Helen McLaughlin claims that she was in such excruciating agony that she would burn herself with a hot bottle “simply because it was a nicer ache than the one I was in.”
When her medical tests continued to come back clear, the physicians in London told her that “there’s nothing wrong with me—all it’s in your head.”
Her story will be familiar to many because the disease she is suffering from, endometriosis, affects one in every ten women worldwide.
Endometriosis, on the other hand, is so under-researched and takes so long to diagnose that it has come to symbolize how illnesses that mainly afflict women have long been disregarded by a medical community that has been historically male-focused.
McLaughlin was 16 when she first saw signs of endometriosis, a condition in which the tissue that normally borders the lining of the uterus grows on the outside instead.
When she told her GP in the United Kingdom that she had her period every other week, he prescribed the pill.
She began experiencing growing pain after her period when she was 25, over a decade after her original misdiagnosis—”a fairly painful pulling feeling in my tummy.”
It had spread to her legs a year later, and she was “in misery 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
“I had trouble going in and out of the hospital, I couldn’t work, and I was prescribed 25 medications a day for pain relief.”
Only when a friend said that they had heard of another individual with comparable symptoms who had endometriosis did things change.
When McLaughlin brought up endometriosis at her hospital, “they were pretty dismissive,” she said, and she was given painkillers again.
“I ended up writing a three-page letter to the general surgeon essentially begging him” for the surgery to look for endometriosis, which scans and blood tests can’t identify reliably.
“That’s how I found out I had cancer.”
It’s not going to be a ‘pink glittery day.’
McLaughlin, now 37 and based in London, said Tuesday’s International Women’s Day “can’t be regarded as this—to use the stereotype—pink sparkling day.”
“It’s a day that needs to be taken seriously because there’s so much that impacts women that the male society just doesn’t handle.”
Women with endometriosis waited an average of eight years for a diagnosis, according to a 2020 British parliamentary study, despite the fact that more than half of them saw the doctor more than ten times with symptoms.
According to a review of studies published in the United States in 2019, it is much more difficult for women of color to be identified with endometriosis.
Elinor Cleghorn, a British feminist cultural historian, has a similar narrative to McLaughlin.
When she complained of pain from “hip to ankle,” her family doctor stated he couldn’t detect anything wrong with her and suspected gout.
“May I inquire as to whether an attractive young woman like yourself is pregnant?” According to Cleghorn’s book “Unwell Women: Misdiagnosis and Myth in a Man-Made World,” published in 2021, the doctor asked her.
“It’s probably just your hormones,” the doctor concluded after learning she was on the pill.
A rheumatologist found the true cause of the pain and frustration after a decade of searching: lupus.
Women are the first to assist guys.
“The so-called ‘nature’ of women, the depictions of them as weak animals have long pervaded medicine,” said French neurobiologist Catherine Vidal.
According to the World Health Organization, women and girls are substantially more prone than boys and men to suffer from depression.
Hormones have long been blamed for this.
Gender norms that result in women having less autonomy while carrying heavier societal expectations, according to the WHO, are to blame, as is the trauma some women have experienced as victims of gender-based harassment and assault.
Another issue, according to Claire Mounier-Vehier, a cardiologist at Lille University Hospital, is that “women feel less concerned about their own health and often put it second to their family or employment.”
When undergoing a heart attack, women contacted an ambulance 15 minutes later than males, according to a French study.
“Women call an ambulance for their husbands, dads, and brothers with heart attack symptoms but not for themselves,” according to a 2019 European Society of Cardiology study.
“We have to stop believing that when a guy collapses, he is suffering cardiac arrest, but when a woman collapses, she is having a fainting spell,” Mounier-Vehier added.