A woman rises with confidence and advocates for herself among her peers and doctors.

Health versus Women's Health

Last updated: May 2022

Health is a funny thing.  It's one of those things that I certainly didn't appreciate until my de novo Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC) diagnosis in 2017.  I'd taxed my body quite a bit and it rose to the occasion more than once before that diagnosis.  After 5 years in 2022 of living with MBC and liver as well as bone mets, I don't take my remaining health for granted.

What's the difference?

And thinking about health and this month of celebrating/addressing "women's health," I find myself wondering what is different between general health and women's health. After all, we have many of the same body parts as men and men get breast cancer too since we all have mammary glands and hormones in different amounts. The health of the entire family unit is affected when one part of that unit's health is affected.

Here's where I think the difference is -- when an issue affects men, they speak up loudly and forcefully and there are more men in "power" than women. Women often begin with not speaking up at all (generational, I think), attempting to work through an issue collaboratively, and generally accepting paltry efforts rather than getting mad and forceful.

Obviously, those brave souls who chained themselves to the gate to obtain Herceptin are exceptions.

Isn't it time for women's health to become front and center?

We are the heart and soul of most families. We are the ones who carry the next generation beneath our hearts and suffer to bring those children earthside. We are usually the "household administrators," managing schedules and children and houses and all the little things that keep households running.

Yes, I know that breast cancer is a multi-billion dollar business and yet the funding mostly goes towards early-stage research and awareness campaigns from everything I've read. I realize the tide is turning on that and that so much work has gone into doing that, but it's taken decades. Decades where we still lose 40,0000-42,0000 men and women in the US every year.

Feminism and justice

I see people joke at times that if men had to deal with the sexual health struggles that many of us handle through menopause, especially those of us in medication or surgically induced menopause, there would be a solution immediately. I see the Viagra-type medications and how accurate a PSA count is to address and treat prostate cancer and my blood starts to simmer. Feminist isn't always an acceptable or positive label and I'm not really sure that it resonates with me.

But Justice is a word that resonates with me.

Is it just that half of the population of the world should be treated as second class?  Is it just that the glass ceiling hasn't been shattered for good? Is it just that we still have to beg drug companies and research companies to at least put 50% of research towards MBC when really the concept of triage should be employed? Is it just that the only category of people getting breast cancer that grew are those of us under 40?

Health should be fairer

Personally, I would love to see the concept of health be fairer, more just, that women's health would be at least as important as those issues that men face.  And we all need to work together to ensure that we're heard. We all need to speak up when our concerns are brushed aside or downplayed or just ignored.

As was said in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, one of my favorite movies of all time, -- "men might be the head, but we women are the neck." Let's move some heads, ladies.

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