Going rogue or leaving conventional medicine was a no-brainer. Time and time again, I had evidence that our healthcare system was not just ineffective in helping women with chronic diseases and obesity; it was flat out broken! More often than men, women suffer from things like delayed diagnosis, misdiagnosis, and are not heard or are ignored completely.

I recently got a call from a desperate choir buddy. She sings as the paid alto voice in my church’s volunteer choir for a good reason. Her sultry mezzo-soprano voice gives her ownership of any song she sings. That voice, however, resides in a body with too much weight, hypertension, heart disease and diabetes. Unfortunately, those are the precise characteristics of what’s called the “metabolic syndrome” that plagues too many midlife women of color in this country.

The statistics are sobering.

African Americans are more likely to have multiple comorbidities, to die from a COVID infection and have complications from the COVID vaccines. They die at a younger age because of these awful health statistics.

Think Aretha Franklin succumbing to pancreatic cancer at age 76-years-old or Mahalia Jackson who passed away at 60-years-old from heart disease. Do you see the pattern here?

Back to the phone call for help from a very frustrated and frightened friend. Not soon after her 2nd vaccine dose she had head aches and difficulty talking or finding her words. She definitely knew that something was very wrong and took herself to the emergency room.

They evaluated her by checking a brain CT Scan. The scan was negative as was the remainder of her workup. She was advised that for a better assessment she would need an MRI of her head. She was deemed stable and told to follow up with her primary doctor and get the MRI as an outpatient.

Fast forward to no available appointments with a neurologist until 4 weeks later. This lengthy wait is adding to her delayed diagnosis.

As it turned out she had another episode of symptoms and went back to the ER within a few days. Again she had the same workup, was found not to have any immediate or acute issues, was deemed able to go home and follow up for an outpatient MRI.

This time she called the Rogue and I ordered the MRI! What? Yes, gynecologists do order MRI’s but usually of the abdomen and pelvis. She was able to get an appointment for the MRI I ordered, but still not until one week away. Again, more waiting just adds to the impact of her delayed diagnosis.

She persisted in connecting with her doctor. And 24 hours later, her doctor ordered the MRI. The MRI diagnosed a stroke!

The irony: her own doctor admonished her for not “getting in sooner.” Grr…

Researchers from Johns Hopkins found 71% of diagnostic errors occur in outpatient settings like in the ER where infections and more critically, vascular events are missed.

This story is an example of a delayed diagnosis. In the emergency department (ER), if you do not have an acute or immediately life-threatening or severely challenging health issue, the doctors consider you to be stable. They will then tell you to follow up with your doctor.

Any further workup occurs in the outpatient setting. Long wait times due to staffing issues, insurance coverage hassles, and limited equipment access is the norm. COVID has of course made these wait times even longer!

My friend made the mistake of thinking that her stroke was caused by the delay in getting her MRI. In reality, her metabolic syndrome and chronic diseases set her up. Getting the MRI earlier could have limited the extent of damage from a stroke, but her underlying poor health status was the cause.

Here’s my Rogue Rage issue – our complex overpriced model of health care in this country is problematic. There are too many subspecialties, the focus is on acute care issues, and the over-reliance on costly high-tech equipment, procedures and drugs for evaluation and treatments.

The insurance industry completely regulates our health care from a for-profit perspective. The result is that the true caring for the individual is missing.

I know my friend felt very disgruntled, afraid, and confused because she thought no one knew what to do or how to help her. She pays for insurance. The ER doctors should have ordered an MRI for her at least at that 2nd emergency room visit.

At the crux of my rogue rage issue:

Our healthcare system’s “disease management” model fails to cure chronic diseases. In the recent past, my friend underwent open-heart surgery for her blocked heart arteries. The surgeon placed stents because she had extensive blockages. She was on medications to lower her blood pressure and to lower her blood sugar.

Now add her new medications to deal with the stroke and the polypharmacy therapy model is in full effect. NO ONE had ever addressed the obvious – she needed to change her diet and lifestyle to lose weight and to decrease the chronic inflammation that was fueling her chronic diseases.

I went rogue because I believe medicine must change its perspective. Woman do not need “sick care.” They need a vehicle to help them achieve those behavioral changes that address the root causes of these chronic diseases. I have created my Balance to Bloom / Conscious Eating program to provide nutritional education, group coaching, support, and accountability for at-risk women.

I teach how to effectively take back control of one’s health by embracing the concept that Food IS Medicine!

Medicine is advancing and evolving because of new technologies, breakthrough drugs and innovative procedures. And we are paying for it too. We pay the most for our health care. Yet globally we have the 12th highest obesity rate at 36.2%. Many different islands in Micronesia surpass us. And of these islands, Nauru has the highest obesity rate at 61.00%.

My rogue rage is screaming at you!

Before you do anything else I want you to learn how to provide your body with the nutrients it needs for robust health.

You can live a disease-free life by taking back control of your health through diet and lifestyle changes. I’ve done it for my own health journey.

After you’ve begun to experience the benefits of a nutrient-rich diet and a healthier lifestyle, you can begin working with your doctor to get off those expensive drugs and limit the need for further surgeries. Imagine no more long waits for a doctor’s appointment or having to visit one specialist after another. Imagine no more copays and deductibles. Consider the possibility of no more delays in diagnosis, misdiagnosis, or medical errors of omission or commission because you are now so healthy.

All of this is possible when you learn how to provide your body with the nutrients it needs to heal and repair. You can live a disease-free life by taking back control of your health through diet and lifestyle changes. Changing one’s behavior is a big challenge! Just remember that big challenges are built into the fabric of big accomplishments!!

I’m Dr. Sy and I’m a Rogue Gynecologist. I’m sick and tired of how the medical establishment treats African American women. So, I created my virtual Balance to Bloom group coaching program because it offers nutritional education, how-to guidance, motivation and most critically, accountability. Working in a group of like-minded women makes the process of changing your diet and lifestyle not just doable, but fun! Contact me today to schedule a conversation.

Do you have a story about a delayed diagnosis you’d like to share? Please let me know in the comments below.