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 

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Multiple Sclerosis

A photo focusing on a man's legs in jeans, wearing converse, with bars going across the image.

When Multiple Sclerosis Makes It Difficult to Stand

I can’t stand. That’s the entire sentence, not an abridged version, nor is it a double entendre. I really have a difficult time standing in place. For the most part, I can still walk normally, although I do have some bad days where moving around is difficult and it might require assistance from a friend [...]
mom and son making sad faces

Why It's OK to 'Complain' About My Multiple Sclerosis

There’s a dominant notion that to not complain about a health or physical struggle is dignified, that it is a sign of virtue, of sainthood almost. “She suffered for years with cancer, but she never complained, not once.” “You never heard him complain about the many difficulties his disability presented in his life.” “Nobody wants [...]
A bottle filled with green liquid, sitting in some grass, surrounded by yellow flowers with the sun shining down on it.

Why I Don't Want to Hear About 'Natural Cures' for My Illness

I’m at work, taking a brief break to check my personal messages. My aunt sent me an email, and already I’m flinching, knowing what it will be. This time, it’s a document about multiple sclerosis (MS) in Guatemala – the story of a woman with MS who went to Guatemala, was treated with a mysterious green [...]
A silhouette of a woman sitting on a bench, in front of city lights.

What You Should Remember Before You Judge Someone With MS

After three and a half years of having an invisible disease, you never really get over the judgement that comes along with it. If you saw me out and about, you would never know that anything was wrong with me. Which is good, but also frustrating. If you saw me parking in a disabled spot, you’d possibly [...]