Do you hate going to the doctor or clinic? I did for a long time and boy, did I pay a price. Or was it a blessing in disguise? While my cancer journey has been quite the whirlwind for nearly a decade now, I just want to put something out there. Black and brown women deserve to be as healthy as the next person and beyond. Between fearing the worst, lack of resources, and constant misinformation, we often find ourselves at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to learning about health care alternatives.
The Internet Isn't Your Doctor
While sites like Mayo Clinic and WebMD are some of the most reputable for giving basic information, that disclaimer at the bottom of the page is the truth. Your symptoms may be what they appear to be...or something else. My condition fell under something else that was atypical for the demographic I belonged to. Long story short, don't use the internet to diagnose what may be a serious condition.
Do Alternative Medicine with a Licensed Professional
At first, I thought taking supplements, ACV, or anything that didn't come from a mean-old hospital or clinic would do. It only made me go to the bathroom faster or suppressed my non-existent appetite further. Every day, I read articles by some legitimate (as in well-researched) publications but of course, none had a cure for my condition.
Even worse was reading of celebrity blogs, which occasionally veered off into general subjects. The most bizarre suggestion (or treatment) for my ailment was to chew a half-dozen black grape seeds whole every day. Yes, I was told that chewing undigestable seeds was better than modern medicine.
Never, Ever Be Afraid to Get a Second (or Third) Opinion
According to a 2016 article by Johns Hopkins, medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the States. Sometimes, this can be a learning curve because some chronic illnesses (like cancer) take time to properly diagnose. In these instances, you also may not want to wait for something to go wrong before looking elsewhere.
If something isn't right with your body, seeing a licensed professional should be the first step in care. When something is out of their scope, they can make referrals based on their findings. For those who may be looking at a long-term ailment, this is probably the best time to get in touch with people who may have been through a similar problem.
Going to the internet to look for specialists (or general practitioners) about this time is a good idea obviously. I like Yelp but it's most effective when the reviews are sorted by most recent instead of random (which is how it defaults when you arrive at a page). Chronological dates can also indicate changes in staff or other factors that affect the quality of care.
The Gene Pool is No Joke
When it comes to illnesses, anything that runs in your family should be looked at by a doctor. Although they may suggest taking baby aspirin for your hypertension or other lightweight treatment, taking this on your own can be dangerous. I once threw my potassium way off trying to bring my blood pressure down.
So even if you feel fine, it can't hurt to have a licensed person on standby to call on immediately if things should change. It also helps to read up on new treatments and keep the information in a safe place. If you choose to share with your doctor during your visit or before, it helps you if the source is reputable and this isn't repurposed content from an unknown entity.
My Story + Update as of March 2022
Since the original GENEROUS site with details of my cancer battle is long gone, I can do a short summary. Back in 2013, I had a big belly that looked like I was in my third trimester. My weight was way down, Aunt Flo stuck around longer than normal, and I was tired all of the time. I had no insurance back then, so off to the public hospital, I went. Assuming I had fibroids since nothing I'd done in the past year would result in a pregnancy, I thought I'd have a procedure with light anesthesia as an outpatient.
Turns out I had endometrial/uterine cancer Stage 3A. After a brutal round of chemo and more than a dozen blood transfusions over nine months, I wasn't done yet. The protrusion in my abdomen remained and I had to have a laparoscopy. Going to the bathroom, moving around normally, and sometimes even carrying a conversation (a.k.a. chemo brain) was hell for about 1.5 years.
After being in remission for nearly 8 years, it came back as advanced cancer. My condition is lifelong but with a new doctor, it's manageable. While the chemo sessions left me drained, I was far more productive compared to my time at the county hospital. For the past few months, I've been on Tamoxifen to control the cancer cells with success. However, a recent hiccup in my lab work led me to take more tests recently. So far, I feel fine but I'm mentally prepared for the worst.
I've had some mean doctors talk about my weight, age, and even hint at stereotypes during clinic visits. They make it hard for practitioners who actually care about doing a good job. Sometimes, it helps to listen to harsh advice because some people, in general, believe harassment is the most effective way to get someone to take action.
I don't know about you but for me, it's an invite for an ass-kicking...although I've yet to take action on this LOL. So don't neglect yourself or a decent quality of life because of someone's tactless words or bad judgment. Report them to the care facility administration or your state medical board and get someone knowledgable who cares about people.