Have you ever noted that the women in your families are naturally ‘destined’ to suffer from ‘women related’ problems? Why are we ignoring ourselves?
These days, we hear and read a lot about equality for women, in every sphere of life. With respect to education, rights as a citizen, equal opportunities, matrimonial rights, all of which are constituent pillars for our overall well-being and advancement.
But how often have you seen healthcare being treated as a critical focus area worthy of investigation, research, creating precedents and global policy across strata’s of society. Is the right to being healthy and living a long, disease free life not a basic right?
I was reading a wonderful National Geographic article by Zoanne Clack who is a physician, writer and co-producer of the popular show, Grey’s Anatomy. As a writer, I have always been taken in by the clarity and believability of the characters the makers created, led by a strong female cast who often live life on their own terms.
It turns out that much on the lines of art imitates life, she turned to the women who walked through her doors as inspiration for these characters. When it comes to women, the geographical, cultural, racial lines blur and we all blend into this one giant melting pot of vicissitudes of circumstances. Where everything becomes more important. Parents, studying, career, children, husbands, friends, the home, chores, responsibilities take over and the health of the person holding all these strings fades into mere oblivion.
I come from a loving family filled with women, where despite societal conditioning, we had the privilege of a very loving, nurturing and supportive environment to grow up in. Despite all of this, we lost sight of the beautiful, talented, vivacious, able and gentle woman who stitched together every piece of the world we occupied, our mother, and after years of suffering, we lost her to a degenerative disease.
Every day we ask ourselves the same question, did we ever truly look after her? Have you ever noted that the women in your families, the ever smiling mausis, the indulgent kakis, the silver haired nanis and dadis, are naturally ‘destined’ to suffer from ‘women related’ problems? Aching legs, knees and backs, shortness of breath, heat flashes, dementia, cervical cancer, degenerative livers, and the list keeps getting longer.
I am no doctor but I have enough intelligence and have read enough reports to make me believe that while all deaths and diseases are not avoidable, so many lives can be saved through early screening, identification and treatment. The world over, women are the ones taking a backseat when it comes to early detection and prevention of health issues.
Women are such innate nurturers and beautiful multitaskers that people assume they are okay, that everything inside their bodies is ok. Well guess what, ageing and degeneration of functions and organs are as obvious a transition for women as for men.
Yes. Absolutely. What comes with a great degree of sensitivity and pride is the false bravado that ‘we can take it all’. Unfortunately, not talking about things doesn’t make them go away. According to Zoanne, this is a disservice. She says, “More women need to open their mouths and talk. About their miscarriages or their infertility, or their contraception scares, cancer, heart disease, drug abuse. The stigma often keeps us silent as well. But without loud and clear advocacy, the research will not get funded and the policies will not get overhauled. It’s only by finding our voices that we can strengthen each other and grow together into a force for healthy change.”
In the medical world, there is already a bias working against us. Whether it’s the ‘brush under the carpet’ attitude of clustering everything women might feel as an ‘emotional’ response and not giving the problem its due, to manufacturing mass drugs that are tested primarily on men and not as efficacious on women as a result, don’t we already have odds stacked against us that we are becoming part of the problem?
We owe it to ourselves and every woman around us to be torchbearers of this message of wellness and prevention. Our aunts, mothers, nieces, neighbours, friends, help at home, rank strangers even. It might seem that way, but we aren’t invincible.
When the ICU and needles and beeping monitors come calling, no amount of love and regret can save the ones we want to hold on to. The one thing that stands between this eventuality and a healthy happy life is being as aware and responsible towards our own bodies as we are towards others in our lives. Changing the world would feel great, but ensuring the world around you is safer and healthier is the first step.
Image via Pexels
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