We are passionate, as a community dedicated to breaking stigma around gynae health, to shine a much needed light on the racial injustices in healthcare that black women and people of colour face. Awareness raising is most powerful through real voices, real stories, and advocates who speak from lived experiences of being black and navigating the healthcare system- so please follow Tyler over on @blackbritwoman to support her mission. Tyler has shared her story with us that speaks volumes of the dangerous, historical myths that are killing black women. Thank you Tyler, for sharing your story- and turning your pain into power.
My name is Tyler and I am a 25-year-old Black British Caribbean woman living in London. As a child I always had a keen interest in women’s health, I wanted to be a midwife for a long while without even knowing much at all. However, I would not say this was the reason why I am passionate about Women’s health today or even why I decided to create my platform.
12 years ago, I lost one of the most influential women in my life, my grandmother. Evelyn.
Eleanora Victoria Chiddick was like a second mother to me. People would often joke and call me her “handbag”, I literally went everywhere with her. In 2008 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had previously had breast cancer in 2001 but recovered. I didn’t know much about her experiences the first time, because I was far too young to understand it.
The second time around she had been suffering with a bloated stomach and was experiencing discomfort. I remember her going to the doctors a few times and being told it was nothing. I came home from school one day and her and my mum were leaving to go the hospital because she was proba
bly fed up of being fobbed off. After a few hours wait she was admitted to the hospital.
My grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer that had spread to her bowels. She never left the hospital and died quite suddenly. This was devastating and whilst I was too young to identify the factors that contributed to her death, I knew that I was angry and th
at this could have been prev
I then as a young black girl started to gain my own experiences. Experiences of frustration, confusion and being overlooked by health professionals that I was supposed to turn to for help. But at this point it still did not click that this was something bigger than me.
My studies and passion started to fill gaps in my knowledge.
I realised that black women were not seen.
Research and health studies were based on the white female body. I even went on to do a placement where I saw first-hand that our pain is overlooked and often seen as dramatic. Along with this I had realised that we tolerated a lot of micro-aggressions outside of health too. I work in a place where I am overlooked, underrated and at the same time ostracised.
If I voice my opinion, I automatically become the confrontational black woman.
Customers and other colleagues don’t acknowledge my managerial role and label my white colleaguesas the one in charge or the one who knows what she was doing. Both of these narratives in health and out of health became exhausting to me, it affects me mentally. I was saddened because I knew that this was not just personal to me, but black women have lost their lives due to being dismissed.
It sounds dramatic, but...
That woman who asked for pain relief during childbirth and was ignored is now traumatised and suffers with postnatal depression. That woman who told the doctor that she is experiencing unbearable pain in her pelvis for years is now infertile because they didn’t take the steps to diagnose her with endometriosis. That woman who expressed how she felt has now been silenced, because she was told she is too aggressive.
Black women have been silenced for years and whilst this may be systematic and feels like too much of a big task for us as individuals to handle, educating ourselves is the turning point. We will never be a priority, I often have to remind myself when I am shocked by our mistreatment, that black people are only 4% of the population in the UK. It is also hard to voice feeling like we are not catered for in Britain, if it wasn’t clear before it has been very clear as of recent that the majority have no interest in representing us. An example of this being the uproar about the Sainsburys Christmas advert. I originally created BlackBritWoman to vent, about my experiences, but instead I found myself wanting to educate and empower a marginalised community that I am apart of.
Education allows us to be aware not only of symptoms and screening programmes but being aware that you will probably experience barriers to care or experience being overlooked in a variety of settings. Whilst I know I can’t protect young black brit women from this, preparing them for it brings me slight peace.
Not too long ago I experienced a health scare, that turned out to be a false positive. But coincidentally that week I had lecture on this particular infection and was told how serious the implications could be. Before finding out it was a false negative I went to my GP with all the hard facts that I had been provided with.
That appointment was completely different to any appointment I had ever experienced before.
I was in the room for more that 5 minutes
I actually got a response that was not condescending or somehow digressed to my weight and,
I got a referral.
This experience emphasised the power of knowledge, whilst in this case I thank God it was nothing life threatening, it could be the very thing that saves yourself or a someone else’s life.
I am passionate about black women creating their own autonomy to good health, we are 5 times more likely to die during childbirth than white women and suffer disproportionately in finding diagnosis in conditions such as endometriosis.
I am tired of watching my community die or suffer severe health consequences when it could all be prevented.
I want to create a community that uplifts, empowers and educates women. I want to break barriers, destroy taboos and create open conversations. I want to cohesively create a space where experiences are shared, and positive relationships are created.
Ultimately, I don’t ever want anyone to lose someone special just because they weren’t informed.