From Exhausting Doctor Road Show to a Healing Partnership
Valeria used to dread coming to work. It was a field she loved with a passion, yet the company culture was extremely competitive. It was a desired workplace in a small industry, and it felt like everyone was trying to get promoted to very few available spots.
She was in the earlier stages of a new career, having dared to get a degree in her 40s after decades in entry-level positions, and she was walking around in shame. Not just about how late she felt she was to the game, but about her pelvic dysfunction and the leaking that came with it.
She was working so hard to gain everyone's respect, that she felt she constantly had to hide what she was dealing with, professionally and personally, and hope she wouldn't be found out. She kept asking herself, who would give a promotion to someone who can't stop leaking?
Asking her doctor for advice didn't help. He just kept telling her it must be in her head because there's nothing more he can do for her.
But one day, she got a bit of advice from the most unexpected source, and everything changed.
It's Not in Your Head and You're Not the Only One
It was just one of those days when nothing works. You don't hear the alarm clock, you spill your coffee as you rush to get ready, you discover that your favorite pair of pants, the only one you really feel comfortable in, is starting to tear, you get into an argument with your kid over something that doesn't really matter…
… and you find yourself with heavier leaking than usual when you come into the office.
When that happened to Valeria, she broke down in the bathroom despite herself.
Her colleague, Sofia, walked in, so Valeria tried pulling herself together. Her boss had told her from the beginning that Sofia will be her #1 competitor for a potential promotion down the line, and he described Sofia in a way that made Valeria want to stay as far away as possible from her. Sofia, he said, was determined to get ahead, and she didn't care at whose expense.
But Sofia wasn't a fool, and she didn't let Valeria leave the ladies' room before she told her what happened. Valeria tried to resist and pretend she's OK, but she was too upset to pull it off. She had felt alone and needed to talk to someone for a long time, and the way that morning started was just the last straw. She ended up opening up against her better judgment.
As she buried her head in her hands, beating herself up for sharing, certain her health challenge will now be spread across the office and used against her, Sofia said the most surprising sentence:
It happened to her too.
Choose a Healthcare Provider that Honors Your Journey
Over lunch, Sofia shared her journey across the doctor road show. She had been to seven doctors until she eventually turned to natural medicine and got some real help. As she discovered in her research, seven is the average number of doctors a woman with pelvic dysfunction sees until she gives up.
But Sofia encouraged Valeria not to give up.
She told her what I always tell my patients:
Keep searching until you find a healthcare provider who honors your journey. Choose someone who shows empathy toward your leaking, dysfunction, pain or any other challenge you're facing. Choose a provider who puts the phone aside and listens to you and, instead of making you feel hysterical or claiming it's all in your head, shows that she or he actually cares about how your physical challenges impact the rest of your life.
Choose a Healthcare Provider that Sees You as a Partner
As Valeria drove home that day, she couldn't stop thinking of how confident Sofia was about never letting any doctor put you down, how certain she was it was not OK for doctors to tell you it's all in your head and you need to stop being hysterical and taking everything so seriously.
Valeria realized there's a lot she doesn't know about her situation, and she started making appointments with other doctors. She was determined to find a healthcare provider who explains why things are happening, explains different options and their impact (positive and negative), someone who teaches her what *she* has the power to do for herself between appointments.
Take Charge of Your Healing Journey
Turned out, it wasn't so easy to find someone like that.
Back at work, she turned to Sofia and shared her failed attempts. Sofia looked her straight in the eye and said, don't wait for permission.
Over the weekend, as Valeria was meal prepping for the coming week, the conversation with Sofia echoed in her head. She realized she didn't need to wait for permission, or for someone to appoint her a partner.
She could become that partner – maybe even the leader – of her own healing journey.
She dropped everything she was doing, headed to her computer, and started researching her medical history and the challenges she's been experiencing. She created a list of questions to bring to her next doctor's appointment. She created a spreadsheet so she can keep track of her symptoms. She bought a notebook and a pen in her favorite color, blue, online, so she can take notes during her next appointment, then extend her research after the appointment ends.
The kids didn't get a home cooked meal that weekend and got mostly sandwiches the following week, but Valeria had a new lease on life.
And to make matters better, she started growing closer to Sofia, and discovered that Sofia organized meetings for women at the company to share their professional knowledge, work together toward getting equal payment, and help each other get promoted and advance their careers.
Turned out, mansplaining was a thing, and the company was trying to keep team members, especially women, from comparing notes and unifying to demand change.
Speak Up for Yourself, and Don't Be Afraid to Make Changes
For the first time in her life, Valeria was surrounded by queens who were proactive about creating the life they wanted. She wasn't going to let this opportunity pass her by.
She went to every single get together, learned a ton of new skills, and made a few close friends, something she has longed to have for a long time, after spending the past several years getting a degree while working full time and raising kids.
Their confidence was contagious, and she decided she'll practice hers too.
After work, she went to doctor after doctor. She learned through her research that most of them are not well educated on pelvic issues. It supported her to remember it as she sat through doctors saying it's all in her head. But she didn't let this knowledge let them off the hook, because it was their responsibility to educate themselves and help their patients – especially with 30 million women in the United States alone suffering from pelvic floor disorders – and, either way, it was no longer OK for them to treat her the way her first doctor did.
For the first time, Valeria listened to her gut. If they told her she's hysterical, she spoke up. If a treatment made things worse, she demanded a different solution. If they offered surgery, she insisted they exhaust all other options first. If a doctor didn't serve her well, or she felt she couldn't trust the doctor, she walked away. Even if that doctor had a fancy degree, a great reputation in the industry or a recommendation from her cousin. She decided that she will never give up because every doctor visit that didn't help her got her closer to finding someone who will.
Therefore, despite her mother's concerns, she decided to try natural medicine as well, for the chance that she won't have to deal with side effects from medications either because some of those side effects were worse than her original symptoms.
It took two more years to find the right holistic doctor, the one who was a true caring partner and well educated on the pelvic floor and stop the leaking.
By that time, she had already gotten a promotion and a raise and managed to start saving for her kids' college. A few years later, her daughter became the second woman in her family, after 40-something Valeria, to attend college.
If you, like Rachel, need someone to cheer you on, here's a video I created about how prevalent the Doctor Roadshow is in today's medical landscape, especially when it comes to pelvic floor dysfunction. Add it to a playlist or save the link somewhere safe so I can support you every time you need some cheering up and extra courage to claim your crown.