‘Unpregnant’ Normalizes Abortion, And That’s Critically Important

Teen pregnancy isn’t a new subject matter for a film. There are movies like Juno, Saved, Riding In Cars With Boys, etc. But there aren’t any films that focus on the teen girl having an abortion. Enter Unpregnant, an original film on HBO Max.

In Unpregnant, Veronica (played brilliantly by Haley Lu Richardson) is a high school senior who gets pregnant by her high school boyfriend. Knowing that a pregnancy will ruin the perfect life she’s cultivated, she decides to have an abortion. But she can’t tell anyone her plan — her friends wouldn’t understand, and her religious parents would freak. The film does an incredible job at realistically portraying what it is to make the decision to have an abortion.

Unpregnant does a great job at showing the lengths a woman has to go to have an abortion. Veronica lives in Missouri and finds that because she’s only 17, the closest place she can get an abortion without parental consent is Albuquerque, New Mexico. And the only person who can help her is her childhood best friend, Bailey (played by the hilarious Barbie Ferreira.) Bailey also happens to be the person who found Veronica taking a pregnancy test in school. What’s so clever about the film is that it packages very important subject matter as a road trip comedy. But you never really forget what they’re on a mission to do.

“Normalizing abortion is what we have to do,” Ferreira explained in an interview with Cosmopolitan. “Society puts this pressure on people who are getting abortions, that they should feel a lot of guilt and shame and really emotional about it. Most people are just relieved.”

Overall, abortion rates in the United States are dropping. According to research compiled by Pew Research Center in 2013, the rate of teen (15 to 19 years old) abortion has been on a steady decline since the 1970s. In 2013, of the 450,000 teen pregnancies, about 24 percent ended in abortions. And the CDC reports that teen pregnancies in general have been declining in the last few years. There are a lot of reasons for the decline, but having a better understanding of their options is one of them. While the CDC doesn’t give specific stats about the teenage abortion rate specifically, they said in 2016 there were about 11.6 abortions per 1,000 women.

Of course, Unpregnant shows other realities of what it’s like for women, especially young women, having an abortion. In one scene, the girls find themselves stuck at a carnival in Texas. After they make plans to get a ride, a very nice, generic looking couple and their baby approach. Instantly you’re like “oh shit.” So they offer the girls a ride and stupidly, they accept. They wake up the next morning in the car unsure of where they are. Turns out, the couple has taken them to their home instead. You know something is up because they still have Veronica’s phone. Over a pancake breakfast, they inform the girls they offered a ride because they heard them making the appointment for the abortion at the carnival.

The ensuing chaos is done in a really clever way. It would be easy to paint them as the cult-like Jesus freaks they clearly are. But instead it’s hilarious. The girls steal the keys to the family’s SUV and book it. Suddenly, the husband, played by Breckin Meyer, appears driving a camper. That would have been funny enough, but the camper has a giant praying baby on the front. So imagine a giant praying baby camper chasing two teens in an SUV through the desert, with the driver trying to coax them back over the camper’s loudspeaker.

He means well, and isn’t inherently a bad person. And that’s what is really brilliant about the whole scene. More often than not, the portrayal of evangelical pro-lifers in the media makes them out to be nuts. And it’s not that some of these people aren’t insane, but they’re also very normal. They truly believe they’re doing the right thing. Even though we know they’re really not.

“You’re exactly the type of person to get a secret abortion,” Bailey hisses at Veronica in another scene. And it’s true. There is no “type” of person who gets an abortion, and that’s the whole point. Per society’s beliefs, Bailey would be the one who got pregnant at 17. She is moderately supervised by her mom and is a loner. Veronica is smart, has loving parents, and is well-liked. But just as in real life, even the well-liked, smart girls are having sex. Anyone having sex can get pregnant.

One of the most honest scenes in Unpregnant is the actual abortion scene. It would be very easy for them to do something incredibly dramatic and graphic, but they present it in a very honest way. As the nurse describes the procedure, you see it happening on screen. That’s it. There’s no commentary or underlying meaning attached to it. This portrays it as exactly what it is: a medical procedure. During the scene, I was worried that she would change her mind after all they’d been through, but she never does. So many other shows and movies that deal with abortion use that moment right before to show the character’s doubt and sway their decision. But Unpregnant doesn’t do that. You can see that Veronica is obviously nervous, but she never ever wavers from her decision. It was refreshing to see.

Another really refreshing thing is Veronica’s emotional journey throughout Unpregnant. While she never falters in her need for an abortion, she does change her mind about her openness talking about it. At first, she doesn’t want anyone to know. Which makes sense; she’s 17 and has all her shit together. She feels like a failure and doesn’t want to let anyone down. But as she goes through this insane journey just to have the procedure, it causes her to change her mind. She goes through a battle to keep her autonomy. Throughout the film, she realizes how unfair the whole process of abortion is. Women shouldn’t have to drive almost 1,000 miles across multiple states to have an abortion if they want one.

Unpregnant takes a stance on abortion, but never makes a judgment in either direction. It emphasizes the importance of a woman having the option of choice, and how the problem with the ability to choose is the lack of availability for those making the choice. Veronica knows what’s best for her, and she just wants that choice honored. The film never says “teen pregnancy = bad and abortion = good.” What it does is highlight the heart of every argument on the subject.

The only person who can truly make a decision about abortion is the person the pregnancy is directly affecting, and Unpregnant does a fantastic job of letting us see the struggles — both internal and external — of making such a choice.

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The RBG ‘Dissent Collar’ Is Back At Banana Republic

And 100 percent of the proceeds will be donated to the International Center for Research on Women

The late Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s “Dissent Collar” is being re-released by Banana Republic with a new name fitting the champion of women’s rights and gender equality: the Notorious Necklace.

Ginsburg, the second woman in history to sit on the bench of the U.S. Supreme Court and often referred to as “The Notorious RBG,” died Sept. 18 after a battle with cancer. As we continue to mourn her death, Banana Republic decided to bring back its original black-and-white beaded necklace given to her at the Glamour Women of the Year Awards, which she won in 2012.

Banana Republic

The sequined accessory, often worn by Ginsberg as a symbol of her disagreement with the majority opinion on Supreme Court cases, got its name after she sat down with Katie Couric for a 2014 interview. “This is my dissenting collar. It looks fitting for dissent,” she said.

“You know, the standard robe is made for a man because it has a place for the shirt to show, and the tie. So, Sandra Day O’Connor and I thought it would be appropriate if we included as part of our robe something typical of a woman,” Justice Ginsburg told the Washington Post in 2009.

Banana Republic officially renamed it the Dissent Collar Necklace in 2019, with 50 percent of the retail price donated to the American Civil Liberties Union Women’s Rights Project.

Banana Republic

“Banana Republic feels this is an opportunity to benefit the advancement of women’s rights as a continuation of the brand’s commitment to champion equality,” the company said in a statement, per Fashionista.

“Originally released in 2012, we’re reissuing this special necklace with its sparkling glass stones and a velvet tie,” the retailer said on its website.

While the necklace became a symbol of her dissents, it became famous when she took to the bench following Donald Trump’s election in 2016. “I can’t imagine what this place would be — I can’t imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president… For the country, it could be four years. For the court, it could be — I don’t even want to contemplate that,” she told the New York Times in July before the election.

“My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed,” Ginsburg later told her granddaughter, the week before her death.

The necklace, which is now available for preorder until its official launch on Nov. 30, will be sold for $98 with 100 percent of the proceeds being donated to the International Center for Research on Women, an organization that honored RBG with its Champions for Change award in 2016.

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Let’s Normalize Doing Whatever The Hell We Want With Our Pubic Hair

My kids are teenagersand after listening to them fight over razors and finding those razors in the bathroom filled with pubic hair, I asked them all what the hell was going on. 

They informed me that everyone shaves their pubic hair (don’t forget the taint) because pubic hair is gross.

“So, this is something you talk about with your friends?” I asked.

Apparently, yes. And according to them, having pubic hair is as dirty as eating your boogers.

I remember in my high school days, if a person with a penis had a foreskin, everyone knew about it even though there were no such things as dick pics and they didn’t spend their free time flashing everyone. 

I’m not saying it was right — it was horrible actually — I’m just reminding us all of the way it was.

It sounds like that’s how it is now if you have pubic hair, which absolutely makes my blood boil. When a thirteen-year-old feels like they have to shave or wax their private parts bald because everyone else is doing it, it’s cause for concern.

I believe if you want hair there, you should have hair there without thinking you are a wild boar who doesn’t know how to take care of themselves. And if you like the way you look better when you are all sleek and trim, well that’s how you should style yourself.

It wasn’t until I divorced and got back into the dating world that I realized no one had pubic hair any longer. I heard it from the men I dated, and I heard it from my single girlfriends.

However, I kept my bush because it didn’t bother me, and I wanted to spend my time doing other things. If the men I was having sex with didn’t like it, I didn’t care — my body, my choice. I also hadn’t seen my naked vagina since I was about eleven and I didn’t really want to see how she’d aged.

Then something happened about a year ago: My landing strip started turning gray, and it really bothered me. After asking my mother about it, she said if I followed in her footsteps, it would all start falling out soon anyway. WTF.

So, I decided to fire my pubic hair before it quit me. I took my pink razor to it one morning in the shower while my deep conditioner was taming my frizzy locks.

I didn’t do this to fit in. I didn’t do it because my friends told me my orgasms would be more intense. (Well, not fully anyway, but that might have crossed my mind while lathering up my bearded clam.)

I did it because frankly, I didn’t want bald patches between my legs. There are enough things about my body I’m not in love with, so why add another to the list? Again, my body, my choice.

Anyway, my point is we need to normalize doing what we want with our pubic hair. Women shouldn’t be made to feel like they aren’t beautiful or clean because they don’t want to shave their lips and assholes.

As Sandhya Ganesh notes in Medium, body hair — just like every other thing about women’s looks — goes through style phases that have changed throughout the years. These days, “With the advent of easily available porn, where women expose body hair-free bodies, men were misguided into thinking this is the sign of beauty and sex appeal. Playboy magazines are also popular, displaying nude, hairless women promoting negative body image.”

Is this where our teens are getting the idea that shaving your pubic hair is a must? From porn? God, I hope not, but let’s be real — it probably is, and we need to fix it.

In listening to my kids talk, it seems to be highly associated with how you feel about, and how you take care of, yourself.

I’ve told them a few times that pubic hair should be just like everything else in your life: you don’t follow a crowd when it comes to this kind of hygiene. You do what you want with your private area, and it’s your business, and that needs to come before other people’s opinions of you. Even a sexual partner.

The idea that women have to get rid of all their hair and always walk around bare is old news. It’s 2020 and we should do what we want with our bodies and if someone doesn’t like it, they don’t have to, period. If your partner has an objection, maybe it’s time to remind them that there are other people out there who don’t mind a garden with a little more greenery.

The fact that our teenagers feel like they have to shave in order to be cool, or clean, or whatever, is just another sign we need to normalize pubic hair in the same way we need to normalize wearing whatever you want, or being proud of your size even if it falls outside the “conventionally attractive” norm.

We need to remind them, and ourselves, that just because “everyone else is doing it” is not a good enough reason.

We have to be happy with how we are treating our bodies. After all, we’re the ones who have to live in them. And whether we prefer a plush carpet, or a hardwood floor, is up to us.

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16 Reasons RBG Was The F*cking GOAT

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has carved out a permanent place in all of our hearts, for so many reasons, not least of which was her lifelong championing of women’s rights. She was a living, breathing testament to the power of grit, tenacity, and compassion. Here are just a few reasons she truly was the ultimate GOAT, the greatest of all time.

1. She was the first person, male or female, to serve as editor at both the Harvard and Columbia law reviews.

It was rare enough in the 1950s that a woman even be granted entry into either of these prestigious universities. Yale and Princeton still did not admit women at the time. So, that Ruth Bader Ginsburg served on each of these famous student-run journals of legal scholarship is a testament to her brilliance, determination, and general badassery.

2. When people told her she couldn’t do something because she was a woman, she went ahead and did it anyway.

Ginsburg didn’t take no for an answer. She not only fought for herself, but she cleared a path for other women too. While she was at Harvard, the dean asked Ginsburg to justify her presence at the school since she’d taken a man’s place. Later, when one of her professors recommended her to serve as a clerk for supreme court justice Felix Frankfurter, Frankfurter said he wasn’t “ready” to hire a woman.

At the time, each of these instances were perfectly legal. Not only did Ginsburg scrape and claw to push past every “no” for herself, but it is largely due to her work that the sexism she personally experienced is no longer legal. Regardless of anyone’s politics, women in the United States owe her a massive debt of gratitude.

3. RBG had a voracious, competitive appetite for academic excellence, and wasn’t afraid to own it.

She graduated first in her class from Columbia Law School. According to the ACLU, Ginsburg said she didn’t originally attend law school expecting to champion women’s rights. She said she went to law school for “personal, selfish reasons. I thought I could do a lawyer’s job better than any other.” Well, she wasn’t wrong.

4. Again and again, RBG came up against sexism in her career, and she stood up to it every time.

While at Cornell, one of her professors offered her the answers for an exam in exchange for sex. At the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, where the documentary RBG premiered, she relayed her reaction: “I went to his office and I said, ‘How dare you! How dare you do this!’ and that was the end of that.”
Ginsburg often had to fight for entry and then had to fight once again for equal pay. At Rutgers Law School, where she was only the second female law professor, Ginsburg and other female employees filed a complaint under the brand new Equal Pay Act of 1963, and they won.

5. RBG co-founded the very first women’s rights law journal, the Women’s Rights Law Reporter.

At Rutgers, Ginsburg had begun teaching seminars on women and the law. Her students’ interest in the subject furthered her own, and with Elizabeth Langer, she founded and became a faculty advisor to the first journal on women’s rights, which continues to be published today at Rutgers Law School.

6. RBG co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU.

Ginsburg was a founding director of the Women’s Rights Project, created in 1972, an ongoing project that even to this day fights discrimination against women.

7. RBG became the first tenured female law professor at Columbia.

In 1972, the same year she was founding the Women’s Rights Project, Ginsburg became the first female tenured Columbia Law School professor.

8. RBG fought for all women, regardless of socioeconomic class.

While teaching at Columbia, Ginsburg learned that the school was laying off female maids but not male janitors. She complained, an injunction was filed against Columbia and supported by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and eventually, as Ginsburg told NPR in 2018, “Columbia decided they didn’t really have to lay off anyone.”

9. RBG won five out of six cases that she argued before the Supreme Court, setting precedent after precedent for defending women’s rights.

Katherine Franke, Columbia Law School professor and Director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law, said of Ginsburg, “RBG’s signature approach to combating sexism was bringing lawsuits on behalf of men who were being treated unequally because of their sex. Her thinking was that male judges would appreciate the injustice in a case where men were the victims, and in winning those cases she was building the scaffolding for addressing the sexism women suffered.”

In Duren v. Missouri, Ginsburg argued that a male convict’s right to “a jury chosen from a fair cross-section of his community was violated because it didn’t include women, whose jury duty was voluntary.” By protecting men from sexism, Ginsburg was quietly laying the groundwork for precedence that would protect women from sexism too. She truly was a legal genius.

10. RBG was the first female Jewish Supreme Court justice.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton nominated Ginsburg to the Supreme Court. Ginsburg was only the second female justice ever to serve (Sandra Day O’Connor was the first), the first Jewish person to serve since 1969, and the first female Jewish Supreme Court justice in history.

11. RBG delivered a brilliant burn like nobody’s business.

“When I’m sometimes asked ‘When will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court]?’ and I say ‘When there are nine,’ people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.” — The Notorious RBG

12. RBG’s dissents were absolutely epic.

In Supreme Court-speak, a dissent is an opinion that goes against the majority. Ginsburg became famous for her powerful dissents, which she would read aloud and which were written in normal everyday language rather than unintelligible legalese. “I like to think most of my dissents will be the law someday,” Ginsburg said in 2015 at a conversation at the University of Michigan.

13. RBG was the first justice to officiate a same-sex marriage.

In 2013, Ginsburg officiated the wedding of Kennedy Center President Michael M. Kaiser to economist John Roberts in Washington, DC, making her the first Supreme Court member to officiate a same-sex marriage.

14. RBG did pushups and planks clear into her 80s.

20 pushups every day, and 30-second planks, to be precise. It was part of her daily routine, she said at a 2016 event at the Temple Emanu-El Skirball Center in New York City

15. RBG made being a Supreme Court Justice cool.

She is popularly known as “Notorious RBG.” Need we say more?

16. Even on her deathbed, Ruth Bader Ginsburg worried about the future of the United States of America.

While on her deathbed, she reportedly told her granddaughter that her “most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” She worried about our democracy as she was actively dying. The GOP can go ahead and stop claiming a monopoly on patriotism.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, of diminutive physical stature but with the heart of a giant, moved mountains of granite and sparked hope where hope seemed pointless. It is our responsibility, our duty, to continue her work in her stead. We cannot — and will not — let her down.

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Justice RBG Is Dead At 87 And Everything Is Terrible

According to the Supreme Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died of metastatic pancreatic cancer

Champion of women’s rights and feminist icon Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has devastatingly died at the age of 87. According to the Supreme Court, who announced her death via statement on Friday, Ginsburg died of metastatic pancreatic cancer at her home in Washington, D.C., surrounding by family.

“Our nation has lost a justice of historic stature,” Chief Justice John Roberts said. “We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today, we mourn but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her, a tired and resolute champion of justice.”

A private interment service will be held at Arlington National Cemetery.

Leading up to her passing, Ginsburg may have battled bouts of cancer — including treatment for colon cancer in 1999, undergoing surgery for early-stage pancreatic cancer in 2009, and battling pancreatic cancer again last summer, completing three weeks of radiation treatment — but her strength never waned and she was as mentally sharp as ever. Not only did she make her intentions crystal clear she’d stay on the court “as long as I’m healthy and mentally agile,” but she also more recently told her granddaughter Clara Spera, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

To say the loss of Ginsburg, an historic figure who served 27 years on the nation’s highest court and was the leader of the liberal wing, is a heavy one would be a severe understatement. Leading up to her first judicial appointment in 1980, Ginsburg led the fight in courts for gender equality for more than a decade.

In 1971, Ginsburg was instrumental in launching the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. During that time, she helped write the ACLU brief in Reed vs. Reed, “a case argued before the Supreme Court that involved discrimination against women in awarding the administration of a child’s estate.”

“Reliance on overbroad generalizations … estimates about the way most men or most women are, will not suffice to deny opportunity to women whose talent and capacity place them outside the average description,” Ginsburg wrote.

Ginsburg also served as the ACLU’s General Counsel from 1973 to 1980 and on the National Board of Directors from 1974 to 1980.

Ginsburg was later appointed Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court by President Clinton in 1993, becoming the second woman to sit on the bench of the United States Supreme Court in its 212 year history.

Now with Ginsburg gone, Trump now has the opportunity to name her replacement. And if his past two appointments are any indication — Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh — the court could transform, as the New York Times puts it, into a “profoundly conservative institution” — “one in which Republican appointees would outnumber Democratic ones six to three.”

In her absence — and as many have so powerfully pointed out — we must fight and continue to fight for justice. For Ginsburg, who once said, “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

Rest now, RBG. You will be missed.

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Supreme Court Says Companies With Religious Objections Don’t Need To Pay For Birth Control

SCOTUS gave the Trump administration a victory by allowing religious employers to deny employees birth control coverage

As part of the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act, most employers weren’t allowed to opt out of providing no-cost birth control to their employees. Now, the Supreme Court has ruled that a new regulation from the Trump administration was proper in allowing companies with religious or moral objections to deny employees no-cost birth control.

In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court upheld Trump’s regulation that gave latitude to employers when it comes to providing no-cost birth control as part of their healthcare plans. The New York Times reports that government estimates suggest that this ruling could mean 70,000 to 126,000 women will lose their birth control coverage.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor were the only ones to dissent.

“We hold today that the Departments had the statutory authority to craft that exemption, as well as the contemporaneously issued moral exemption. We further hold that the rules promulgating these exemptions are free from procedural defects,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote.

The ruling is, of course, a victory for Trump, whose administration sought to expand the types of employers who could refuse to provide contraceptives as part of their health care coverage for moral and religious reasons. Planned Parenthood says nine out of 10 women will seek some kind of birth control in the course of their lives.

In their dissenting opinion, Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg wrote, “Today for the first time, the court casts totally aside countervailing rights and interests in its zeal to secure religious rights to the nth degree” and “leaves women workers to fend for themselves” in seeking birth control.

In the majority opinion, Justice Thomas argued that the Department of Health and Human Services, “has virtually unbridled discretion to decide what counts as preventive care and screenings,” and that authority “leaves its discretion equally unchecked in other areas, including the ability to identify and create exemptions from its own guidelines.”

The National Women’s Law Center condemned the ruling saying in part, “This decision will disproportionately harm low-wage workers, people of color, LGBTQ people, and others who already face barriers to care.”

Because of the ACA provision, NWLC says nearly 61 million women have birth control coverage without out-of-pocket costs.

In a 2014 Supreme Court case involving Hobby Lobby, the Court ruled that private and closely-held companies could be exempt from providing birth control based on religious or moral grounds. The Trump admin rule greatly expands that to also allow publicly traded companies and large universities to cite their religious or moral objections in providing contraceptive coverage to their employees.

The Trump administration regulation is an attempt to deliver on a 2016 campaign promise to allow employers more freedom to refuse to provide birth control coverage. Trump said employers should not be “bullied by the federal government because of their religious beliefs.”

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I’m A Physician Who Had Breast Cancer, And Here Are The Knowledge-Based Decisions I Made For Myself

So, 2020 has really been a shit year.

It has been for nearly everyone, of course, and when the stuff stops hitting the fan, we all need to take a collective breath, pat ourselves on the back, and celebrate.

I had a busy year planned for 2020: I’m a gynecologic surgeon seeing patients and trying to build a badly needed menopause clinic in a local hospital here in Seattle. I’m editing a book, and consulting and providing telemedicine care for women in menopause as Chief Medical Officer at Gennev.

But then in January, I got a diagnosis of breast cancer, and suddenly I was making new plans. Somehow I had to carve out five weeks from this life to recover from a double mastectomy, then more time later for recovery from reconstruction. I managed it, barely, to have my first surgery in March.

I thought I had it pretty much under control. My patients were scheduled with other physicians, meetings were on hold, a bunch of work up-front meant I could relax and heal. In February, I went on a vacation to Mexico, where I spent a lot of time crying on beaches and into margaritas with friends. It helped. I came back ready to move forward.

And then COVID-19 hit, and it hit right here at home: epicenter, Seattle.

Suddenly the chaos and noise of my own life have expanded to a global level, and all of us in health care are scrambling to find answers, help others stay calm and safe, keep ourselves as safe as possible on the front lines, and meanwhile I’m trying desperately to ignore the little voice inside that’s saying, “What about me?”

As a physician and surgeon, I know what cancer looks like. I have an idea how it progresses and how bad treatment can be. I wanted to get on with it, have the surgery and whatever treatment so I could recover and get back to my life. But with my first surgery scheduled for mid-March, now it looked like those carefully extracted five weeks weren’t mine anymore.

Oh, and did I mention, suddenly my kids were home all the time? They’re pretty much grown, so I have it easier than many, but the advanced clusterf*ck of trying to “home school” an attention-deficit high schooler while sympathizing with my college kid who was missing out on some pretty important stuff in her education and future career (she’s a dancer) deflated any zen I managed to scrape together in a hurry.

This is a tough time for teens and young adults who rely on their social structures more than ever, and suddenly mine were stuck with a sick mom and Zoom.

Despite being a pretty practical person, I haven’t always approached my health practically. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed as pre-diabetic at 42 that I finally started taking some things seriously. Perimenopause had added some belly fat and bumped up my bad cholesterol, so I — at last — started exercising regularly and taking medication, since eating better wasn’t enough anymore.

However, as someone with a family history of cancers, I’m a huge advocate of screening and started annual mammograms at 40.

Now that’s irony, Alanis.

As with most women in their 40s, the mammograms showed that I had dense breasts, but nothing particularly concerning.

Then Gennev started working with MiraKind, an organization researching the connection between a gene defect called the KRAS variant and a greater likelihood of developing certain cancers. I got tested, and sure enough, I was a carrier. Knowing being KRAS positive could mean I was more susceptible to breast cancer, I added an MRI to my usual mammogram (remember, dense breasts).

Two days later, they called me and said, “So, there are a couple of masses on your MRI.” A couple of biopsies revealed invasive ductal carcinoma. More testing, more biopsies, more black and blue boobs.

Now I had a decision to make: I could get bilateral lumpectomies and sign up for a life of going in every six months and probably having to get biopsies every six months. Eventually they’d find something, and I’d be right back here again. I’m a doctor — I knew how I’d feel with these things on my chest, knowing there was cancer in them. So I decided on a bilateral mastectomy.

In the end, it was the right choice: there was more cancer that hadn’t yet been detected. It was small, sure; but it wouldn’t always be small.

The hospital where I would have my surgery started disallowing non-essential surgery the week before my mastectomy was planned. And surgery on anyone who was medically fragile – old, ill, likely to respond poorly to anesthesia, etc. – was postponed.

I wanted nothing to do with postponing the surgery. I had done everything to make taking those five weeks okay for everyone it affected — patients, family, colleagues. Just the thought of redoing all that was exhausting. I had taken the time to take care of me, and dammit, I was going to take care of me!

In the end, it came down to the fact that I was young and healthy going in, so I wouldn’t need an ICU bed that was needed for a COVID-19 patient. I’d be out the next day. So we went ahead.

On March 19, all my breast tissue was removed.

March and April were spent alternating holding my breath and breathing sighs of relief: biopsy of sentinal nodes revealed no signs of spreading. Testing of the tumor showed it wasn’t aggressive enough to require chemotherapy. Because I did what I did when I did it, the cancer was Stage 1. I’ll be treated with hormone therapy; I’m on Tamoxifen. They got great margins when they did the surgery, and I don’t need radiation.

Ask anyone who knows me: I’m pretty blunt. I’m never unkind, but if a patient wants a lot of touchy-feely handholding, they should probably find another doctor. However. Telling your daughters you have breast cancer is not an occasion for blunt.

Not only was I telling them I was sick, I also knew they would watch me for signs of what was to come for them. “Realistic but reassuring” is a delicate dance. Fortunately, I was able to be pretty reassuring. It was Stage 1, not a particularly aggressive form, and I’d be fine on the other side. But I also wanted to be honest with them about their own health and the screenings they’d need, given their family history.

I could complain about how unfair it is to have bad genetics, or how much it sucks to take care of myself and still have cancer, but I really have a “shit happens” approach to life, and it served me well. Yelling about how unfair it is — as much as I was screaming it on the inside sometimes — wasn’t going to help me or my kids get through it.

COVID and being isolated together certainly didn’t make it easier. This is a hard time for kids – their lives are dominated by social things, the groups they’re in, who they communicate with, the things they do. They’re missing out on things. So managing their emotions and my own is really tough; I’m maybe not as patient as I would be otherwise, because I’m going through some shit. I have cancer and it sucks. I don’t tell them everything because it wouldn’t help them. But I try to be open and honest because I know your imagination can sometimes be worse than the truth.

It could be easy to let cancer and COVID take charge and send me screaming to a safe room, but that’s really not my style. I take precautions to protect myself from the coronavirus, but I’m still seeing patients. I know that as a healthcare professional, I’ll get it eventually. I just intend to be at full strength when it happens.

I walk every day, three to five miles with my dog. I run three days a week. I’m back in physical therapy because too many hours performing surgery have caused problems with my neck. I truly think staying active has helped with my recovery.

Recovery was tough, not so much because of pain, but because COVID meant my friends and family couldn’t help the way they wanted to: they couldn’t come clean my house or cook meals, though many dropped meals on my doorstep, rang the bell and ran.

I have two sisters who live locally, and it was killing them not to be able to come and help. One sis is a chef and she just wanted to come and cook for me, but she couldn’t come into my house. That was hard, but honestly, it was harder for them than me, since I was pretty out of it for the first two weeks after surgery.

So, yeah, 2020 is a shit year, but at least some things will get easier now. No more mammograms for me, because the reconstruction surgery scheduled for July will be done using my own abdominal tissue. From now on, a check up involves making sure the area around the reconstruction is healthy and cancer-free, including the lymph nodes and chest wall.

I know a lot about health, particularly women’s health, because it’s my job. And I made a lot of decisions, together with my doctors, based on the knowledge I have. I wanted to share a few things that might help others have an easier time of it, COVID or no.

Exercising.

It might not prevent you from having health problems, but being fit can make it easier to handle the treatment and make recovery easier and faster.

Knowing my risks.

Diabetes, cancer, heart disease are all in my family history. Knowing that helped me make better choices. And the KRAS test prompted me to do the MRI that revealed the cancer while it was still early-stage. Knowledge matters.

Focusing on me.

When I got that pre-diabetes diagnosis, I decided it was time to get a handle on me – I’ve spent my life caring for others as a doctor, wife, and mom. I was trained in residency to “go until you drop.” But suddenly I realized I needed to focus on my own health too. I made changes in work and home life, ate better, took meds. I wanted to feel good and I did. And when this came up, I had good endurance, strong muscles, a strong cardiovascular system, even strong legs and abs to help me get out of bed when I couldn’t use my arms!

Prioritizing sleep.

For the past few years, I had managed my sleep patterns to feel better, and through all of this, I managed to — for the most part — still get good sleep.

Embracing the WTF moments and moving past them.

Because I made great decisions for a solid few years before this diagnosis, there was a little “WTF?” that I did everything right and still got this disease. But we live in a toxic world, I hadn’t always made great decisions, my work has at times been really stressful, plus, I just had some bad dumb luck. There’s always been that bit of pessimism in me because my family history indicates that I have at least one cancer in my future. But, I thought, this can be dealt with, I’m healthy going in, and I’ll take this one day at a time.

Being ready to live with my post-surgery body.

I’ve lost sensation in my chest area. I bump into things, and I don’t even know it. It’s weird, and I’m mourning the loss of sensation there, but I knew it would happen, and I was at least somewhat prepared. Make plans. Have a wedge for your bed. Know what the drain looks like coming out of your body. Know who will help you shower and who will make you laugh when your life just has so much yuck in it. Because there’s a lot of yuck; you’re going to need your sense of humor. And if yours is AWOL, borrow some from a friend.

Balancing practicality and emotion.

Just because I knew what was coming doesn’t mean I didn’t have emotions around it. I had to let myself grieve the loss of my breasts even as I was taking control of the decision to have the bilateral mastectomy. I had to stop being practical and allow myself to mourn.

Finding medical providers I connected with.

Living in Seattle, I am blessed with having so many amazing medical professionals in cancer treatment. But I also wanted to work with someone I was comfortable with, someone I trusted with my body, with my future. I needed to feel they were making decisions that worked for me. Please know that you’re not hurting a doctor’s feelings if you decide to move on from them because you’re not connecting well with them. It happens all the time, and docs understand how important it is that you feel comfortable. I picked people I felt great with and felt we were making decisions for the same reasons.

Finding the blessings when I can.

Hey, I get a tummy tuck out of this – get lemons, make lemonade! I’m not exactly going to be voluptuous, but I’m good with Bs or even really big As that look nice….

THIS IS A BIGGIE: Get a screening regimen.

Don’t rely on self-breast exams — even when I knew where my biggest tumor was, I couldn’t feel it. Also, some people are pushing thermograms, claiming they’re safer than mammograms, but they are NOT safer, so do your research before committing. A mammogram isn’t perfect, but it’s a good tool and has saved lives. And you won’t get breast cancer from mammograms. The radiation is minimal: you get more from walking around for two weeks in the world. Be informed about your choices before you make them.

I could have put off the reconstruction until next year, when there’s a chance COVID-19 will be behind us, and things will be back to whatever “normal” there is on the other side. But I figured, 2020 is already a hot mess of a year, I might as well shove all the shit into this one and look forward to 2021.

So that’s what I’m doing. May you get all your shit behind you too. Now go schedule your next screening.

The post I’m A Physician Who Had Breast Cancer, And Here Are The Knowledge-Based Decisions I Made For Myself appeared first on Scary Mommy.

I’m Sending A Message To My Abuser

Trigger warning: domestic abuse, suicide.

“Do you think it will make things worse?”

That’s the number one question I’ve been asked the last two days after filing for an order of protection against an ex-boyfriend. Let me be absolutely clear; I’m in no way upset with my friends who asked me this question. I’m upset because it is absolutely normal to ask this question. Women and men who file restraining orders, orders of protection, or other similar documents, are often asked this from concerned family and friends.

The question is quite reasonable considering the climate of doubt surrounding the victim: credibility, accusations of hysteria, accusations of overreacting, or if they’re merely trying to just spite the other party. It happens. People who are scorned will make false accusations or hype up certain events. However, these people are the exception and not the rule.

The majority of abuse victims work on the painstaking tasks of filling out pages and pages of legal documents, gathering evidence, filing those papers, willingly sharing private details of their dark and personal moments with complete strangers, following up with court clerks, and the list goes on and on. You don’t just blink and then serve someone with papers. It takes a lot of time and effort initially and throughout the process.

I went through this process once before, when I was 18. It was mortifying and embarrassing on every imaginable level. My ex-boyfriend was stalking me, harassing me, and wound up breaking into my home (my mother’s home), calling me from the house phone and threatening to kill my little sister and my mom if I didn’t come home immediately. He then cut the phone line. Thankfully, he left the home and sat in his car across the driveway from mine, and my family members were okay. I had to wake my mother up at 5:00 a.m. and try to explain what happened. She was upset with me for being out past curfew with my new boyfriend and thought I was making some of it up. The cop taking the report barely believed me, if at all. If my boyfriend at the time had not seen/heard/witnessed everything with me that night, I would have been completely alone. Of course, my mother and the cop believed he was just covering for me.

Flash forward to age 34. I have a mortgage, a three-year-old daughter, a car, a job, and overall pretty normal adult responsibilities. My husband passed away last year, unexpectedly. A friend of his from high school befriended me over the summer and feelings developed between us. He seemed wonderful initially, but the ol’ bait-and-switch happened in January of this year.

After he downed an entire bottle of wine at dinner one night, he got extremely agitated that I was playing a game on my daughter’s tablet that I wanted to show her for a few minutes. He told me that his ex-wife used to be on her phone constantly playing games, and it triggered him. I had heard that story so many times in the beginning of our relationship that I always made it a point not to be on my phone too much in front of him. I never thought my daughter’s tablet would be triggering while I showed her my favorite game for a few minutes.

Driving home, I told my daughter to thank him for the dinner. She thanked him and then asked what I was doing. Before I could even respond, “Driving home,” he said, “Mommy is having a meltdown and acting crazy.”

We walked into my home and I kept my mouth shut, acted like everything was normal so as not to upset my daughter, and got her ready for bed. After she was in bed, I let all of my feelings out. I told him that disrespecting me to my daughter is not okay, now or ever, and it was a dealbreaker. I also didn’t appreciate him comparing me to his ex when I was rarely on my phone around him. I wanted to take a dig at him, so I said, “Maybe this is why she served you divorce papers without you knowing because of your shitty temper!” He started crying and saying that I was being mean and shouldn’t go there.

He said he would give me some time to cool off and went upstairs. He came down an hour later and I was still upset. I didn’t take any more digs at him, but I did tell him I could no longer see a path forward for us as a couple. After telling me that I was “acting like a bitch,” I told him he needed to leave. I knew he was incapable of driving, so I told him to get an Uber/Lyft or I would get him one. He refused and said if I was “forcing” him out of the house, that he was driving. I told him that yes, I wanted him to leave, but I did not want him to drive.

He gathered his things, all the while crying and begging me not to end things. I replied, “You crossed the line.”

He went ballistic. He grabbed the scrapbook I had spent a month working on and ripped it to shreds. I yelled, “Stop, that’s mine! What are you doing!? Get out of here!”

He opened the front door and yelled, “You FUCKING CUNT! No wonder your husband killed himself!”

The tirade continued as he walked out. “You bitch, whore, slut! Good luck with the next guy, hope he doesn’t off himself too! BITCH! FUCK YOU!”

I shut the door, locked it, walked five steps into the living room and started sobbing uncontrollably. I don’t know how long I was on the floor that night. If my video doorbell hadn’t captured all of it, I wouldn’t be able to prove he had said any of those things either. I didn’t call the police. I didn’t make a report. I did what a lot of people do once things calm down: listened to the apologies, enjoyed the weekly flowers delivered to my home, and questioned if maybe, just maybe, he was just drunk and angry that one time.

We tried being friends. I refused to get into a relationship with him, but he was definitely trying to woo me again. He said he was respecting my boundaries and my decisions and was going to give me all the space and time I needed. Sounds nice, right?

This past weekend, he had surgery. It was an outpatient surgery, but one that definitely takes two or three days of resting and meds afterwards. He had helped me through a dental surgery the previous year, and I felt like I should help. His parents either live far away or don’t have a close relationship with him.

I offered to help, under the condition that he stayed at my house for the sake of convenience. He agreed.

I picked him up from the hospital, got him into bed, gave him his medications at the right intervals, switched out ice packs, removed and reapplied gauze, and all the rest. One of my friends rode with me to the hospital to pick him up so they could drive his truck to my house and park it in the driveway.

The next morning, my friend (who also used to be my roommate while my ex and I were together), came by with his two kids to play with my daughter and say hi for a few hours. This upset my ex because they were “too loud” and “I didn’t tell him they were coming over.” I have a basement, a main level, and an upstairs. My ex was upstairs in a private bedroom while the kids were playing on the main level. The day went okay otherwise.

That evening, I told him that some friends of mine were coming over before one of them moves out of state. He got upset, grabbed his meds, and went upstairs and slammed the door. While some of my friends were over, I went upstairs several times to check on his meds, give him water and food, and see how he was doing. I could tell from his abrupt responses and rude tone that he was upset with me for having friends over, but I kept telling myself that it was my home and I didn’t need his permission. When I handed him a glass of water, he yanked it out of my hand so hard that water spilled all over the bed.

After my friends left, I did one last check and told him I was going to bed in the basement and to call or text me if he needed anything. I could tell by his demeanor that his hope was that I would sleep in bed next to him, which I in no way, shape, or form wanted to do. I told him sweet dreams and goodnight.

The next morning, we got into a fight. He accused me of spending too much time with my friends and not telling him enough of what was going on. I reminded him that it was my house, my friends, and that I had taken care of him regularly. I argued that what he was wanting me to do was lay in bed with him all day and night, but I have a kid to take care of and a house to clean. Furthermore, I wanted absolutely no part of sleeping next to him, cuddling, or anything else.

He got a phone call and stepped outside onto my front porch. He took a watering globe in my hanging flower pot, saw it was empty, and slammed it back in really hard. He was showing me that he was irritated that it was out of water, even though it had rained for the past two days (I’m not great at keeping plants alive and he’s a master at gardening). I walked outside and said, “If you’re going to act like a child, then go.”

He abruptly ended the call and followed me inside. “Of course you would tell me go while I’m on pain medication! You made me drive when I drank a bottle of wine!” Once again, I told him that he shouldn’t drive and I would call him a Lyft, and once again he refused and got his things. Déjà vu.

After smarting off to me some more and me telling him, “Leave,” signaling that I didn’t want my daughter to see or hear his nasty remarks, he slammed the front door. He walked over to my hanging potted flowers and smashed them onto my front sidewalk as hard as he could. It split the pot open and the dirt spilled out. The pink and purple flowers looked terrified face down on the concrete. The watering globe shattered everywhere.

I locked the door. I didn’t cry. I didn’t call the police. I swept up the dirt and the globe pieces, but not before my little one defied my orders of “Stay back” and rushed over, cutting her foot on a piece of the globe.

I filed for a protective order online, citing the destruction of my personal property as intending to intimidate and scare me. I blocked his phone number, his e-mail, and all social media. His calls were being blocked, but my phone was notifying me each time he called. I ignored all of it.

Soon I received messages from my mother that he had contacted her. Then I received a message from a mutual friend. Then I received another message from a mutual friend. He was trying to relay “important” information through them, none of it urgent, none of which needed to be given to me. I asked all of them to tell him to stop contacting them trying to give me messages and to not get involved in any way.

I let my close friends know what was going on, and that’s when, almost without skipping a beat, “Do you think it’s only going to get worse?” appeared. Hell, I asked myself that question.

So let me get this straightened out:

1) I could choose not to file an order for protection and wait to see if he shows up at my doorstep with a gun. He could kill me, hurt me, take me and/or my daughter hostage.

2) I could choose not to file an order for protection and wait to hear how badly he slanders me and starts rumors amongst our mutual friends and others. I could wait to hear the accusations and either defend myself or get rid of certain friends.

3) I could choose not to file an order for protection and pray that he stops the harassment.

OR

1) I could file an order for protection and wait to see if he shows up at my doorstep with a gun. He could kill me, hurt me, take me and/or my daughter hostage.

2) I could file an order for protection and wait to hear how badly he slanders me and starts rumors among our mutual friends and others. I could wait to hear the accusations and either defend myself or get rid of certain friends.

3) I could file an order for protection and pray that he stops and that the order is enough to stop him and his harassment.

There’s really not much of a difference in the outcomes for orders of protection, from what I’ve seen in the news. The main difference is that I am sending a message to him that he is on notice. I am sending the message that I have legal recourse if he contacts me or shows up at my door. I am telling him that I’m not afraid, or that I am afraid but determined.

I am telling him there won’t be any more déjà vu scenes in my home ever again. I’m telling him that my daughter comes first. I’m telling him the abuse is no longer his secret or my secret. Whether or not he wants to make things worse is his decision and that is not my responsibility. How he reacts to the order is his responsibility. We should not have to live in fear. We should not have to live in a society where we have to weigh whether spotlighting the abuse is worth the risk.

Let’s start saying, “Whether everything gets worse or better, you made the hard but right choice.” Let’s keep the blame with the abusers and their reactions.

 

Update: On June 15th, the author was granted the protective order for 10 years. 

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If You’re Wanting To Legally Free The Nipple, Here’s Where You Can (Literally) Hang Out

It’s getting hot out there, folks, and nothing signals sweaty times like a man casually doing all the things without a shirt while women change their bra for the third time of the day or give up and just walk around with paper towels under their boobs. And little more signals the hypocrisy of said man attached to his exposed man-boobs than his complaints about a woman not wearing a bra or trying to breastfeed her baby in public while clinging to the expectation that a woman should show him her tits whenever he demands it.

First of all, fuck off, Chad. Second of all, many women would love to walk around topless as freely as men do, on their terms, but it’s not universally legal. While the double standards run deep and wide in this country, specifically between genders, there are places that give equality to the nipple.

If you want to let it all hang out, 31 states in the U.S. have “top freedom.” But several factors prohibit women from walking around with breasts to the wind even if technically allowed to do so. Laws are often ambiguous and vary between cities within states. And topless women are arrested under the guise of disorderly conduct. According to the site Go Topless, if you want to know if you can free the teats, the suggestion is to Google the city name and its municipal code and key in the word “nudity.” To cover your bases, they further suggest that you “Do the same for the county where the city is located to be sure. Consult with an attorney.”

In 2019, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Kansas, and Oklahoma became the newest states to eliminate a ban on women going topless after a federal court ruling. The case was won by women who are part of the #FreeTheNipple movement—which has gained public support from Chelsea Handler, Miley Cyrus, and Chrissy Teigen. However, Utah woman Tilli Buchanan recently took a plea deal and admitted to lewdness for being topless in her own home.

Three years ago, Tilli Buchanan was hanging drywall with her husband in their Utah garage. After getting hot and covered in the residue of their work, they took off their shirts. Buchanan’s step children, a 13-year-old boy, a 10-year-old girl and a nine-year-old boy, walked in and saw their father and stepmother topless. The children’s mother filed criminal charges against Buchanan because Utah law stated that any exposure of the breast below the top of the areola is punishable with jail time and the need to register as a sex offender for 10 years. Buchanan fought the charges, but eventually took the plea deal earlier this year. Despite knowing she didn’t do anything wrong (her husband completely supported her too), the risk of being labeled a pedophile was too high.

And what it is it about the areola? What specifically about a “female” nipple makes lawmakers (men) declare them illegal? Oh right. Because people (men) sexualize breasts (women) to the point of blaming the breasts (women) for resulting behavior (harassment, assault, rape). So, instead of men getting their shit together and taking responsibility, they turn women’s bodies into their legal playground.

For clarity, I am writing this article as if gender is binary and body parts have a gender. It isn’t, and they don’t, but the laws are set up this way so I must bend a bit. However, as a nonbinary person who has had a double mastectomy with nipple grafts, I can’t help but wonder what gender my nipples are. Legally, my birth certificate and other documents indicate I am female because the state I was born in doesn’t recognize a third gender, but my chest is visually male. I no longer have breasts and my areolas and nipples have been resized and replaced to give me a masculine chest.

I could have chosen not to have my nipples put back on my body. Without nipples, do I have a gender? What about the transgender woman with breasts? Is a transgender woman rightfully considered a woman in this case? Or will the bigots still hold tight to misgendering her and let her waltz around town with her boobs and areolas hanging out?

We can speculate for days, but if you want to go topless and need some moral support, there are events and cities that celebrate the nips. Sadly, COVID-19 has cancelled or altered some of the most popular ones. The World Naked Bike Ride in Portland has been cancelled, but the Ride in New Orleans is still on — with some social distancing rules, of course. If riding while naked isn’t your thing, World Topless Day is scheduled to take place August 23, 2020. The event was started by the organization Go Topless after topless activist Phoenix Feeley was arrested in 2005, despite it being legal to be topless in New York City year-round. The yearly event coincides with Women’s Equality Day.

Besides NYC, some other cities that have been “topless tested” are Asheville, NC, Columbus, OH, Madison, WI, and Santa FE, NM. There’s always New Orleans and South Beach too.

Men can safely be shirtless and yet women are asked to cover up—even when they are allowed to free-boob it. Not surprisingly, plenty of clothing is made to accentuate breasts and cleavage as if the message to women is this: titillate us with what you have but don’t give it all away until we demand or expect it.

Women’s bodies are not for male consumption, control, or pleasure. Free yourself from the bullshit and free the nipples.

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To Doctors, My Fertility Was More Important Than My Pain

“Are you sure you’re done?” my doctor said to me. “You’re still young.”

I had been fidgeting with my hands, rubbing the space between my fingers one by one, when I felt my hands ball up into tight fists and release. Here I was in front of a gynecological specialist I’d traveled more than two hours to see, and he had spent the first five minutes of our conversation asking me about my dating and sex life. Informing him that I’m currently going through a divorce was enough to move the conversation about my chronic back and pelvic pain, frequent periods, and family history of reproductive cancers to concerns about whether I’d ever have babies again.

Yes, I was absolutely sure. My road to fertility was long and bumpy, and my pregnancy was no walk in the park. I was 31 when my then-husband and I decided to try to get pregnant. It had been more than 10 years since my first pregnancy, which happened much too easily. This time, after more than a year of trying to conceive, I decided to seek help from my gynecologist. After tests, ultrasounds, several appointments, and a laparoscopic procedure, I was diagnosed with endometriosis — a disorder that causes the lining of the uterus to grow outside of the uterine cavity. Turns out, endometriosis is not only a common cause of secondary infertility, it had been the cause of the debilitating painful pelvic pain my previous doctors had brushed off for years.

The pain felt like a shark bite to my insides and wasn’t limited to my period. It was accompanied by fatigue, bloating, and often sent me straight to bed for days. I knew it wasn’t normal, but — with the help of many doctors — had been convinced that it was. It was the culmination of a complicated relationship with pain. Strong Black women don’t complain about the pain. We just do our best through it.

When I was 25, I walked out of a top teaching hospital in Chicago with head and back pain so severe I couldn’t hold my head upright. I didn’t, in fact, receive any treatment or medicine. I was sent home with instructions to take a few ibuprofen and later ended up in a different hospital, where it was determined my spinal fluid was slowly leaking and needed to be patched. I could have died, but years of being sent away by doctors taught me that protesting too much was a waste of energy.

Now, after two surgeries to remove the endometriosis, I was finally in front of a specialist. I had severe left-sided pain that was undoubtedly caused by the left ovary adhered to my pelvic sidewall. I had come out of anesthesia years ago after my first surgery to remove the endometriosis to find that problematic ovary still there, still adhered. My OB-GYN wanted to save it to give me a better chance at pregnancy, even though I know now many women get pregnant just fine with only one ovary. This time, though, I didn’t want anything saved except my sanity. I wanted the pain gone, and I wanted every remaining piece of my jinxed reproductive system out. I wanted to be able to sleep through the night, play with my four-year-old without doubling over, and not dread every single change associated with each cycle phase.

“I’m sure,” I said. “Take the fallopian tube, uterus, ovary, and whatever other damage you find.” The images from my ultrasound were on full display behind us. There was my fallopian tube, clear as day and filled with an unknown mass. “Technically, a normal fallopian tube isn’t large enough to be seen on ultrasound,” the doctor had said just minutes before my fertility became the topic of discussion. Technically, I shouldn’t be able to (or have to) feel my fallopian tube either, but I do. He spent a few more minutes clicking through photos and talking very quickly about conservative options that included taking medications for an indefinite amount of time with a high risk of having nightly sweats and hot flashes.

I drove home confused about how once again I’d let a doctor throw a Band-Aid at my suffering. This time I wasn’t going to be gaslit. I wanted a do-over. I called and I left a message demanding we take a closer look at what was going on because none of it feels normal. I put my pain in words the best way I could through the tears that had come to my eyes. The nurse called me back to schedule a CT scan. The results showed a suspicious “thickening” in the lining of my uterine wall and some fluid in the pelvic cavity to add to the list of masses and painful situations the ultrasound uncovered. Now we could proceed with the surgery to remove my uterus, tubes, and ovary.

To doctors, women’s fertility is often more important than our reproductive pain. I had to take whatever comfort I could from the fact that at least my life took precedence over whether I could change my mind about having more babies or not.

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