Dealing With Being Minimized

It’s funny, well. It’s not really. I seem to often start writing with that phrase when the reality is anything but.

Feeling minimized. It’s something that I have too frequently experienced as a cancer patient. And now also in my private life. And it’s hard. To have all these conversations in my head about what I wished I had said. or what I’m going to do the next time I speak to the person. And it loops.

Being ignored by my doctor

I semi-joke that I’m an ignored middle child. And I know the middle children reading this will be nodding, knowing what I mean. But to be truly ignored by my first consultant when I was diagnosed at 22 was, well, horrific.

To be told side effects were all in my head. That I wouldn’t be feeling how I was feeling because research said I would be fine. To be told to just take more painkillers and I’d be fine.

I was so ill. Because of side effects. And ignored.

I was told my side effects were just in my head

And I had no idea that changing consultants was a possibility. That I just needed to ask. Because you don’t get told things like this when you are a patient. Or at least you weren’t in 2007. So I struggled on. In the most debilitating pain. Wishing for death because at least the pain would go away.

Another doctor heard me

And then I was finally heard. By a much junior doctor. And the relief was immeasurable.

I moved hospitals because I moved. And I thought my new consultant was better. That they listened. They heard me. But they didn’t. Not really. Just take anti-depressants. Of course you are a bit depressed. You have cancer.

But I knew it was the drugs and not me.

And by chance a different consultant saw me. And they listened. Unsurprisingly. I took my father with me and screamed at the consultant. The whole waiting room heard me. But a new plan was put into place. Because this consultant didn’t have a trial in the pipeline they wanted me in because I’m an unusual CML patient with being young and female. This consultant put me above prestige and ego. This consultant was. Well wonderful. And then they moved to America.

Learning to question and push back

Feeling minimized is horrific. It makes you doubt so much. Especially when you are seeing experts in a field you know nothing about. When you are young. Vulnerable. Trying to navigate life alongside cancer. When you need help. Support. Not to be ignored. For assumptions to be made. To not be listened to. No one knows your body better than you. And I’m very in-tune with mine. It tells me things and I listen. And to have that doubted alongside everything else was so damaging.

But I have learned from this. You can question. Push back. Speak to someone else. Demand that you are heard. And it’s what I tell others who have been diagnosed. If you aren’t being heard. Change consultants. Move hospitals. Don’t put up with it. Be strong. And it can be so hard. And I know.

And I’m not trying to take all of this and apply it to my personal life. To know I’m not going mad. What I say and think is true and valid. Even if I’m not being heard.

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