Sydney comedian and endometriosis sufferer Anna Dooley has been left humiliated after a pharmacist allegedly belittled her as she tried to fill a prescription for painkillers. "Careful, you might overdose," the pharmacist told her in front of a shop full of people she claimed, as if to imply she had a drug problem rather than a chronic disease.
Ms Dooley was diagnosed with endometriosis — which causes tissue similar to the lining of the womb to grow in other parts of the body — at the age of 21 after a 4.5-hour surgery and experiences severe lower abdominal pain and other symptoms that affect her quality of life.
"It makes you feel ashamed, that's the overwhelming feeling," Ms Dooley told Yahoo News Australia. "I was just standing there and the first thought I had was, this is a man who has a sense of power being the owner of this pharmacy. He has a responsibility to the public and a duty of care," she said.
Ms Dooley, who is performing in her own show ENDHOE at the Sydney Fringe, recounted her interaction with the pharmacist in an emotional TikTok video, revealing through tears that he shamed her in front of other customers by broadcasting her private information and insinuating she was a drug addict.
This came after she was advised by her GP to find a pharmacy she could visit regularly so she could be flagged by the government as a legitimate customer and avoid any suspicion of "shopping around" for pills.
"I said I have endometriosis and he doesn't let me finish speaking," Ms Dooley recalled. She claims the pharmacist then interrogated her, forcing her to explain her medical history. "He just immediately hands me Naloxone spray and said, 'I have to give you this legally, it's complimentary from the government in case you overdose'. So awful," she said.
Endo sufferer calls for change in Australia
Ms Dooley acknowledged that doctor and pill shopping is a problem in Australia, but said that shouldn't make it difficult — or shameful — for genuine endometriosis sufferers to access prescribed pain relief. "All these women and uterus owners are being labelled junkies because they've been told to take these pain meds so they don't have to come into hospital and clog up a bed," she vented.
As for what needs to change, Ms Dooley says shame is the biggest hurdle. "I've thought about this a lot and that's what it comes down to. If there's no shame, that's when the communication will come. And when you don't feel ashamed or embarrassed and you come forward and ask people for help and state what you need, then there will be more people doing that," she told Yahoo News Australia.
Dangers of endo sufferers being turned away
According to Endometriosis Australia, over 830,000 people in Australia live with the disease, and shockingly, it takes an average of 6.5 years to be diagnosed. Some of the symptoms are pain in the pelvic region, lower back or legs; fatigue; heavy or irregular bleeding; pain with bowel movements; pain on or around ovulation' pain during or after sex; and pain when you urinate.
CEO of Endometriosis Australia Maree Davenport told Yahoo about the damage that can be done when sufferers like Ms Dooley have their symptoms dismissed. "If the person isn't taken seriously and referred for diagnosis, it can impact their whole quality of life, their work, their capacity to have financial security, but also importantly, their fertility," Ms Davenport said.
Pharmacist's response 'heartbreaking but common'
Endometriosis Australia Ambassador Kylie Brown knows all too well the feeling of being judged by allied health professionals. Speaking to Yahoo, she said, "It's so heartbreaking but common. I've been turned away so many times. Why can't they flag that you've got endo? If the government can flag that you're getting prescription medication too much, can't they flag that you need it more?"
The one positive to come out of Ms Dooley's experience is the overwhelming support she's received since posting the video. "I didn't think anyone would care, but it turns out, a lot of people care," she said.
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