TV

'For some reason, women are expected to deal with medical situations men just wouldn’t tolerate'

Whether you’re a hypochondriac or not, your only line of defence is evening primrose oil, or, let’s be honest: wine.

Hilda, Dr Guddi Singh and Mr Stephen Quinn looking at the GFX representation of Hilda’s fibroids. Image: Remarkable TV

I am a terrible hypochondriac, with a catastrophic, obsessive mind that’s always alighting on different areas of my body and convincing me that I have a life-threatening illness. Google has diagnosed me with certain death more times than I can remember, and I’ve ruined entire holidays worrying about moles and cancer and sepsis from infected mosquito bites. A few weeks ago, I even spent two hours comparing photos of a freckle on my nose in 2020 to the present day to see if it had changed – fun! 

Usually I go to the doctor, they have a poke about and I’m diagnosed with something fairly inconsequential, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes, especially when you’re a woman of a certain age, it’s hard to know what’s wrong with you, and even when you go to the doctor, you don’t get a clear answer.

And in pandemic times, it’s easier to get a meeting at the Kremlin than it is to book an in-person appointment with your GP. They only ever want to speak to you on the phone, and for some reason shouting ‘I THINK I’VE GOT THRUSH’ while you’re in the supermarket doesn’t feel very satisfactory. 

But what makes my hypochondria worse is that I’ve been burned before. For some reason, women are expected to deal with medical situations that men just wouldn’t tolerate.

I’ve gone undiagnosed for months on end, because we’re expected to quietly live with pain and heavy bleeding or push on through when we’re in agony or intense hormonal distress. And when we seek help we’re often treated as if we’re fantasists or we’re advised to do bloody YOGA, an activity so universally recommended to women that they should just convert GP’s surgeries to yoga studios and have done with it (may I suggest NAM-NHS-TE?)

So, whether you’re a hypochondriac or not, you’re screwed, and your only line of defence is evening primrose oil, or, let’s be honest: wine.  

To illustrate the extent of this problem, the other day I got a text from my mum saying “Switch on BBC Two to see Hilda come face to face with her fibroids!”

This was an offer I couldn’t pass up, and I immediately turned on the TV to see Your Body Uncovered With Kate Garraway. Kate and some doctors were using VR modelling to look inside the body of Hilda, a fashion influencer, who had been enduring painful periods and bloating. Turned out it wasn’t just because she was a silly old moany-faced woman, though – it was because she had 100(!) fibroids and her womb looked like something from Doctor Who.

I wondered how many times that Hilda – who as a Black woman is statistically more susceptible to fibroids, and more likely to receive poor gynaecological care – had been fobbed off by doctors with a couple of ibuprofen and a few downward dogs.

But instead of feeling intense shame that their fellow medical professionals could have let it get to that state, the doctors all walked Hilda around her monstrous uterus as if they were showing her around a one-bedroom flat in a leafy area close to schools and amenities. Hilda, to her great credit, didn’t have a full nervous breakdown – not on camera, anyway. However, when we saw her fibroids being successfully removed and laid out on the table in ascending order of size, I had a minor breakdown myself. And also I will never eat meatballs again. 

But it did make me realise that if I can’t get an appointment with my doctor, there is an alternative. It’s a hypochondriac’s dream to have Kate Garraway and a team of medical professionals in VR headsets zeroing in on your ailments – so expect to see my piles on screen near you soon.  

@lucytweet1

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine. If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

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