So, I was prepping a post about a pattern sew-along, but while browsing Facebook I came across post in my facebook feed about a very, very, familiar topic to me. Lady health problems.*
* I call them lady health problems because they deal with female organs though they definitely affect trans* folk as well, but the term ‘lady organs’ makes dudes get all weirded out and I enjoy their awkwardness too much to change it just yet
I’ll include links to Rufflebutt’s videos below.
OH HEY. Health issues! Health issues that no one really talks about? That’s kind of my body-mandated-jam. I don’t have any experience with endometriosis, but I’m familiar with it because I’ve been lucky enough to have a number of wonderful, informative female doctors since my health went apeshit 12 years ago.
Sup folks, my name is Calamity and I had an ovarian tumor when I was 17. No it wasn’t benign, but it wasn’t malignant either. It was kinda weird, and set the stage for my health in the future. Aka: ‘Oh that’s weird’ is a phrase I’ve heard from multiple doctors.
Once again I’ll reiterate how lucky I am that I had and still have great doctors because they took my 17-year-old self’s concerns seriously in a world that often puts women’s health down to ‘you’re imagining it’ and sent me off for tests, and ultimately surgery. Doubly lucky, I’m Canadian. We don’t have the same stigma against women’s health that a lot of the conservative American states seem to. (What the hell guys, srsly. Ovaries aren’t scary, they’re just two eyes that bleed menstrual tears as they stare into your soul. Lol I kid. Ovaries don’t menstruate, they just try to kill you.)
Anyways! 12 years later I’m still in the all clear though I do take steps to reduce any risk of other cancers since I’m considered at an elevated risk. No smoking, eating well, avoiding asbestos, avoiding eating or smoking asbestos, y’know, the usual. All I’ve got to remind me of the near crippling pain and intense shame I felt (see age: 17) is a badass scar and extensive knowledge about female sex organs.
…I probably shouldn’t have that ‘extensive knowledge’ bit on my dating profile, it’d explain why only gynecologists and serial killers send me messages.
We Need to Talk about this Shit
Seriously. I don’t know how many times I’ve met someone who isn’t aware that they’re suffering more than they need to be, or that something isn’t ‘normal’ because more often than period cramps, cycling and all that stuff just isn’t really talked about much. And honestly, fuck that.
We’re cosplayers, we regularly talk about the best way to squish and contort our bodies into shapes that match fictional characters. If we can talk about triple-stuffing bras, corsets, breast binding and making fake boobs… we can talk about health issues that affect way more of us than we’re aware of.
Know What’s not ‘Normal’
Guess what? Passing out from period cramps isn’t something that you should have to deal with. There’s ways to mitigate that shit. Everyone’s different and that shouldn’t come as a surprise to hear that us female-organed folk experience our cycles differently but there are some warning signs to look out for that should NOT be considered normal period. (AHAHHAHA ‘period’.)
But seriously, if you experience any of the following, it might be worth checking it out with a medically qualified person:
- Any drastic change in your cycle
- Cycles that are abnormally heavy (also causing anemia, take your iron!)
- I remember one doctor said a good measure is if you go through more than one pack of pads per cycle, it’s probably too heavy.
- Weird-ass cycle that doesn’t follow a pattern after puberty has settled down a bit.
- One month on, two off, two on, one off, five on, etc.
- Severe cramping. Pain strong enough to make you pass out, extreme bloating to the point of pain or a weird hard spot that hurts? Check it out.
- Constant spotting – spotting is when you just sorta… don’t menstruate but keep bleeding in light amounts.
- Change in body hair (again, once puberty settles down)
Scary words for not-as-scary things
I’m not about to diagnose anything on anyone for a couple reasons. The first and foremost is I AM NOT A DOCTOR. The others are: I’m not even training to be a doctor. Or nurse. Not even an orderly!
Oh no it’s the flying worbla uterus monster!
To take out some of the fear and stigma, I thought I’d share some of the conditions that I’ve come across in my life that sound scary but are… really not terrible.
- PCOS – Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: basically your ovary has acne. (Not really, but that’s the TL;DR version)
- The usual treatment is taking the Pill. Bonus round: Clears up your ACTUAL acne.
- Fibroids: kinda like a lump in your uterus. Generally they just chill out, no big deal.
- 3/4 females get one at some point in our lives, and most of them don’t bother anyone and will sometimes just go away on their own
- Endometriosis: Basically some of the uterus bits get outside the uterus and then can’t go anywhere. It hurts. It sucks.
- Advil! The Pill!
- Ovarian Cysts: They’re just pockets of fluid. Sometimes they need to get drained or removed but usually treatable via hormone therapy (usually via the pill)
Know what your options are
Okay. Are you ready for the single most helpful thing you can do when going into a doctor’s office? Bring a notebook. Make it pretty, add jewels or draw on it to make it nice, just make sure you bring it to every appointment.
Bonus points if you refer to it as your “Feminist Agenda”.
Write down all your symptoms and concerns before you arrive and bring a pen to take notes for the actual appointment.
Ask questions. Be firm. You’re there for a reason.
In Canada: Get a family doctor and get a gynecologist. Having a history on file makes it easier to get concerns looked at when you can point to a paper trail and say ‘I’ve felt like shit for 5 years wtf, c’mon let’s sort this out’. There’s also nurse practioners who can help out.
In America: Money is a thing. I don’t understand how your system works or why old white dudes are so scared of ovaries and uteruses or the pill. But don’t stop advocating for women’s care via centres like Planned Parenthood. Because the pill is kind of like your main front line defense for a lot of the low level issues. Cramps, PCOS, mild endometriosis, acne or unwanted children. It’s the best pill since painkillers. Learn what your insurance offers, and talk to friends you trust about whether or not something that’s bothering you is worth going to a doctor for.
…now I kind of want to cosplay a Sex Ed. Ms Frizzle with a dress of anatomical drawings of uteri on it.
RuffleButt Cosplay’s videos
General FAQ about Endometriosis
Personal FAQ about Endometriosis
Mayo Clinic’s Women’s Health