"We have to design a health delivery system by actually talking to people and asking, 'What would make this service better for you?' As soon as you start asking, you get a flood of answers."
~ Paul Farmer
As the semester comes to a close, I have been thinking a lot about women’s health. Specifically, women who are going through or have gone through cancer treatments. My curiosity surrounding this topic is rooted in my mom’s diagnosis with cancer and her experience through her diagnosis, treatment, and survival of ovarian/uterine cancer. My interest in women’s health and cancer has recently manifested into a research paper I am currently writing for my anthropology gender and culture class.
For my project, I interviewed various women, including my mother, and analyzed blog post of women who have been diagnosed with different types of cancers. I have used my project to provide a space where these women can ‘talk back’ to their experiences with the United States’ medical system. I have found that through these women’s experiences, their voices are often silenced by their doctors and the medicalization of their female bodies. These women expressed how they have never really had the opportunity to reflect on their experiences on an emotional level. This lack of reflection is due to the fact that their lives as cancer patients have been primarily focused on ‘curing’ them of the disease rather than ‘caring’ for themselves on a more holistic level.
These women’s narratives and their feelings of not being able to be cared for through their diagnosis allowed me to connect ideas from my women, health and medicine class, in which I am learning about the sociology side of medicine. The stories these women told highlighted various flaws in our medical system, which allows bodies, especially women’s bodies, to be medicalized. This process of medicalization manifested for these women through the way they perceived their bodies as not female due to mastectomies, hysterectomies, hair loss, fatigue, and many other adverse side effects these women experienced.