Advocating for Your Health as a Woman
- Doctors told Vikki Hindley’s mother she was simply seeking attention when the 16 year old struggled with headaches and nausea. Sadly, she would later discover she had squamous cell carcinoma that had spread to the frontal lobe of her brain as well as her sinus and glands.
- According to the National Cancer Institute, most cancers of the anus, cervix, head and neck and vagina are squamous cell carcinomas. Squamous cells are thin, flat cells that look like fish scales and are found in the tissue that forms the surface of the skin, the lining of the hollow organs of the body and the lining of the respiratory and digestive tracts.
- Sadly, we’ve heard many stories of women’s concerns being dismissed by doctors. That’s why being your own advocate can be key to getting a correct diagnosis and obtaining the best treatment possible while dealing with a diagnosis.
- One cancer survivor told SurvivorNet she recommends asking many questions, so doctors “earn that copay.”
Hindley was 16 when her cancer symptoms first began.Read More
But when her grandmother took her to a doctor who referred her to a hospital for further testing, Hindley finally got more answers when a sinus wash revealed a cancerous polyp.
“I had an MRI scan and was bluntly told I had cancer,” Hindley explained. ”They said they couldn’t operate because the squamous cell carcinoma had spread to the frontal lobe of my brain.”
Doctors reportedly also discovered the squamous cell carcinoma was in her sinus and glands. Squamous cell carcinoma is a cancer that begins in squamous cells, according to the National Cancer Institute. Squamous cells are thin, flat cells that look like fish scales and are found in the tissue that forms the surface of the skin, the lining of the hollow organs of the body and the lining of the respiratory and digestive tracts. Most cancers of the anus, cervix, head and neck and vagina are squamous cell carcinomas. In addition, Penn Medicine says squamous cell carcinoma can spread to nearby lymph nodes, bones or distant organs (such as the lungs or liver) if left untreated.
Because the reporting on Hindley’s cancer came from The Sun, it’s a little unclear exactly where her squamous cell carcinoma originated and what its progression looked like. Still, we think her story can teach a valuable lesson.
For treatment, Hindley underwent chemotherapy as well as radiotherapy which resulted in some very intense side effects.
“[Radiotherapy] burnt the side of my neck and the bottom half of my head,” she said. ”It also resulted in me losing my right eye and the hearing in my right ear.
“It was devastating. The older I got, the more the realization set in just how poorly I was.”
Hindley is a survivor, but she still suffers from a number of health issues from her cancer including fibromyalgia and osteoporosis. Her story is a testament to the fact that – although you shouldn’t have to – advocating for your health, or your child’s health, is all too important.
Despite everything she’s gone through, Hindley is thankful for her health and wanting to give back. She even launched her 10,000 Steps a Day challenge in February to raise money for the Brain Tumour Research charity.
“It’s so important to me because I’m still here and I’m so grateful,” she said. “Research has helped me to be here. This challenge will be hard for me, but I’m determined to do it.
“If I can give back just a little bit, then it’s all worth it.”
Advocating for Your Health as a Woman
Vikki Hindley’s cancer story is, sadly, not the first of its kind. In fact, we’ve heard many women talk about how their health concerns were not taken seriously prior to a very serious diagnosis. And so many of them emphasize the importance of advocating for your health.
In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, April Knowles explained how she became a breast cancer advocate after her doctor dismissed the lump in her breast as a side effect of her menstrual period. Unfortunately, that dismissal was a mistake.
Knowles was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer at age 39. She said the experience taught her the importance of listening to her body and speaking up when something doesn’t feel right.
I Wanted My Doctor To Like Me, Then He Missed My Breast Cancer
“I wanted my doctor to like me,” she said. “I think women, especially young women, are really used to being dismissed by their doctors.”
Jenny Saldana is another woman who’s spoken up about advocating for yourself. She says she was told “you can’t keep coming back here taking up resources for women that really need them” when she was trying to get her breast cancer diagnosis.
“The squeaky wheel gets the oil,” she said as advice for others.
Advocating For Yourself While Navigating the Medical World
Evelyn Reyes-Beato feels similarly. As a Latina – like Saldana – and a colon cancer survivor, she urges people to “get knowledge” so they won’t feel intimated by their doctors. She wants to remind others that they have a right to ask questions and make physicians “earn that copay.”
Dr. Zuri Murrell, director of the Cedars-Sinai Colorectal Cancer Center, previously told SurvivorNet that healthcare guidelines are meant to do the right thing for the largest number of people while using the fewest resources.
“The truth is you have to be in tune with your body, and you realize that you are not the statistic,” he said.
Be Pushy, Be Your Own Advocate… Don’t Settle
Dr. Murrell says not every patient will “fit into” the mold, so it’s important to “educate yourself and be your own health care advocate.”
“Every appointment you leave as a patient, there should be a plan for what the doc is going to do for you, and if that doesn’t work, what the next plan is,” Dr. Murrell said. “And I think that that’s totally fair. And me as a health professional – that’s what I do for all of my patients.”
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