The Importance of Women Speaking Up
- Actress Jane Fonda, 85, has survived multiple cancers — and recently shared a powerful message about how women will “save the world.”
- Fonda’s was recently treated for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system. She spoke openly about her journey to raise awareness about cancer and the lessons we can learn from it — such as the importance of communtity to not feel alone in your struggle.
- In a recent interview, the beloved actress explained why female friendships are so crucial to overall health, a claim that’s been backed up scientifically.
- Fonda’s story, and so many other women’s stories, is also a reminder about the importance of advocating for one’s own health (particularly for women) when seeking answers from doctors.
Fonda, 85, a proud feminist who has worked hard to lift up other women. She stopped by Baton Rouge, Louisiana’s “Empower the W” brunch to speak on her advocacy and the immense role she believes women and girls will have in improving the world in the future.Read More
The Harvard study that Fonda referenced supports the claim that “strong relationships” have many benefits for overall health and longevity. It found that a lack of these relationships has the same “effect on mortality roughly compared to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, and greater than obesity and physical inactivity.”
Jane Fonda Finds Community Through Cancer
Fonda announced in September 2022 that she had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of cancer of the immune syste. It wasn’t the actress’ first bout with the cancer, either. She faced breast cancer back in 2010 (and had a lumpectomy) and skin cancer removed from her lip in 2018.
In an emotional post announcing her most recent diagnosis, Fonda wrote that, “this is a very treatable cancer … so I feel very lucky.”
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The actress has been so open about her health struggles, hoping to shine a light on her own cancers so that others may learn from her experience. She has also used her journey to call attention to inequities in health care.
She recognized that so many families are affected by cancer “at one time or another, and far too many don’t have access to the quality health care I am receiving and this is not right,” according to the Daily News.
On Instagran, Fonda called cancer “a teacher,” saying that she and others should be “paying attention to the lessons it holds.” That includes “the importance of community”, something she has worked hard to develop, so people facing cancer know “that we are not alone.”
She has been determined not to let her health struggles stop her from achieving her goals.
“I will not allow cancer to keep me from doing all I can, using every tool in my toolbox … and finding new ways to use our collective strength to make change,” she said, referencing her work to raise awareness about climate change and other social issues.
To treat her lymphoma, Fonda underwent chemotherapy and announced in December that she was officially in remission.
“I am feeling so blessed, so fortunate. I thank all of you who prayed and sent good thoughts my way. I am confident that it played a role in the good news,” she wrote in a blog post.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is one of the two main sub-categories of lymphomas (the other is Hodgkin lymphoma). All NHLs start in white blood cells called lymphocytes. Doctors also categorize these diseases based on the specific type of lymphocytes they grow from: B cells or T cells. Knowing exactly what type of lymphoma a person has is crucial because it helps determine treatment.
Dr. Elise Chong explains why type matters when it comes to treating lymphomas.
Urging Women to Be Their Own Advocate
Jane Fonda may be paving a path for other women to feel comfortable sharing their own challenges and how they are overcoming — so that others can learn from it. Another important topic of discussion for International Women’s Day (and all the time!) is how common it is for women to feel dismissed by doctors, or the healthcare system in general. Countless women have spoken up about how they felt brushed off when they asked a medical professional about their symptoms, which is why advocating for your own health needs is crucial.
Why is advocating for yourself so important? Survivors and professionals weigh in.
One example is Victoria Grande, who recently spoke to the Daily Mail about how her pain was dismissed by doctors for years before she was diagnosed with a rare condition that caused 100 tumors to grow inside of her body.
The 29-year-old bartender had been dealing with severe stomach pains for a decade, but was told it was likely due to constipation. It wasn’t until April 2022 when she sought treatment because she was “bent over in pain” and “looked 20 weeks pregnant,” and doctors found a 4.5-inch mass inside of her, which they removed surgically and determined was cancerous.
“They said it would keep growing unless I had surgery to get it out,” she explained. “They told me [the tumor] had hair and skin,” she said. “It was crazy to me. It had been growing for 28 years but so slowly it was hard to detect.”
They also reportedly discovered another 100 tumors inside her body and gave her the diagnosis of growing teratoma syndrome (GTS) — a rare condition among patients with non-seminomatous germ cell tumors (NSGCTs). While Grande underwent an additional 10-hour surgery and was eventually declared cancer-free, her story is an important reminder that patients sometimes need to be pushy to get the right diagnosis.
Dr. Zuri Murrell explains why it’s so important to speak up when it comes to taking care of your own health.
And then there’s Amanda Buschelman, 42, who shared in a viral TikTok her harrowing experience of having her appendicitis misdiagnosed as an ovarian cyst — despite having had her ovaries removed years before.
Buschelman was told she had appendicitis, which is an inflammation of the appendix that causes pain in your lower right abdomen, by her doctor. But when she sought treatment at an emergency room, she was told her pain was just an ovarian cyst — despite the fact that she had her ovaries removed years before as part of endometriosis treatment.
After much back and forth and (several) misdiagnoses, doctors finally realized that Buschelman had a mass leftover from her endometriosis as well as appendicitis.
“It’s really important that we not just focus on my story and that we talk about all of these other women in my comments that are just being ignored,” Beschelman explained in her TikTok. “I want these other women’s stories to matter. I want them told.
“What if the next woman leaves the doctor and doesn’t trust their own body? … Or doesn’t follow up because they don’t know to?”
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