Lois Walker said she made 20 calls and multiple ER visits due to pain, swelling, and bowel issues.
Doctors told her she had health anxiety, even when her pregnancy became so painful she threatened suicide.
During a c-section, doctors found tumors in multiple organs. She doesn't know how long she'll live.
Content warning: this article mentions suicide.
When Lois Walker started experiencing strange bathroom habits and a swollen belly in June 2020, doctors suspected irritable bowel syndrome.
When her symptoms worsened, the 37-year-old UK mom said her general care doctor thought it was "health anxiety," and put her on an anti-anxiety medication, according to multiple media reports via the UK media group SWNS.
Even when she asked her doctor if it could be cancer, due to her history with skin cancer, he dismissed her symptoms as age-related, she said.
It took 20 calls to her doctor, multiple ER visits, and an excruciating pregnancy that led to a c-section more than a year after her symptoms began for Walker, now a mom of three, to learn she has incurable stage-4 cancer. She's now speaking out against the UK health system and urging doctors to believe patients' pain.
"If there is just one medic who reads this and thinks 'we need to do better,' that's all I want," she told the BBC. "I would not want anybody to go through what I'm going through."
Walker's pregnancy was so painful she told doctors she would kill herself and her unborn baby
Walker's extreme symptoms during pregnancy didn't prompt further investigation until it was too late, she said.
At about 14 weeks pregnant, she said she couldn't walk or eat due to the pain. It only got worse.
By nine months pregnant, she said she weighed the same as her pre-pregnancy weight, but doctors weren't concerned.
"Then the final straw was when they had to get the mental health team involved because I said that it had reached the point where I would have to end both our lives, and I feel ashamed to say that," she said, SWNS reported. Walker was hospitalized and given morphine, but the cause of her symptoms were left unexplored.
Finally, after pushing her doctor further, clinicians found a mass behind her uterus, which led to the c-section in September 2021, she said. There, they found tumors in her ovaries, abdomen and lymph nodes. The cancer had also spread to her bowel and liver.
"They just said, basically, that my abdomen was so diseased that they needed to send off some biopsies, and I'd have to wait. But I knew anyway," Walker said. "The doctor actually grabbed my hand and he cried, and he actually said that he'd let me down."
Walker has undergone chemotherapy and operations, including a hysterectomy. She's planning a double mastectomy too, according to a fundraising page started by her sister. The family considers the baby, Ray, a miracle.
"It's been really, really hard," Walker told the BBC. "I didn't want to get attached to him, but he is my ray of sunshine. My kids are my purpose. I want to concentrate on making memories. If love could save me, I would never die."
Young women are more likely to be victims of 'medical gaslighting'
Research shows women are more often victims of medical gaslighting, or when medical professionals dismiss a person's symptoms, deny tests or treatments, and ultimately misdiagnose them.
More and more are speaking out. It took 23-year-old Chloe Girardier five months and seven doctor's appointments to get her persistent cough and weight loss to be taken seriously, The Sun reported. She had Hodgkin's lymphoma, a rare cancer that required her to undergo intensive chemotherapy.
Amanda Lee, a 28-year-old actress and wedding photographer, said her doctor called her severe stomach pain "not such a bad thing" since it was leading to weight loss, according to Today Health. She was later diagnosed with stage 3A colon cancer.
20-year-old Georgia Ford said her pain, spasms, vomiting and weight loss were dismissed as being "all in her head." She had stage-4 kidney cancer.
Women are "not being believed, and that's causing significant delays in care, misdiagnosis, late diagnosis, ineffective treatment, and ineffective triaging," Dr. Garima Sharma, an internal medicine physician and cardiologist at Johns Hopkins previously told Insider. "Women are paying a very heavy price."
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