speaking my truth to your power


I believe caregiving is a women’s issue.  Breast cancer is a women’s issue too.  (Please accept this caveat – I know there are men who are caregivers and men who have breast cancer.  But this post is about women because I am a woman).

Thinking of Dr. Christine Ford reminded me of all the times I’ve been harassed, abused, ignored, oppressed and minimized throughout my entire life, all 50 years of it.  If you are a woman, I know that you are thinking of your darkness too. Yesterday, I wept in my car considering this:  I am Dr. Ford.  We are all Dr. Ford.

My invisibility began when I was a little girl and moved through nursing school, my first marriage and my workplace. I learned to be a good girl, to be nice, to behave and to not make any waves. When I became a mother, I became even less detectable. And when I was the mother of a child with a disability?  Even though my son has a visible disability, both he and I disappeared off the radar almost entirely.  I transformed into an invisible mom.  When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I became one of the legions of women whose health concerns were ignored and dismissed.  I was just another middle-aged breast cancer patient; a mere shrug from the staff at the cancer hospital.

While I will never ever say that cancer is a gift, one thing that has happened this past year – with hard inner work and the help of a good therapist – I now have razor sharp clarity.  Cancer slaps you in the face with your own mortality.  I know for sure that my time on this Earth is limited.  I thought I had more time.  I’d better step up and focus on what’s important.

Here is my plea:  Do not stop speaking up.  If you are feeling hopeless, read Emma Gonzalez’s wisdom here.  Speak your truth to the power.  The power includes people who work in health care – a setting where there are huge unrecognized and unchecked power imbalances. Health care is not made up only of men.  There are women in power there too, lots of them.  As a mom and a patient, I’ve at times been labelled difficult, crazy and hysterical.  Cancer has allowed me at least this:  I don’t care what you think of me anymore.

Speak your truth. Don’t let the bastards get you down.  I’m with you.  Don’t stop, now more than ever.  Keep going.  Rise up.  The revolution begins at midnight.


2 thoughts on “speaking my truth to your power

  1. Carolyn Thomas says:

    Of course, I agree with your sentiments, Sue. Watching the Kavanaugh hearings brought up indelible memories of two disturbing events in my own life (one that happened when I was only 12 years old, but never ever breathed a word about it until two years ago). This kind of silence, that resigned acceptance of the futility of speaking out, is pervasive and dangerous.

    If I had to repeat today my experience of being misdiagnosed in mid-heart attack and sent home from the ER, I like to think that I’d be a different person now. I would make a bigger fuss and loudly insist on being taken seriously next time! After all, that’s what I regularly advise the people attending my Heart-Smart Women presentation audiences!

    But the brutal truth is that, for people like me who live with ongoing cardiac symptoms every day, I just can’t confirm with absolute certainty that even now I could say to any Emergency Department staff, “I don’t care what you think of me” – because I know that Emerg staff are the gatekeepers between me and getting the cardiac care I need. Make a too-big fuss, and your chances of having “anxiety” slapped onto your chart are high, which means your chances for future cardiac misdiagnosis are also high. It’s a horrible dilemma for women heart patients and the stakes are high, especially given the current stats on women’s cardiac misdiagnoses compared to our male counterparts.

    As I wrote just last week, “Women risk being labelled as ‘difficult’ if we persist, yet we risk being dead if we don’t.”

    Thanks very much for another provocative essay.

  2. Julie says:

    I needed this. To read it, to ‘hear’ it, to know I’m not alone in feeling this way. To feel vindicated in the inappropriate ways I’ve been treated to and to be supported in that deep feeling I had at the time that it was Wong and stil is Wrong.

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