Breast Cancer Awareness Month is now over for the year, but one Rochester woman has made it her goal to give a voice to the countless Asian-American women whose suffering is two-fold: first the physical and psychological toll of the disease, and then the inability to find others in the community who will break the stigma and tell their stories.
In fact, it seems that Elizabeth OuYang could very well be starting a revolution in the way that all women’s health issues are discussed within minority communities in the U.S.
NBC News recently profiled OuYang, a Rochester-born woman who decided to found a blog called Plum Blossoms after she discovered, six years ago, that she had breast cancer.
Plum Blossoms gives Asian-American women the chance to tell their own stories about dealing with breast cancer and to receive support from a community that rarely supports the open discussion of an individual’s personal and medical hurdles.
OuYang explained that she had watched her mother suffer in silence from the same disease; the Chinese culture that OuYang’s parents brought with them still hung over their heads. OuYang was turned to Caucasian women who were breast cancer fighters and survivors in order to find comfort, but she was frustrated and lost to find very few women in the Asian-American community who were willing to be blunt about their problems and fears.
Traditional custom in many East Asian countries dictates that the wellbeing of the family should be placed above the wellbeing of one individual, and therefore it discourages women from speaking up about private matters, lest they seem “selfish.” Furthermore, women’s health topics are still highly stigmatized in these cultures and women often receive little to no information on topics such as breast cancer, menstruation, STDs, and infertility.
The fact remains that all American women, regardless of race or ethnicity, still face the possibility of developing breast cancer at some point in their lives. All women are encouraged by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to receive mammograms between the ages of 40 and 45.
All women are prone to being or becoming infertile, having miscarriages, or developing postpartum depression.
Of the estimated 13.6 million women who suffer from the painful gynecological condition of endometriosis (which involves tissue growth on the walls of the uterus), you can find women who identify as black, as Hispanic, as Asian-American, as Caucasian, or as one of the dozens of other ethnic and racial identities that exist.
All of these women are dealing with similar medical conditions, but not every woman has the same amount of early education and support from her community.
OuYang and Plum Blossoms might only address just one piece of the puzzle, but it’s already gaining enough attention that other women are wondering if they could do the same for their own communities.