by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 11 May 2006)
Next week is National Women’s Health Week in the US. I would have never known any such thing existed except that I went searching for news items that would highlight this important subject.
I was recently made very aware of just how different healthcare can be for women and men. Over the past four years I have suffered from severe pain attacks from a mysterious source. The first time it happened, in September of 2003, I was put through a full battery of tests to determine the cause.
After being put through the wringer (I really hate all those tests), the doctors could not find what was causing my pain and said it had to be something like kidney stones, though they found no reason to believe that was the cause either.
The pain attacks happened about the same time in 2004 and again in 2005, and then it started happening more frequently. Each time the doctors could not find what was causing the pain. I have a high pain tolerance, but this kind of pain was off the Richter scale and absolutely unbearable.
The good news is that a new doctor finally pinned down the cause – endometriosis. I had never even heard of the disease before, but it is an issue that only affects women. Now I can finally get the treatment I need, which is simply taking some medication to control certain chemicals in my body to help prevent future attacks and some pain medicine when needed.
What I found most interesting is that this disease affects 5.5 million women in the US and Canada alone, and millions more around the world – yet the dozen or so doctors who examined me could not pinpoint my problem. Although I told every single one of them that the pain was always around my monthly cycle, none of these trained medical professionals – including a Gynaecologist – knew what was wrong.
This fact made me think about the millions of other women around the world whose bodies are racked with excruciating pain on a regular basis. Although medical science has made significant advancement over the last few decades, it seems we still lag behind in the treatment of women’s healthcare issues.
Endometriosis does not kill a woman, but it causes so much pain that there were times when I wished I would die. If we have dentists who can help us with the pain from a mere toothache, then why is it that millions of women around the world are living in such pain from health issues like endometriosis?
Still unknown health issues like this impact the overall quality of a person’s life in so many ways. After these attacks, I would spend weeks recovering because I would feel like a train hit me. It affected my sex drive too. I know men think sex is not important to women, but it is.
I am finally done with the pain and all those damnable tests, but when I read about how many of my sisters around the world could have this disease, my heart broke for each and every one of them.
When it comes to breast cancer, the medical community has done a great job with its worldwide campaign to educate women on how to detect the early signs. However, with endometriosis, it seems like it is the medical community itself that needs to be educated on how to detect it.
I know my body very well and knew the previous diagnoses of kidney stones were not correct. Even the doctors felt like they were just taking a stab in the dark for a lack of any other possible reason for the pain.
Which is why a woman should always go with her instincts on such matters. Women, don’t let your doctor intimidate you. He or she should be working with you to help keep you healthy, not treating you like you’re ignorant of your own body.
I strongly encourage every woman to make an appointment for a medical check-up within the next month if you have not had one within the last year or so. We often get so caught up in taking care of everyone else in our lives that we don’t take the time to take care of ourselves.
However, ladies, if we do not properly take care of ourselves and take the time to nurture our mental, social and physical health, then one day soon our loved ones could be the ones taking care of us.
I don’t know about you, but I want to live to see my grandchildren and even great grandchildren. I intend to be around for a long time and if that means sacrificing an hour or two for one day a year to ensure good health, then I will gladly make that sacrifice to see my grandchildren grow up.