Melissa Harris-Lacewell is a Princeton professor and a political pundit. She also has fibroids, and last month Harris-Lacewell had a hysterectomy. Fibroids are "growths in the uterus that appear during the reproductive years," as they're described in this companion piece to Lacewell's article on the Root.com. That description makes fibroids sound relatively benign, but the truth of the matter is that for Lacewell and many other African American women, fibroids can mean pain and massive blood loss, and because not many people talk about them, fibroids can evoke feelings of shame. "'Woman troubles' are not polite conversation," Harris-Lacewell writes. "Fibroid symptoms can be degrading and embarrassing. The possibility of losing our reproductive capacity makes fibroids hard to confront. But our silence has real consequences...Because we don't talk about it in public, there is little pressure from black communities on the medical establishment to find better alternatives for alleviating our suffering."
In the companion piece on fibroids, Linda Villarosa writes, "Though most of us will suffer from fibroids at some time in our lives, relatively little is known about them." And it seems that little is known about them because many doctors don't take women and their medical problems seriously. According to an article from CNN in May, one of the biggest problems in the medical care of women is that they don't question doctors. Dr. Christiane Northrup, the author of Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom told CNN. "Even very well-educated women freeze up and don't speak up"
And sometimes, even when women speak up, doctors don't treat their concerns with the gravity they deserve. I've been dealing with this myself lately. I've been having my period every two weeks, and I went to the doctor to get it checked out. She found my physical to be shipshape, but sent me to get a sonogram on Friday afternoon to make sure everything was ok. The radiologist looked at my sonogram and told me I had a condition. When I inquired about the condition, he brushed me off. "You have to talk about that with your gynecologist." I asked him several different questions, trying to ascertain anything, even a brief notion of what this condition might mean for me, and all he did was scoff, "Well it's not cancer," though worst case scenario it could cause fertility issues, as if that should quell any lingering upset I might have. To compound matters, my gyno is now on vacation, and no one in her practice will look at my chart because I'm not pregnant. (They only answer emergencies for pregnant women, apparently.)
So now I'm just waiting to hear about what I have and what it might mean. But let Lacewell's strong and well-informed story be a lesson to you: don't dismiss or be embarrassed by your own medical worries because you're intimidated by a doctor. Just remember ladies, it's uterUS, not uterYOU.
Related: Pros And Cons Of The Pill Tricky For Black Women [Reuters]