In her early 30s, Elisabeth Finch spent years seeking an explanation for her persistent knee pain, which four failed surgeries couldn't seem to alleviate. Her surgeon eventually "released" her as a patient; he prescribed antidepressants for the back pain that kept her up at night and said he didn't think there was anything more he could do for her. Finally, a different doctor diagnosed her with a rare bone cancer, which, by that point, had spread to her spine, requiring years of bi-weekly chemotherapy sessions and multiple surgeries.
IS MEDICINE'S GENDER BIAS KILLING YOUNG WOMEN? A RECENT STUDY SUGGESTS YOUNGER WOMEN WHO HAVE HEART ATTACKS MAY HESITATE TO GET HELP BECAUSE THEY’RE AFRAID OF BEING LABELED HYPOCHONDRIACS. BUT THE BIGGER PROBLEM IS JUST HOW JUSTIFIED THAT FEAR REALLY IS.
At the time, Finch hadn't considered that sexism was lurking behind her doctor's dismissive treatment. "He called me 'impatient' and 'emotional,'" she later recounted in a piece at Elle. "It never occurred to me that being 'female' was perhaps the most dangerous label of all." But once she dug into the research, she began to see her story not as a freak anomaly but as part of a pattern. She went back and confronted her first doctor about the diagnosis he had missed. "I expected fireworks and an epic speech in which I righted every wrong and brought him down to size, swooping out in a superhero cape and a flurry of self-righteousness," she wrote.