- After Danielle Soviero's right side went numb and she started slurring, she went to the hospital.
- A doctor found a benign tumor that had bled, but told her to live as normal.
- 6 months of fear later, she found another doctor, who removed the tumor that had tripled in size.
At first, 24-year-old Danielle Soviero thought the numbness on the right side of her body was a pinched nerve. But within days she was slurring her speech and dropping things. That's when she went to the hospital.
While there, she said, doctors diagnosed her with a benign tumor that had caused blood to pool in her brain. "I'm freaking out. I'm 24 years old and you hear the word … 'brain tumor,'" the now 25-year-old preschool teacher in Long Island told Today.
But she says her doctor didn't share her panic. Since the tumor was benign and the bleeding could have been a one-off incident, he told Soviero to live life as "normal," she told Insider.
Had Soviero followed his advice, she may not be alive today, since the condition she had can cause stroke and, rarely, death. Other young women have spoken out about how advocating for themselves in the healthcare system have saved their lives.
Soviero's first doctor told her surgery wasn't an option
Soviero tried to follow her doctor's advice but lived in fear for about six months. "As you can imagine, living 'normally' knowing you have a brain tumor that can hemorrhage at any moment is a bit difficult," she told Insider.
Then, in April 2021 she suffered a migraine so excruciating she thought she was going to die. When she texted the clinician, she said he merely advised acetaminophen.
For two more weeks, she experienced a "strange pressure" in her head that felt like her brain was moving when she stood up, according to Today. "I called my doctor and I was like, 'Something is wrong. I need another MRI. I'm not going to take 'no' for an answer.'"
The MRI found Soviero's tumor had doubled in size and had hemorrhaged again. But the doctor said it couldn't be removed due to its depth and location, Soviero said.
"I was angry. I decided that I needed to take matters into my own hands," Soviero told Insider. "I researched all about my condition and made appointments with the top neurosurgeons in the country."
She found one who told her surgery was, in fact, her only option to avoid permanent damage. Before the July 2021 surgery, the surgeon discovered the tumor had tripled in size and could have caused a stroke or death.
The 6-hour procedure was successful, but it's taken months of occupational, physical, and speech therapy to relearn even how to speak and eat.
She told Today it was unlike her to push back on a doctor, but "it felt pretty good to be in charge of my own body."
Young women often report being dismissed by clinicians
Research has shown that women report more severe levels of pain, more frequent pain, and longer periods of pain than men, but are treated for it less aggressively. One 2018 survey found 62% of women have felt dismissed by a male doctor compared to 42 percent of men. When visiting female clinicians, 47% of women feel dismissed and 37% of men do.
Those slights can be dangerous.
Brittany Scheier, who suffered a stroke at 27, previously told Insider her symptoms were brushed off in the ER as drug- or alcohol-related. Another woman told Insider that her birth-control linked blood clot was also dismissed as alcohol or drugs at age 15. And TikTokers, including one pregnant woman whose stroke was misdiagnosed as dehydration, have encouraged others to speak up for themselves.
Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a cardiologist in New York City, previously told Insider she often hears women say "I was listening to the doctor. Maybe they're right,'" she said. "No one knows our bodies as well as we do. Nobody is living in our bodies. We know when we're not OK."