Woman, 27, Body Shamed by Doctor Who Dismissed Her Pain, Later Diagnosed with Stage 3 Cancer
Amanda Lee knew that something was wrong with her body. The then-27-year-old had spent the last few months dealing with intense stomach pain and gastrointestinal distress that made it difficult to eat, causing her to rapidly lose a worrying 35 lbs.
The Los Angeles-based actress, singer and photographer had finally secured an appointment with a gastroenterologist to figure out the issue, but he brushed off her symptoms and body shamed her, Lee told Today.
"He said, 'Maybe that's not such a bad thing' that I couldn't eat because of my pain," she said. "He was praising the fact that I was not eating."
He went on to say that her ability to only eat easily digestible foods like apple purées was a "blessing," Lee said, and that she "doesn't look malnourished." The doctor would not run any diagnostic tests on her, Lee said, and she left the appointment crying. She shared the experience in a TikTok video, filmed in her car right after she left his office.
"I've been dealing with abdominal cramping for months now and no doctor will listen to me, so I though I'd go to this new GI doctor that I had to fight for, and I told him that I hadn't been eating because it causes pain and I have pain when I eat. He looked at me and had the audacity to say, 'Maybe that's not such a bad thing,' " Lee says, sobbing. "I'm so upset. I'm so upset."
The video racked up views on TikTok, and commenters encouraged Lee to seek out a new doctor. Once she found one, she was immediately sent to get a colonoscopy, which showed a large tumor, and after surgery to remove it Lee was diagnosed with Stage 3A colon cancer, which had spread to her lymph nodes.
"I am so grateful ... to everyone who reached out and said, 'Please go find another doctor,' " she said.
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Lee, who turned 28 on May 27, is now undergoing chemotherapy, and has a few more months to go, but "everything seems to be going as planned," she said. "I still have a lot of hair, so I still look pretty normal. Chemo is hard, but I can do it. It's a small price to pay for a long life."
And she's encouraging others to advocate for themselves if they think something is wrong.
"I'm not saying the cancer outcome is normal. That's not normal. But the way he handled the situation is normal, and it is way too common. It's barbaric and something our medical system needs to change," Lee said. "If one woman wakes up tomorrow and hears my story and decides to find another doctor after a doctor had treated her poorly, then I have done my job."