Doctors not taking women’s ailments seriously is sadly common. And here’s the latest viral story about this: A new mom and comedian, Jen Curran, took to Twitter to share how her practitioner essentially dismissed a disconcerting post-pregnancy health issue.
She began the widely retweeted thread with a summary:
“I’m a new mom and I had protein in my urine during and after pregnancy, which is bad. A doctor told me to ‘lose weight’ and it would go away. Didn’t want to see me back for months. So I got a second opinion. Turns out I have bone marrow cancer.”
That Tweet is unsettling enough, however, the additional details that followed are even more disturbing.
The new mom said that at the end of her second trimester, doctors found high protein in her urine and diagnosed her with preeclampsia. Because of this, she was on bedrest for three months. “Everything stayed stable” for the remainder of her pregnancy, but her obstetrician was concerned about the high amount of protein in her urine; it didn’t align with Jen’s other symptoms.
“She insisted I get checked by a kidney doctor after the baby was born. Hopefully, the problem wouldn’t persist but we had to make sure. I had a pretty easy labor and our baby made it to the world no problem. A few weeks later I made an appointment with a kidney doctor,” she tweeted.
The OB wasn’t the dismissive one.
The kidney doctor found that the protein in Jen’s urine was higher post-pregnancy even though she’d given birth months ago.
“Spilling protein into your urine is bad for your body, especially if it’s high levels. It can irreparably damage your kidneys and it usually indicates something more serious is going on,” Jen explained.
The comedian’s kidney doctor, however, showed little worry about Jen’s lab results.
“‘It can take up to a year for things to return to normal after pregnancy,’” she told Jen. Understandably, Jen was unhappy with that answer, especially considering her body had recovered from giving birth in many other ways.
The kidney doctor then gave Jen a suggestion that she was all too familiar with:
“‘Can you start dieting and exercising? Try to lose some weight?'”
The doctor told Jen that the protein would go away if she slimmed down and that she should make another appointment in four months.
“She was almost, like, talking past me. Asked me a question about breastfeeding and literally didn’t listen to the answer. Responded as though I said the exact opposite of what I‘d said. Not listening. Not present.”
Jen also explained that she had made a documentary about the dangers of diet and weight-loss culture and was not into the “lose-weight-and-the-problem-will-go-away” solution.
Fortunately, she trusted her instinct that there was a bigger problem and went to a different kidney doctor recommended by her obstetrician:
“The NEW kidney doctor took one look at my lab tests and said, ‘this is not good. And there’s nothing diet or exercise can do to touch it.’ I was surprised BUT ALSO NOT. She was clearly concerned. She told me we needed to biopsy my kidneys. And I hoped for the best.”
It was discovered that Jen’s blood had too many kappa light chains, a type of protein the immune system produces.
Jen’s new doctor then recommended she see a hematologist-oncologist. After biopsying her bone marrow, it was finally discovered that Jen has bone marrow cancer.
Jen said that finding this out was “shocking” and “gut-wrenching.” She also tweeted that if she hadn’t had her baby, the cancer wouldn’t have been found “until it was possibly way too late.”
“And if I hadn’t gotten a second opinion? Duh. I‘ll already be weeks into chemo by the time the followup with that first kidney doctor rolls around. And who knows how much longer it would have taken her to diagnose me?”
Jen wrapped up her thread on a hopeful note by stating that, “the advances in treating this particular cancer have been incredible in the last decade.” She also said that she would be starting chemo one day after she made her Twitter thread, August 13.
“Here’s the moral of this particular story. Lose weight if you want to. But if you think something is seriously wrong with your body, and a doctor tells you weight loss is the key to fixing it, get a goddamn second opinion,” Jen tweeted.