My pain is real and the medical system is broken, misogynoir is more pervasive than what is generally perceived, and Black women deserve to been seen. By Jazmine Joyner I was an antisocial 7th grader who wanted nothing more than to read books and watch movies. Being the new kid at my middle school, I had no friends and spent most of my days in the library reading “Fear Street” books. My closest friend was the librarian Mrs. Stanley, a tiny white woman with coke bottle glasses and a blonde pageboy haircut. I would eat lunch with her in that library, talk about books, and what I was learning in class. I felt truly invisible in my school and in an effort to appease my father (who loved sports and thought I should try out for some) and to make some friends, I tried out for the track and field team. Practices would start off with running and conditioning, something I particularly hated. Cardio has never been my strong suit, and back then I struggled to even finish a mile. It was during one of my first practices that I felt a sharp throbbing pain in my lower left abdomen. It felt like I was being burned and stabbed at the same time—it took the breath from my lungs.The pain would often show up as soon as I started running and I would fall to my knees on that dead grass, gasping for air and holding my side. I told my coach about the pain I was experiencing, and she said to me it was just cramps. I had recently started having periods so I had no idea what was right and what was wrong when it came to menstrual pain. So when she said it was cramps I just took her word for it, she had to have been right. Right? Turns out she was so very wrong. The pain just got worse and it wasn’t just when I ran or was physically active, it happened all day, every day. I would stand up to go to my next class and the razor blade like “cramp” would spring to life and send me abruptly back down into my seat. I would walk in between passing periods bent over like a praying mantis, clenching my teeth, sweating like crazy, trying my hardest to get through the day. I went to see my doctor and when I voiced my concerns that the cramps where constant even when I wasn’t on my period, she told me that I was overreacting and that it was normal. So I took Motrin and continued to push through the daily pain. One night I woke up vomiting, the cramps had reached a level I can only describe as full blown labor contractions (which I later learned was very similar, if not worse to the end stages of contractions). I was crying, rocking, and folded like a lawn chair. I couldn’t keep anything down. I was bleeding through every pad and tampon I put on, and I can remember thinking I was dying, that this was it I was going to bleed to death and die. I built up the strength to hobble to my mother's room. It was around 3:00 am, and I was the only one who was awake in the house. I knocked on her door, walked in, and she took one look at me and leapt out of bed.
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How can we create a more inclusive discussion about the very common endocrine disorder, PCOS? By Toni-Marie Gallardo Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is an endocrine disorder that affects 10% of people with ovaries. It can lead to ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer, problems with ovulation, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. It is caused by the body’s overproduction of androgens, under production of progesterone, and insulin resistance. This is a brief explanation, but I don’t want to regurgitate the same narrative that most of the PCOS online community spouts. Black, indigenous women, trans and gender nonconforming people of color (BIPOC) are often left out of the narrative. I was officially diagnosed with PCOS in 2014. I say officially, because if you’re anything like me and other BIPOC, then you are already familiar with the dangerous but necessary tradition of self diagnosis. It took me three years to overcome the generational trauma that most BIPOC experience when going to the doctor’s office. Low income communities and hourly wage earners often aren’t able to take time off from work, aren’t made aware of all their options, don’t trust physicians, or are simply used to creating their own remedies through traditional means. Today, although I am Mexican American with the privilege of healthcare, the trauma manifests as telling myself “it’s not that bad,” or “I’m being dramatic,” which is usually reinforced by family members. I brought up the symptoms of PCOS to my mother–she laughed and said I was just Mexican, thick and hairy, and gave me twenty bucks to start waxing.
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