My mom’s ongoing deteriorating health and my own recent medical situations have led me into deep reflection about women, especially women of color being aware of our bodies and knowing what is “normal” for you and then being able to intelligently and calmly yet strongly advocate with medical professionals when you want/need something.
I think that women of color in particular have been shamed when not feeling well. The whole myth of the “Strong Black Woman” or the “Tough Latina” who keeps working and caring for others through aches and pains is so bad for our health and psyche! So many of us suffer in silence. We don’t tell our partners, family, or friends what’s happening with/to us and we end up coping in ineffective and unhealthy ways.
ALL women need to take control of their bodies and learn to speak up and advocate when things are not feeling “normal!”
In no particular order, here is a quick list of how to know yourself and get prepared to advocate when needed:
- Know the names of your body parts and organs and what their purpose/function is. When the doctor asks you “Where does it hurt?” You can specifically and definitively say “I am experiencing sharp pain in my lower abdomen that has not been resolved by taking any over the counter pain medications for the last 24 hours….” I learned that doctors & nurses perk up when you have sound and solid information about yourself…
- Get healthy so you can have an appropriate baseline from which to judge “malfunctions” and “ailments” If you are always “sick” or “hurting” or tired or weak…how do you know when you need medical attention and intervention? If you are healthy (well-rested, engage in light to moderate exercise, eat balanced) then your body regulates to a healthy baseline so you have a starting marker for when things go awry.Find a health care professional you like and trust and can depend on; then make & keep regular appointment with her or him.
- Find a health care professional you like and trust and can depend on; then make & keep regular appointment with her or him.
- Ask friends and family who they see; do some research; find the right practitioner for your personality and needs and see them even when all is well.
- Don’t be intimidated by a busy doctor or nurse or their medical jargon. Write down questions/concerns before and go in prepared. Ask for an extra 15 minutes when scheduling if you think you’ll need it.
- Don’t allow doctors or nurses to stereotype you and your habits based on your race or ethnicity. Educate them on who you are and your habits.
4. Speak up! Do not be afraid or shy to say what is wrong or what hurts or does not feel right.
5. Take a holistic approach. Don’t just get physically healthy – get mentally & emotionally healthy as well.
6. Be a role model. If you get & stay healthy then your significant other, children, family, friends will be inspired into getting & staying healthy. Teach your children, significant other, and family & friends how to know their bodies and encourage them to keep regular appointments, eat healthy, and speak up!
For me, September is back-to-school (work) and it also means new resolutions for staying on track with healthy living!
Black Women’s Health Imperative: http://www.blackwomenshealth.org/
Black Women’s Health: http://www.blackwomenshealth.com/
National Alliance for Hispanic Health: http://www.hispanichealth.org/about/legacy.aspx
National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health: http://latinainstitute.org/
Asian Women for Health: http://www.asianwomenforhealth.org/
National Indian Women’s Health Resource Center: http://www.niwhrc.org/