Jaundiced? Weight loss will cure that, no need to look for a reason.

Reader A writes:
This touches on fat health a bit but also queer health and mental health. This was all in one thirty-minute whammy of a visit.

I made an appointment for a pap smear because I have been going through a lot of tests and pokes and prods trying to figure out why I have been jaundiced for years, and where my near-constant abdominal pain is stemming from. Also, this is the first time I have had health insurance as an adult (I’m twenty-four) so I wanted to cover all of my bases.
I had never been to a gynecologist before, and as a rape survivor, I feel that I should have at least googled what to expect. After having done said googling post-visit, however, I know that no amount of background knowledge would have prepared me for this encounter.
The receptionist didn’t know what “PCOS” stood for (my GP had suggested screening for poly-cystic ovarian syndrome due to my irregular periods and weight gain) so I waited in the lobby while she asked the doctor what that would fall under in terms of “reason for visit”. I decided to ignore the gospel radio station and hope for the best. After pulling me into a back room, weighing me, and asking me the usual questions about medications and illnesses, the doctor turned to me and asked “so what is this business about PCOS?” I explained that my GP had suggested getting checked out just in case. With a laugh she informed me that doctors try to use PCOS as a catch-all for overweight women. She asked me about my other symptoms, and after I explained about the abdominal pain and jaundice, proceeded to tell me that every one of my symptoms would go away if I would just lose a little weight.
At this point, I am no longer taking anything this woman says seriously.
When she asks me what type of birth control method I am using, I inform her that I am in a relationship with a woman and that we do not use birth control. “Oh, Lord,” she responds. “Let’s just get you looked at.”
Remember when I said that I have never been to a gynecologist before? Keep that in mind when asking yourself why the hell I stayed through what happened next.
Wearing my paper shirt and blanket, hunched over the edge of the table, I had an idea of what was coming next. I explained that I have never had a pap smear before and that I was nervous about the procedure. She laughed and told me there was nothing to be nervous about. She inserted the metal thingy into my vagina thingy and I immediately froze because of the pain. I stopped responding to her nonsense questions about what I do for a living and whether or not I exercise. Instead of checking to see what was wrong, she just stopped asking them.
When it came time for her to use her fingers to complete the exam, I was feeling numb and dissociated. That ended abruptly when she inserted FOUR fingers into me, causing me to emit a low-grade shriek. After this she giggled, said “I guess we just need one, huh?” and proceeded with the exam with one finger. I could already tell that I was bleeding- this was confirmed for me when I dressed myself and cried after she had left the room.
As the final segment of the exam, the doctor handed me an ipad with twenty or so questions on it regarding my emotional state. After I answered, she looked them over and said: “If you want to have any kind of quality of life, you should really get on a medication. It’s obvious that you are bipolar.”
This has made me so much more cautious about selecting physicians. I know that it’s going to take some work to set foot into any gynecologist’s office again, but I also know that not all of them are like this.

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8 Comments

  1. That is inexcusable, and I am so sorry that you had to suffer through that traumatic incident. There are not enough profane terms for me to use to describe my reaction to the treatment you received. I want to hug you through the internet because my heart breaks that you went through this. And I want to pummel the doctor for putting you through this AND adding the insulting fat-shaming on top of it. To call that malpractice would be putting it mildly. I hope that you are able to find a good doctor who will listen to you, hear your symptoms, and give you a knowledgeable, non-biased diagnosis.

    Reply
  2. That was a horrible experience. It should have been nothing like that. I hope you can find a good doctor and get your jaundice treated.

    I don’t know if you are up for it, but you might check to see if there is a feedback form at the hospital/clinic where you can explain the doctor’s poor behavior.

    *HUGS* if you are up for them.

    Reply
  3. For what it is worth I also have PCOS, my symptoms, in addition to weight gain and messed up periods, included balding and excess hair on my face. I have opted to take a birth control pill heavy in progesterone to help balance my hormones. I’ve also developed diabetes and am keeping an eye on my heart health.

    I want to punch that doctor for not knowing anything about this health issue, on top of wanting to punch her for treating you so horribly.

    Please do look after your health. If possible, get someone to go to doctor appointments with you.

    Reply
    • A close friend has PCOS and she’s mentioned the same symptoms, lsstrout. She also has darker patches of skin on the back of her neck, which she said her doctor explained was another symptom of PCOS.

      Reply
  4. That doctor needs a close encounter with a clue-by-four. I have never in all my years (some with crappy doctors) had a doctor giggle if they inflicted pain, I don’t think I’ve had one inflict pain unless they were probing for a specific sore point.

    Nothing about the treatment you got was remotely acceptable. I hope you find a decent doctor soon who can help you get the treatment you deserve. I don’t know how it works over there (I’m in the UK so at least I don’t get charged if I get crappy treatment) but I know I can have some one with me to support me when I see a doctor (I think they have to leave if there is an intimate exam, but that’s not come up yet). If you have the support and you can have someone with you it can be very reassuring.

    I believe there is a list of fat friendly doctors in various areas somewhere, if you can also get a list of LGBT friendly doctors you might be able to cross reference them and hopefully find someone awesome who can give you the treatment you need without a side order of judgement.

    Reply
  5. Wow, somebody wasn’t paying attention in psychology class. Bipolar disorder is nowhere near “being upset during an office visit”. Bipolar disorder is what happens when a person has manic episodes and depressive episodes, both of which last days to weeks and really interfere with their lives. It is not something a gynecologist could diagnose at an office visit during which your behavior was totally normal, especially for someone who’s going to a gyno for the first time.

    The other commenters have covered the rest of it already, but as a psychology major, it’s that offhand “bipolar disorder” comment that sticks out to me–not only does this doctor seem to think she can so casually make such a complex diagnosis when it isn’t even her specialty, but she actually uses it as a way to completely dismiss your very obvious discomfort and dissatisfaction with the job she’s doing as a doctor. I just hope she never gets her hands on somebody with real bipolar disorder; they have enough trouble without an unsympathetic, ignorant doctor adding to it.

    We’re not asking for a lot here. Doctors don’t have to know everything, nor have infinite patience, nor be perfectly selfless. What we want is just basic human decency–treat us like people. We’re paying them to check up on our reproductive systems; you’d think they’d be a little bit more polite to their customers. Any other profession, and it wouldn’t be long before they had no customers to speak of, but for some doctors, I guess they feel like their MDs give them an excuse not to act like decent human beings.

    Reply
  6. I am the reader who submitted this, and I want to say thanks so much to all of you who left words of kindness. Isstrout, it turns out I do not have PCOS, but did have one large cyst on my ovary that contributed to some of my hormonal symptoms. I am so sorry that you experience these symptoms and really hope that the birth control treatment that you are on helps.
    For everyone who suggested that I bring someone with me, what great advice, and I did just that– I had to return to this doctor to receive the results of my pap smear, which were abnormal. When I did, I brought my partner with me, and the doctor was much briefer and less interested on advising me on how to live my life.
    As far as reporting her, I found a slew of awful reviews online after my appointment, and I contributed my own. She is a private doctor who opts out of malpractice insurance (legal in my state, apparently) and any other action to report her would have been at a higher level than I was comfortable with.
    Again, thank you all so much for your encouraging words.

    Reply
  7. @Lynne, I’m so glad to hear you took the steps you did to stand up for yourself. I hope that you are feeling much better soon. 🙂

    Reply

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