Where are the women ? Cannes Film Festival against the new French government
But when the citations arrived for all the tests I had to face prior to my surgery, the engine of dehumanization picked up. No one explained anything to me. It seemed to me that I had to come to the hospital having already acquired the knowledge – and having already cried. During the tests, several people were talking to me at the same time: one asked me to sign papers that I could barely read, another informed me of the days when I had more tests while another pushed me forward. entering an MRI machine where I must have listened to the most overwhelming sounds in the world, absolutely petrified.
Considered an ignorant migrant
All of these people knew the tests I would face, but they didn’t care. During this time, I was more and more terrified every day.
I gradually became an inert body that received orders. It went on like this for several visits, until I decided to stop everything.
As a black, Cuban and migrant woman in Spain, I knew very well that for all these people I was just a “poor ignorant migrant who understands nothing”. It was embarrassing to see all these white women (yes, they were all white women) bragging about their doctor’s degrees and then offering care that left a lot to be desired.
Knowing what happens when oppressions intersect is great, and deconstructing ourselves as victims is even better. Because reality shows that even though we put a lot of energy into educating and encouraging the humanization of “others”, the system and the need for empathy often fail.
I was just a “poor ignorant migrant who understands nothing”.
But concretely, what can happen to someone in my position? How could I defend myself from the misdeeds of those who saw me as an âignorant migrantâ without also becoming a âviolent black woman? In other words: intersectionality makes it possible to better understand others, but if you are in a context of oppression, and you also lose the right to be helped, what happens then? How do you become more vulnerable than that?
Well we have it ourselves. But to be honest, when I got cancer, I didn’t want to be an activist. I didn’t want to defend myself because I thought the doctors around me were there for it. However, I believe that the idea of ââsetting our limits, in the debate on intersectionality, is vital to understanding all possible frameworks.
Set limits, defend myself
I remember arriving for one of the medical appointments and, as usual, the professionals ignored me, telling me to “just lay there”. It was then that I woke up and insisted that before continuing, they give me explanations because it was my body, it was my pain, and that had to be respected. It is outrageous that while you are suffering from cancer you have to take all of this into account.
I used the old trick of using their own words – the ones they tend to use in medical conferences and barely put into practice. I told them that so far no one had explained to me who was going to accompany me through the process and that there had been no mention of psychological support.
I also asked them if they were going to fight for my life and if I could trust the hospital. Because being black, I don’t take anything for granted. Just look at the story.
From this moment, the change is radical. Every action they took with my body was explained, and if I was going to feel any pain or discomfort afterwards, I was warned. Since that day, they have asked me how I was. I was starting to feel like I had taken control of the situation, my body and my fears. I felt empowered.
All kinds of scars
Yet, unbeknownst to me, three operations and the complete loss of a breast awaited me. And as I’ve learned from living it, in addition to the physical pain of cancer, it also has an overwhelming psychological component, where just saying the word âcancerâ is already terrifying.
Yet by taking back control of my life, I had time to enjoy my family, despite the uncertainty. I decided to take care of my garden to redirect the anxiety of waiting for surgery. I have to say that at that time I often burst out laughing with my husband and daughter. It sounds strange, but the truth is if you are in control and have a healthy relationship with your thoughts, everything is better.
Being black, I don’t take anything for granted.
A few days after this conversation, I was called in for surgery. I was so calm, the nurses were stunned. After a while, they told me that even though there was no metastasis, which was great news, they would have to operate again, and they would have to remove the whole breast, due to a problem. location of the cancer.
Male chauvinism injuries
Sometimes life has other plans … I think about it and smile. During the first operation, I was afraid of the small scars that would remain. But, when they told me that I would lose my whole breast, I remembered my Yoruba sign “By losing I win” that I received at the age of twenty during the ceremony of Orula, the council deity worshiped in Cuba. And that’s how I went from fear of the scars to calm acceptance of the loss of a part of my body. I even said goodbye and accepted my grieving process. I felt at peace.
After these quiet moments came the part of my medical process in which I had to deal with machismo. Apparently, the protocol states that after a complete mastectomy, they immediately place a stent to begin breast reconstruction. I was assigned a plastic surgeon (whom I reported to hospital patient care) who assumed he was dealing with someone looking for cosmetic plastic surgery rather than someone who had just lost her breast due to cancer. And these are two very different things.
Seven days after my second operation, he saw me and even scolded me because he understood that âI couldn’t be in painâ. He probably hadn’t even read my medical history. His rudeness and the language he used gave the impression that without cosmetic surgery there would be neither beauty nor dignity possible. This all ended with a third operation to remove the stent, thus ending the reconstruction process.
Interrupt breast reconstruction
I have to tell all women like me that there is the possibility of a good life after stopping breast reconstruction. There are people who come to terms with their reality, who use bras for mastectomies and who continue to live without having to face the harsh situation of general anesthesia, another surgery and the long recovery that it entails. breast reconstruction. There are people who even take pictures with their new body.
I had the surgery in February and in the months since I went to the pool and had a fantastic vacation. They didn’t give me chemotherapy or radiation therapy, but I have to take a pill for the next five years. Despite everything that has happened, I feel very good.
Having cancer is indeed a very serious thing, but facing abuse while suffering from the disease is unacceptable. If you find yourself in a similar situation, remember to set your limits: you are the patient, you need to be taken care of, and anything that needs explanation needs to be explained. The burden that life has placed on you is more than enough.
I would like to say that anything can be overcome, but it is not true. What I will say instead is that vulnerability should not take away your dignity.
* This article has been translated and published with permission of the author.
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