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To the Doctor With a Woman in Your Office Who 'Looks Healthy'

Dear doctor,

I am the patient who entered your office and posed a difficult case to solve. I came to you with many debilitating symptoms, and little to show on lab work. I am the patient who asked, with desperation, for your help. My appearance made it difficult for you to understand my complaints; I was young, appeared to be in shape, and my physical exam was mostly normal.

I am the patient that you may have classified as a hypochondriac. You may have suggested that I was deconditioned and needed to exercise. You may have ran some lab work, and sent me on my way. Maybe you offered a script for a pain medication and thought I had fibromyalgia.

You saw a young woman, fighting her way through graduate school, clearly stressed about what was happening to her body. You saw that my lab work was normal again, and again, and again, and you told me how lucky I was that it wasn’t something “bad.”

You didn’t see the tears that covered my face as I wondered how I would go on in a body so weak. You didn’t see that I was unable to walk around the food store, and you certainly didn’t see the myoclonic seizures I tried to describe to you, as I was sleeping at night.

I did the very best I could to get through to you. I attempted to relay my story adequately, without seeming too overly concerned that you would write me off. It‘s upsetting that I had to worry about that. There is no reason young women shouldn’t be taken as seriously as men.

Thirteen years of seeing doctors passed by, and I pushed on the best I knew how.  Believe me, I never stopped searching for a doctor to crack my difficult case.  Graduate school, marriage, two children later, and my body ultimately gave in to the disease that was growing inside of me.  When I finally heard the words multiple sclerosis, I was dumbfounded, frightened, and relieved.

So, doctor, the next time a young, healthy-looking woman enters your office with a difficult case and serious symptoms, please give her a little extra thought. Tell her you believe her and take her story seriously. You just may help her avoid a torturous decade of being undiagnosed without treatment. You just may have the ability to save her life.

Getty photo by NanoStockk