Feb 08 2012

Pissed off cancer patient holds forth

I hate to post a vid and run, but duty calls me away from my desk. I invite you to behold Linda, whose eloquent and moving Komen takedown had me literally clapping — with both hands — by the end. What she describes is precisely my own experience, by the way, with the exception of the supportive husband, and the fact that it was even worse than she says. I have those same goddam scars!

For more “what cancer is” photos here at IBTP, including a blamer’s actual surgery and a fun post-op pic of my second mastectomy, click here.

Via Jezebel, with thanks to Stellatex


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  1. M Cubed

    ****Brava**** ****Brava****

  2. Ginjoint

    I’m crying, Jill. It feels good and sad at the same time.

    Now, please forgive me, for a bit of a yell: HOW THE FUCK COULD THEY SEND HER HOME ON THE SAME DAY OF SURGERY???!!!!!!! I cannot imagine what she went through that night. That, right there, is institutionalized abuse. Gendered abuse, I might add.

    I’m off to go forward this video to hither and yon.

  3. Noel

    You can hear the rage bubbling in the back of her throat. Raw power.

    Re-posted, thank you for sharing!

  4. Denise

    Bravo that woman. Tears and laughter.

  5. Comrade PhysioProf

    Totally baddeasse!

  6. Notorious Ph.D.

    Standing up and cheering wildly.

  7. funambulator

    I have those scars too. I love this woman and I really want to take her out for margs.

  8. pheeno

    She gets a *fist in air* gesture of righteous rage!

  9. gingerest

    Nice work! And nice repost, Aunt T.

  10. Kea

    You showed your ass. Now you can kiss mine.


  11. Rachel

    Great video, awesome woman.

    …Have you guys seen this though? I’m sorry to go off topic but [redacted because shit about icky dudes is not appropriate for this thread. Please consult the Comments Guidelines for comments guidelines, particularly vis-à-vis off-topicality. Thanks! — Ed.]

  12. c2t2

    That was pure, undiluted awesome.

    That woman is amazing, and even though I’ve never met her, I love her dearly just for that.

  13. Greywolf

    That woman is awesome and I wish her the best of luck in fighting her cancer. That last line was priceless.

  14. hayduke

    Rachel, I saw the name of the article, and just *knew*.

    So now I’m going to watch this video for some catharsis.

  15. Lidon

    Priceless. I hope she beats it.

  16. PSG

    Excellent. Linda, you are amazing. Keep fighting. I would love to share some margs with you! *hugs*

  17. ElizaN

    What an awesome woman. Add me to the list of those lining up to get her some margs.

  18. speedbudget

    I was appalled at the “home for the 6 o’clock news” line too. With drains. Imagine if she didn’t have somebody at home with her who cared for her. Imagine if she lived alone or had an abusive or neglectful partner. I can’t believe this insurance system is something people fought to keep.

    funambulator, margs to you.

  19. stacey

    She rocks the socks off the blocks.

  20. Lexie

    Regarding “home at the 6:00 news” quote, this is anecdote, but this is what I have observed:

    Once I had a uterine biopsy, and it was a 15 minute doctor’s office procedure that left me with pain and cramps for two days after. I was sent home with no instructions. Just go about your business.

    Once my father had a prostate biopsy, in the doctors office, a ten minute procedure. He was told to take a day or two off work, lay down and rest for the rest of the day with ice and vicodin.

    Once, I had a C-section, after two months of bed rest for high blood pressure and kidney infections. I had a drainage tube in my side due to a bleeding complication and 22 staples in my abdomen. Within six hours of surgery, I was gotten up, walked around. I was expected to lift, change diapers and care for my infant. I was expected to fill out certificate of live birth and other important paperwork, I was released within 48 hours of entering the hospital. I was given 12 tablets of pain medication.

    Once my husband got a vasectomy. This took 20 minutes in the doctors office. I was ushered in and given a lecture about how to care for him for the next 48 hours. He was to remain in bed the entire time. He was not to lift anything or prepare food or do anything other than go to the bathroom. He was given a supply of 30 pain medication dosages. He was given permission to take two to three days off work. It was all VERY SERIOUS. No nurse berated him to get up, get going, and lift a baby out of a bed and feed and change it. He needed to be VERY CAREFUL to rest for the next two to three days. His incisions were so tiny I could just barely make out the single stitch.

    I don’t know if any research has been done on post-procedrue instructions for men vs. women. But I’ve heard this a lot. I think it is a general thought that men’s pain is very real and women just complain a lot.

  21. Kea

    Lexie, it’s even worse than that. Apparently the old research on pain relief was all done with male subjects, and most pain killers are less effective on women.

  22. veganrampage

    Love her!

    So true Lexie and Kea; man pain counts, woman pain is complaint. Many chronic pain patients commit suicide because they can’t get their doctors to treat them.

    Komen would not have gotten the rapid slap down without the push from the Occupy movement which got a whole bunch of people off their asses in this country. That’s a conversation point I was struggling to make awhile back. Just as 911 pushed everything wildly to the right, Occupy may help women because we need movement in the other direction.

  23. Kali

    I am scheduled for a laparoscopic hysterectomy in a couple of months. The doctor told me that it is not a big deal and he will send me home the same day. Now I am worried whether it really is not a big deal or this is just the way they treat women.

  24. rootlesscosmo

    Thanks for posting this, Twisty. Linda’s right: surviving cancer takes away fear. Not sure why this is, but it’s so. Maybe it puts things in their right proportions?

  25. Yessenia

    I am shocked at the pain management given to some posters on this thread. Not surprised, but still shocked.

    When my tonsils were taken out, I got enough pain medication for two weeks, and an extra prescription when I couldn’t take the alcohol-based syrup they’d mysterously thought would easier to swallow. I had a similar experience with my wisdom teeth and appendectomy.

    Meanwhile, in the gynecology department, when I was finally diagnosed with endometriosis, after a decade of abdominal pain and anemia, my gyn doctor agreed to give me a script for vicodin, but only after interrogating me about whether I’d tried ibuprofen, if I’d considered mild exercise or perhaps had I thought about trying a heating pad.

    He then made sure I knew that I better not ask for a new script “every month,” because “that would be a red flag.”

    Yes, I was not to ask for pain medication every single month for the MONTHLY condition that caused the pain. It was only lady pain in the girly parts. Better to err on the side of unnecessary pain. IBTP.

  26. quixote

    Kali: hysterectomy is a big deal. Even laparoscopic. It’s still major abdominal surgery. If they give you appropriate instructions, they’ll tell you not to lift anything, do anything strenuous for a week or more, expect a certain amount of pain for which they should give you medication, etc., etc., etc.

    Do you have someone to drive you home? And do some toting and fetching for you? Hang in there.

  27. josquin

    Judging from my experience, you’ll feel pretty tired and sore for a couple of weeks, and you might also experience severe bloating for several weeks more. Buy some cheap baggy pants, overalls or dresses just in case! I could not fit into ANY of my clothes for weeks. Not even close. You’ll need assistance around the house for a few days for sure. That said, I would advise going home as soon as possible if you do have assistance at home. Staying in the hospital raises the likelihood of infection. Ask your doctor about retaining your ovaries, also: even after menopause they still secrete helpful hormones. Docs usually want to yank everything they can. It’s not always necessary. -Best to you!

  28. Kea

    Yessenia, prescriptions often cover more than one month at a time. Your doctors words sound to me like a standard concern re overdose suicide.

  29. AntiLoquaxx

    Under-treatment of women for pain is a widespread phenomenon. “The Girl Who Cried Pain: A Bias Against Women in the Treatment of Pain” by Diane E. Hoffmann and Anita J. Tarzian is an excellent summary. I don’t know how to link, but Google will provide.

    One gem:
    “A few studies have indicated a correlation between female pain patients and high levels of hostility.” Hostility is an excellent response to being treated as subhuman.

  30. Shelby

    Scary. Honest. Scary. Those fuckers should hang their heads in shame. IBTP.

  31. tinfoil hattie

    Yessenia, your doctor’s words sound to ME like a standard, knee-jerk refusal to trust women.

  32. quixote

    Vicodin, in the US, is screaming-big-red-flag-for-addiction or selling-it-on-to-addicts. Even if you, personally, show nary a sign of any kind of risk in those directions. If the request for vicodin came from you, rather than just being what the doctor ordered, that alone might be enough to explain the paranoia. Although, back in the real world, I’m sure being a patient-while-female doesn’t help.

  33. JR

    Pain in the lady bits evokes the strangest reactions from doctors. I have had ovarian cysts for years, the pain of which has on several occasions sent me to the hospital, where I have only once been given a bare minimum treatment for pain. They’ve sometimes looked for the reason I was in pain and seen cysts, or multiple cysts (I have PCOS) but have said to me on various occasions during my non-treatment helpful things such as: “Well you have a cyst but cysts don’t hurt” or “Well you have a cyst but it’s really quite small and it shouldn’t hurt as badly as you are saying” or “well you had a cyst so big that it is bleeding into your abdomen but it’s been a few days now and we really don’t think you should still be in pain” (the one time they treated my pain at all because I was hospitalized for the internal bleeding) or “Do you want me to refer you to the psychiatric department?” or sending me for an MRI on my back and sending me to physical therapy for my non-existent back problem, since they refused to believe I was having pain in my lady bits. It must have been referred back pain, see!

    Sometimes I feel like I must be making this shit up, that the tales they tell of women wanting to be victims and spinning stories of their own victimhood must be true, and surely I can pick myself up somehow and be a stronger person and just Go Out and Succeed! It seems the bitterest pill of all, that after doing this all to me, I then doubt even my own memories and reality. You know, in delightful patriarchal pomo land, we create our own reality anyway, so why would I want to make such an ugly reality for myself! I should make a happy fun reality where everything is sparkles and sunshine and roses and health and happiness! Right?

  34. Raven

    I believe it is absolutely true that men get more pain management in general than women. Take for example a male room mate I had. He strained his back at work; no ruptured disks or anything, just something that would go away if he relaxed for a week or so off his feet. His doctor gave him morphine, muscle relaxers and then percocet. He continued to get refills for pain meds for months afterward every time he felt a twinge. No questions asked from the doctor.

    Now in my case, I had two root canals that required metal posts to be put into my jaw to implant 2 replacement teeth. The dentist sent me home and said take advil. I had to call and go ballistic with the dentist to get them to call me in a weeks worth of RX painkillers.

    This is a very common theme amongst every woman I have ever known: men get a tiny boo boo, and they are told to rest and relax as long as they need to and are given all the pain relief they want.

    Women are expected to get back up and keep going, no matter how sick, tired or hurt we are.

    It fills me with rage. IBTP

  35. stacey


    My anecdata: I was made to be up and about the day after my c-section, but I also had the good meds so it wasn’t too onerous. I’ve had outpatient surgery twice (tubal ligation, and IUD/uterine polyps) and wasn’t offered painkillers… but I think they loaded me up with morphine before I left the hospital, so it didn’t seem too bad.

    The only man-surgery I can remember is my father-in-law, who had outpatient hernia a couple of years ago. I think they sent him home with drugs; they were also going to send him home the same day as his prostate surgery, except they gave him C. difficile at the same time so he was in for two weeks.

  36. tinfoil hattie

    My 81-y.o. mother, who sowed in me many varieties of blame seedlings, has a motto: “Always keep a little narcotic on hand.” Of course, she invented said motto when Cheracol cough dyrup with codeine was available in the US over the counter.

    If one is fortunate enough NOT to have addictive tendencies, and one doesn’t use up all one’s painkillers after a surgery or childbirth or injury, one is well-advised to keep some around!

    Of course, that presupposes access good medical care with competent pain management, and an abilitynto pay for same. We all know how likely that is. IBTP.

  37. Wandering Uterus

    Oh yes. Pain management. Since women are believed to be hysterical and overly-sensitive to pain, they are obviously not trusted in medical circles.

    Chronic pain care is terrible. Men have a much better chance of getting pain killers that actually do something. Women? Well, if we can afford it we get massages, physical therapy and prescribed exercises. Along with an antidepressant of course. And have you heard about the support group?

    But few, if any, pain meds for you.

    Then if you get depressed because of all the pain and shaming and interrogation, the depression is used to discredit you and the experience of your pain.

    Sorry for the rant. I’m guessing that the chronic pain caused by breast cancer treatments is given much too little care, so it’s not entirely OT. Breast cancer patients, can you confirm this? How shitty is the treatment of your chronic pain caused by the cancer treatments?

  38. JR

    It isn’t just anecdata.


    You know who to blame.

  39. speedbudget

    I have a spot on my shoulder that is intermittently numb and tingly. It has been this way for a long time. I also have chronic neck pain from a couple of fender-bender accidents. I know enough about anatomy to be pretty sure these two things are connected. When I finally got some decent health insurance, I made an appointment and went in to find out what was going on. I was referred to physical therapy, which is par for the course to start with conservative treatment. So I am in the therapy office doing the initial evaluation, and he asks me about my pain level on a scale of 1 to 10. I downplayed a little with a 4 or 5. The pain is constant and nagging, and it bothers me regularly. The therapist raised an eyebrow and said condescendingly, “Are you sure? That’s a pretty high number” and went on to police my physical reactions to said pain. I quickly downgraded it to a 2. Guess what? I still have numbness and tingling in my shoulder, and I still have neck pain. Thanks, therapy guy!

  40. Shelby

    Every time I hear a horror story about your health system I am grateful that I live in Australia but I know it will soon be coming my way.

  41. Kali

    Thanks, quixote and josquin.

    I’ve got plenty of anecdotes too about women’s physical ailments being seen as “all in their heads”. I have a friend in UK who had a virus attack her muscles. It was pretty bad to the point where she had to be in a wheelchair. Before it got to that point, the doctors were telling her that she must be homesick and depressed and there is nothing wrong with her. Then, when it got worse, they misdiagnosed it a malaria and gave her medication which made it worse. She had to come to India to get it treated properly.

    My mother suffered all her life from excessive pain and bleeding during periods that would go on and on. The doctors told her not to make a big deal and to be more cheerful. Then they gave her hormones which made things worse.

    It makes me so angry to think about how women are treated so crappily.

  42. buttercup

    My best friend had brain cancer. She was a recovering alcoholic and cocaine addict. The doctors stopped giving her pain meds for headaches so she self-medicated by developing an addiction to heroin. The heroin mixed with the chemo gave her seizures that never went away. That was the beginning of the end for her-she lived about another year and a half but it wasn’t much of a life. Her life might have been a little less painful and restrictive if they’d just believed her about the pain, but no. Female, recovering addict, so lying/drug-seeking. Primo non nocere my ass.

  43. IBlameRonPaul

    My city’s joke medical system has ignored my wrenching and outrageous pain for years, so I turned to the “Friends of IBlameRonPaul” way of life. I had a good year or two of life to which Dirt, minus the bit about “pincushion medicine” in “Hate to Feel,” could be the soundtrack. I solved that problem myself too, because the only thing the medical establishment hates more than a woman in pain is a junky.

    Now my shit shrink is trying to pour mood stabilizers down my throat because I’m depressed that the Donna Reed-ville where I live sees my female name on my resume and always hires a man. Sad about job-loss and workplace misogyny=psychosis. I’m pouring the drugs down…the toilet. Yep.

    I’m, no joke, getting a sex change before menopause, reproductive cancers, etc. kick in. My partner’s ok with dating a bi man. I’m just not going to spend my retirement years in pain, night sweats, nausea, and more. It’s a practical decision. If they won’t let me get my sex change, I’m killing myself. End of discussion. I don’t like the idea of being a man better than being a woman, but I do like the idea of trying to continue living without pain and distress 24/7. I’ve had enough already. I’m not enduring more of it.

  44. susanw

    “…they refused to believe I was having pain in my lady bits.”
    Of course they did. The sex class must be tough as old army boots. Any notion that lady bits can feel pain must be hushed up because Dude Nation might be sexually inhibited or embarrassed.

  45. CSue

    Pissed-off lady in the video got a full paragraph mention in today’s Washington Post. :>

  46. IBlameRonPaul

    I was always told the vag*na and cervix do not feel anything. Boy howdy is that a lie! My biopsy of that area sure showed a different outcome.

    I can’t even get PAPs – they hurt, and I get yelled at for that, because the wonderful doctors couldn’t be at fault, noooo. I’m thinking of just quitting going to the doctor altogether. If I die, I die. Whatever. Going to the doctor, for a woman, is like taking a fistful of 20-dollar bills and lighting them on fire.

  47. IBlameRonPaul

    Oh, I forgot about my other idea: Mid-life entrance into medical school. Physician won’t heal me, so I just might abide by the philosophy of “Physician, heal thyself.” If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

    I know half of you might think I sound like a nutter, but it sounds like some of you have been there too and are, like me, at your wits’ end dealing with doctors. I once offended a Very Important Man when I opined that, based on the treatment I’ve received for the past 15 years in gynecology, I’m forced to conclude most doctors go into medicine for the money. Of course a dude doesn’t get it, and why would a dude see it my way, anyway? After all, he gets Demerol for getting snipped, whereas the cure for my monthly agonizing pain in my lower abdomen, legs, and head is a heating pad, one Advil every 12 hours (HAHAHAHA!), and plenty of “positive thinking.”

    I didn’t mention this in the bee-dee-ess-emm thread, but another reason I left my last secondary girlfriend was because her idea of being helpful when I nearly passed out from menstrual pain at her house was to book me for a chat session with her “friend,” an arrogant male anesthesiologist (read: no recent experience with women’s health) who lectured me for an hour about how I was “wrong” that fake hormones make me ill. This guy passed one course in ob-gyn 10 years ago, and I have real, lived first-hand experience, so guess whose opinion trumped out? The dudely one, but of course. I definitely weighed her insensitivity toward my pain as a factor when leaving her because it bred a level of resentment I couldn’t look past.

    (Also interesting, a middle-aged dude being bosom buddies with an early-mid 20s woman. Very interesting.)

    Rage, ladies. Rage.

  48. FemmeForever


    I can’t even get PAPs – they hurt, and I get yelled at for that, because the wonderful doctors couldn’t be at fault, noooo. I’m thinking of just quitting going to the doctor altogether.

    Me too. When I went for my first she injured me badly by using the largest spec she could find (because that’s what most womenuse–WTF?). I was in pain for a week. So it took me years to get another one. In fact I would say I’ve only had three or so lifetime (should have had many more).

    Another time I went in for a vag ultrasound – the one with the saline for looking at the uterine lining – I told the male doc I would be very sensitive and had problems getting a simple PAP. While he was in there I told him to stop hurting me. He told me to just relax and kept going. I really wish I had kicked the shit out of him.

    Rather than giving up altogether try insisting on female doctors only if you can. That helps a lot.

  49. qvaken

    Oh God! All of this stuff that you guys have gone through is awful! I’m still young, and I’m protectively gripping my lower abdomen to think of the years to come.

    My first Pap smear hurt too, and for me, having one is like having blood drawn – it’s not the most awful thing in the world for me, but it certainly is uncomfortable (and sometimes painful), and leaves me feeling weird and icky for days.

    Having said that, for my most recent one the doctor appeared visibly uncomfortable from the moment that I mentioned that that was what I was there for, he insisted on having a female nurse present the whole time who also talked me through all the preparation, he explained everything in full before he did it, he told me that if I felt uncomfortable or in pain then speak up and he would stop straight away, and the nurse even offered me a warm damp towel as well as a dry towel afterwards, and some pads, to give me the chance to keep clean. I was surprised as it’s really become a routine test for me that I know I just have to do for my own health, and so I don’t need that much support, but I think that it’s good policy to follow for the sake of women who feel really uncomfortable about it – perhaps all doctors’ practices should adopt it.

    I have a pain-related anecdote, too. When I was 13 at school, I got bad stomach pains, and went to the nurse. She asked me numerous times whether it was near the time of my period (it wasn’t). Although she let me lie down, she got more and more impatient with me because I kept telling her that the pain wasn’t going away, and I had to insist over and over again that she call my parents before, after a few hours, she relented. I vomited before I got home, and then vomited for three days thereafter, and on the third day I managed to eat an apple and had to rebuild my appetite from there. That same year I told this story to a male friend, who replied that he had gone to the nurse with stomach pains too, and she had become really concerned, said that it might be his appendix and insisted that he go to the doctor. It turned out that he had been too embarrassed to fart at school, and when he let go of the build-up of gas, he was fine.

  50. FemmeForever


    Speed Racer avatar! I was a huuuge fan of that show. Even named one of my dogs Trixy. Thanks for triggering that memory.

  51. veganrampage

    Thank you Blamers. Thank you Jill.

    At my last session with the medical “doctor” known as a psychiatrist I asked him if he could see me. I wanted to know if I was still visible or audible to other humans. He didn’t seem to appreciate my brilliant sense of irony.

    As a chronic pain patient who is fucked 12 ways from Sunday I ponder suicide on a weekly, sometimes daily basis.
    Our community means much.

    Last month my insurance company red flagged me because the covering doctor in my doctor’s office had written a prescription 6 months ago while my usual doctor was on vacation. Hysteria ensued.

    Long gruesome story short; doctor’s office nastily called my pharmacist claiming that she had not written the prescription and that it was a forgery. They were so stupid they didn’t even look in my file to check and see that yes, she HAD written it and NO, I was not a master criminal. Then when my pharmacist produced copies of said prescription in the doctor’s handwriting the office denied they ever said such a thing.

    The insurance company has succeeded in getting my doctor to titrate me down to a barely livable amount of pain management meds. My doc freely admits this.

    Does any know how I can get the insurance company to retract that red flag letter, as it states that is possible somewhere in HIPPA’s “Patient Bill of Rights?”

    Thank you all. Meowps!

  52. Mictlantecuhtli

    She is fantastic.

  53. Teresat young

    Thank you for having the courage and concern for us all to share your story. My experience was not the same, but left me with a trauma that I will probably live with forever. This is the first time I have ever felt safe to speak on line. I simply could not pretend that any cancer was a good thing. I have felt alone for the past 4 years because I dared to believe that sometimes women are mistreated. I know there are wonderful medical professionals. I am married to such a person. But when I needed support most, it was not there for me. Blessings to you.

  1. what breast cancer is and is not. | My Life in Order

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