust situations or events is much needed. Thanks for voicing your concerns Patti.

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  129. Every time I’m at the doctor anxiety comes up in the discussion one way or another. Thank you for the reminder that that should not be the end of discovery. Much healing light to you.

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  130. Thank you for listening to you and for teaching the doctors a thing or two. Thanks for boldly sharing your experience so that we might find the courage to question our doctors or find new ones when their answers just don’t ring true. And please take care of that big beautiful heart of yours.

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  131. Much love to you Patti. I am gobsmacked that you could write such truth in your present state. You are so gifted. So glad you went in. I am sharing with every medical person I know. Love you.

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  132. Patti,
    Even with a stint your heart is clear and true. I am sad, angry, and unfortunately not surprised. I know there are men and women in the medical profession who listen. May they arrive by your side Stat! Love, healing, and prayers coming your way. Love, Judy

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  133. Advocate.

    For yourself, for others

    And live.

    Glad you will be joining us tomorrow, wherever we are.

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  134. I am so sharing this. Thank God you listened to your inner voice. I hope you are on the mend.

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  135. Yes, yes and yes! Enough with doctors who do not listen, don’t believe and don’t trust. The doctor may have gone to medical school, but I’m an expert in me, and I know when my body is not acting right. I hear story after story of horrendous subpar treatment. I have my own stories. I went to urgent care because my throat hurt. it hurt to swallow. After my requisite three minutes were up (why are you here? Sore throat) I was offered a diagnosis of post nasal drip. I had to beg for a strep test. And No, I’m not allergic to any medicine. And no, I am still not allergic to any medicine from when you just asked me two seconds ago.

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  136. I am so very sorry that even today, many doctors are not fully present during those 5 minutes in the exam room with you. Thank you for sharing your stories and experiences. So very important. I’m so glad you are okay. Much love and peace to you, Patti Digh. ❤️

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  137. i am so glad you got seen properly in the end and got the care you so needed. Am furious that women’s symptoms are minimized so often that a health crisis that could have been averted was not. This is in itself is a public health crisis- minimizing woman’s reported symptoms.

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  138. I love you, Patti. My physician papa learned a lot about how to be a better doctor when he became a patient.

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  139. If we’d listened to those who “knew best” I’d now be a widow. I’m not. Yes, it’s hard to be a caregiver for a congestive heart failure patient, but the delio is that hearts are resilient. So, go to cardiac rehab. Take your medicine as if it is your life (it is). Learn to listen to your body, not to people. Know you are loved. And call me if you want specifics on heart stuff. I know. I really do know.

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  140. Sending love and healing. This has been an affernoon and evening of prayer for you. I am grateful for your message tonight. Hugs, c

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  141. Of course it’s a …37.
    Thank you for this – I will share and share… We have you in the woo zone. Hope healing happens fast and easily.

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  142. So often we advocate for others and not ourselves. So happy that this turned out this way because it might have been otherwise. Heal that beautiful heart of yours. xoxo

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  143. i am smad about this. Mad because well (curseword) medical system thinks it knows everything when all it does is protect itself from all the things it doesn’t know and sad because you had to go through this. I am also grateful because you are articulate and kind and wise enough to write this. Rest well Patti you are a treasure.

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  144. Amen!

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  145. Thank you for sharing this. This is a truly important subject – the relationship between patient and care provider, and the trust and respect that must necessarily go both ways. Sadly, it doesn’t always. I’m sending you all the positive healing vibes I can! I hope you find a provider with good listening ears SOON!

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  146. So much love, Patti.

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  147. Wishing you a rapid and complete recovery. Sending you love and healing light!

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  148. wow. thank you for writing this. I hope you heal quickly.

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  149. I Love you Patti. I love you with all your wisdom, and dear, and real anxious moments. With your stent and the decision to put you first. Self care first!
    I have an ex son in law. A doctor. Who refused to put his humanity back on after he entered medical school. He lost his wife, my daughter. I know about those doctors who think they are Almiughty and don’t have to listen.
    I will pray and send love in your direction.

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  150. Oh Patti. Xox

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