Health Care Mind Mental Health Health Coronavirus Wellness

There’s nothing romantic about therapy, but I still recommend it

Essay deadlines, a global pandemic, and limited social interaction left me overwhelmed … to say the least. Throughout the pandemic, I received news of relatives or friends catching Covid-19 almost routinely. To amplify this, my second year of university had also started. Like many students across the globe, I had to readjust to virtual learning. Although I enjoyed the convenience of zoom classes, the time of socializing between lectures and seminars was now empty. The stresses and anxieties I had pushed to the back of my mind started to occupy this vacant time. 

Lucky for me, there was an increase in self-care content on social media, which encouraged me to seek therapy. As an African woman, mental well-being and therapy were never discussed in my community. So, I felt hesitant while contacting the student therapy team at my university. At the same time, I felt like the hero of my own story and looked forward to meeting the new post-therapy me. 

Unfortunately, the excitement was fleeting. Throughout my six months of sessions, I discovered that different media skewed my expectations.

I always imagined therapy to be like the scene in Disney Channel’s Freaky Friday. In which, Jamie Lee Curtis’s character (after switching bodies with her daughter) has a therapy client and keeps asking, “How does that make you feel?” 

The scene is comical, but it is what I believed attending therapy would be like. A client, lying on a sofa letting out their emotions, and a therapist, repeating the word ‘feelings.

This scene, like many in Hollywood, depicts an automatic comfortability between therapist and client. Vulnerability seems easy within the confines of the session. I soon learned this was inaccurate; I did not find being vulnerable with a stranger anything close to easy anything close to easy, no matter how friendly she was. I have never been someone who finds it easy to talk about my feelings in-depth. Yet, I thought once I was in front of a therapist, my feelings would spill out. But her title and qualification made no difference.  It took me a few sessions to become vulnerable. At the time, I thought I was doing something wrong or that therapy was not for me. But I soon recognized it was all a matter of my misconceptions. So, I started unlearning what I thought were the universal truths of therapy. 

I realized that the journey transcends the one-hour sessions. This is true in that you must be practical with whatever lessons you learn during the sessions. In addition, it is important to come prepared to be vulnerable during your sessions. I found it challenging to transition from random everyday activities into my sessions. When I was having a good day, I would come into therapy excitable and waste the hour trying to preserve my mood. And it was just that, a waste. Therapy was the perfect opportunity to talk through any troubles from my week, but I was not always prepared to do so. Through this, I found the importance of some form of a prepping routine. I began spending an hour listening to some music, jazz, or reggae, whatever felt natural. In this time, I tried to connect with my emotions and do things that made me feel at peace. I felt ready to open up once my session started.

Another preconception I had to challenge was the assumption that my therapist would be my savior or guardian angel. Countless movies use the narrative of inappropriate client-therapist relationships. For example, in Silver Linings Playbook. The main character Pat’s therapist attends his dance recital and visits his home, extending their relationship outside the office. In real life, this would be unrealistic and unethical. But it depicts the idea of a therapist as a guardian angel, always there for the precious moments of your life. 

The phrase “everyone needs therapy” is all over social media. Although well-intentioned, it fuels this idea of therapy as a saving grace and the therapist as the angel on your shoulder. I often approached my sessions as a cure-all. My therapist once mentioned that I spoke of our sessions as though they had a fixed end date. Like I was waiting for the day, I would be cleansed of all stresses. And to tell the truth, I was counting down to the day the therapy finally kicked in. 

But I learned that it was a process that relied on me nurturing whatever I discovered in each weekly session. If I had any homework from my sessions, it was my responsibility to make sure I completed it. In the sessions, it was my responsibility to be completely honest and vulnerable. Ultimately, I gained clarity about my therapist’s role as a helper and not a savior. 

The biggest thing I wish I knew before starting is that therapy does not feel good. It is self-care like spa days, face masks, and taking walks, but it is not immediately pleasant. If I could change it, I would have spoken to someone with experience. I thoroughly recommend counseling or therapy for well-being. But make sure you do not rely on the media for advice, talk to someone with experience. 

My experience was hindered by me comparing my reality to what I had thought therapy to be because of the influences around me. Even so, I hope the conversation around therapy within the film industry and social media becomes more honest.

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Health Care Mind Mental Health Health

I’ve ditched all-nighters, and here’s why you should too

I have to admit something. I’ve never pulled all-nighters for work. Even in university, and now as I start to pick up different jobs, I’ve never stayed up all night to finish assignments. Sure, I’ve pulled them for flights or nights out, but other than that, I always manage to squeeze in some shut-eye time. I have to, otherwise, I can’t operate. 

I know this from experience. Once, I had a class in Florence, Italy, and my roommates and I spent the whole day touring the city, reserving the nighttime to work on our essays. I couldn’t have spent more than three hours past midnight typing away for an assignment before I felt desperately ill.

I needed to lie down! I was a cranky mess for two days afterward, and my friends can attest to that. I knew missing out on sleep has a very clear effect on me. But still, I pushed myself for school. I wanted to complete my assignments and attempting an all-nighter seemed like an obvious way to stay on top of things.

While all-nighters do not sit well with me, perhaps you are reading this thinking they work for you. Maybe you have always resorted to this method and it has become fool-proof. Well, unfortunately, I have some bad news for you. Skipping out on sleep is not something that can be dismissed because it is not a sustainable lifestyle at all. While it may seem like an appealing way to get more time in your day, it can have devastating consequences. 

I hear you saying, “But can’t it be slept off?” I used to think the same way.

Can you make up for lost sleep by sleeping in? Nope!

Taking an introductory course in psychology opened my eyes to the dangers of bad sleep hygiene. If you were to hold out two scans of a brain—one from a person who lacked sleep and another who has recently suffered a concussionthey would look eerily similar. Skipping out on sleep can cause irreversible damage to your brain. The brain holds these scars, even if we “make up” for the lost sleep. Imagine that damage over time if we continually (try to) pull those all-nighters. 

This may come as a shock as the idea of all-nighters has been glamorized by movies and other media as an essential part of college. I always understood skipping out on sleep as a sign of putting in the effort, burning the midnight oil to wrap up a project.

I used to feel bad about not being able to stay up all night at the library, comparing myself to other students that were holding up just fine. I felt that it was expected of me to sacrifice my sleep for my studies and my career. Yet, does our productivity have to come at the cost of our wellbeing? 

Our toxic ideas of productivity are impairing our health. I came to a point where I really needed to rethink the way that I was approaching sleep and all-nighters.

While it can be easy and often tempting to get sucked into the grind of getting little or no sleep to clear up my task list, from now on I’ll be thinking twice about the physical and mental toll on my health. I hope you do, as well. 

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Health Care Health

Is your caffeine intake affecting the density of your breast tissues?

The correlation between caffeine, the density of breast tissues, and cancer is a complicated one. There are actually three individual correlations at play here—between caffeine and tissue density, between tissue density and breast cancer, and between caffeine and breast cancer. You would think that the first and second would automatically prove the third, but it is a little more tricky than that. First, let’s see what it actually means to have dense breast tissues.

Are your breasts dense?

[Image description: A gif showcasing a group of people's breasts] Via Giphy
[Image description: A gif showcasing a group of people’s breasts.] Via Giphy
There are basically two types of tissues in your breast, supportive tissue (fibrous and glandular tissues) and fatty tissue. If you have more supportive tissue than fatty tissue, your breasts are dense. You are more likely to have dense breasts if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or undergoing hormone replacement therapy. Younger people or people with a low body weight also tend to have dense breasts. Having more dense breast tissues than fatty ones is completely normal; in fact, most younger people have dense breasts. Now the main question is—does this matter?

Breast cancer risks

[Image description: A gif of different kinds of breasts] Via Giphy
[Image description: A gif of different kinds of breasts.] Via Giphy
Although studies have shown that people with dense breasts have an increased risk of breast cancer, there seems to be no explanation as to why this is the case. There is also the risk of a wrong diagnosis. Mammograms of dense breasts are more difficult to read because both tumors and dense tissues show up white on mammograms, and it is troublesome to differentiate the two. But there is no evidence to show that the mortality rate is increased for breast cancer patients with dense breasts. It seems as though the breast density only matters before the diagnosis, after which there is no difference.

Caffeine and breast tissue density

[Image description: A gif from Ariana Grande's "Boyfriend" music video] Via Giphy
[Image description: A gif from Ariana Grande’s “Boyfriend” music video.] Via Giphy
Most studies conclude that the consumption of caffeine does not lead to an increase in breast tissue density. There was one study conducted in 2018 that found some interesting associations between drinking coffee and breast tissue density. The main takeaways from this study were that postmenopausal women with a higher coffee intake had lower breast density, while the opposite was true for premenopausal women. However, in 2020, another study showed that adolescent caffeine intake had nothing to do with premenopausal breast density.

Caffeine and breast cancer

[Image description: An animated gif of a cup overflowing with a caffeinated beverage] Via Giphy
[Image description: An animated gif of a cup overflowing with a caffeinated beverage.] Via Giphy
It has been found that caffeine can actually suppress the formation of tumors and have anti-cancer properties. An initial study in the 1980s found that caffeine does not increase the risk of breast cancer, and subsequent studies have largely proved this. Studies in recent years have shown that while there does not seem to be any relation between caffeine intake and breast cancer in premenopausal women, the former reduces the risk of the latter in postmenopausal women. However, it is unclear why.

In conclusion: I am relieved

[Image description: Harley Quinn sipping from a small cup while reading a book] Via Giphy
[Image description: Harley Quinn sipping from a small cup while reading a book.] Via Giphy
I love coffee and tea. I am never without a cup of either by my side. I was even nervously sipping black coffee while researching. When I found out that there is no evidence of caffeine increasing my risk of getting cancer, I heaved a sigh of relief and got myself another cup. (I am in no way condoning drinking coffee and tea all the time, that is definitely bad for you. Moderation in all things.)

There is definitely room for more research in this field. It would be helpful to know exactly why dense breast tissues lead to an increased risk of breast cancer, and why postmenopausal women benefit from a regular caffeine intake. But until then, you can be comfortable in the knowledge that you don’t have to change your caffeine habits to reduce your risk of breast cancer!

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Health Care Mind Mental Health Health

How I became a more mindful pessimist

I know, I dread to say it. Pessimists get a bad rep, sometimes rightfully so.

Going biking around the city, and I’ll remember the grating sound my bike made. Listening to feedback on my writing, I’ll be drawn to the things people said I could improve, agonizing over those. As a result, I need constant validation from others, although it barely ever sticks. My head has long been a magnet for negativity and it’s been draining me and even those around me.

But I don’t believe that ‘once a pessimist, always a pessimist.’  I’ve found ways to turn my mindset around.

What it takes is consciously detangling myself from pessimistic thought patterns. I was once enrolled in a Science of Happiness course (ironic, I know) where I learned about mindfulness tools. One of those was called the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) exercise and it aimed to rewire your brain to think in a more positive way. 


Naturally, I was doubtful. But it makes sense. My thoughts, feelings, and behavior are so closely connected that if they were on a Venn diagram, they would be overlapping each other. Recently, my thoughts are more introspective than ever. So, on my journey to become a more mindful pessimist, I’ve been keeping tabs on my thinking—especially negative thoughts. 

Here are some pessimistic thought patterns that I have become more aware of throughout my journey: 

Fortune Telling

A major one that precedes all others. I predict negative outcomes, imagining the worst possible scenario to happen. This is often the case when I try something out of my depth, such as when I flew to another country for a project without knowing anyone that would be on my team. I assumed that I wouldn’t get along with anyone and was already counting down the days to come back home. I thought they’d see me as a fraud and not want to work with me, although we were all enrolled in the same class. At the last moment, this thinking almost made me drop out of it.

I’m so grateful I didn’t because I ultimately met some of my closest friends there and produced good work. 

All-or-nothing thinking

Sometimes I look at situations as if there are only two possible outcomes. Either my team likes my idea or they hate it. I often forget that everything can be placed on a scale, they may like it but think that a certain part isn’t working. They may dislike it but see potential, suggesting a way to elevate the tension in the story.

Mind Reading

Making sweeping negative conclusions about a situation can be the easiest way for me to make sense of what is happening. For example, if I have an awkward conversation with someone, where I unintentionally said something insensitive, I may walk away and say to myself: “They certainly don’t want to talk to me again.” It is far easier to just claim that and be “done” with it rather than acknowledge my fault and find a chance to apologize. In these moments, I need to remember that I can’t read anyone’s mind and the only way to know for sure is to have a conversation with them.

Using ‘should’ or ‘must’ statements 

I have fixed ideas of my future and the way I conduct myself, even to the extent that I expect how others should react to me. Thinking that I should be close to people working in my field and they must want the same things that I do sets up unrealistic standards for both parties.

When these expectations aren’t met, I feel a deep sense of failure. Whenever a ‘should’ or a ‘must’ make their way into my thoughts, I need to take a step back. I can’t predict everything, who am I to know what ‘should’ or ‘must’ happen?

Emotional reasoning

Admittedly, I am a very emotionally driven person. I tend to value the way that I feel about something—a job or person I’ve met—rather than rationalizing the reality of working in that environment or being involved with that person and their lifestyle. I often make the mistake of thinking that something must be true because I feel that it is. I feel annoyed with someone; therefore, they must have done something wrong. Or I feel lonely; therefore, there is no one around that cares enough to reach out to me. These are both dangerous thought patterns because once I’m in them, I begin to ignore any evidence to the contrary.

Consciously recognizing these thinking errors and reframing them in a positive light is changing my outlook on the future. I started off the year rejecting every opportunity that came my way out of fear that they would overwhelm me, such as grad school and internships. Now, I feel more hopeful and am willing to try out what comes my way. I am enrolled to start a graduate program this coming fall.

Even if it doesn’t work out as planned, I can stay on track and remain positive by steering clear of the major thinking errors. I can’t help being a pessimist, but I can be a mindful one. Some of us are more susceptible to negative thinking like I am, but there are ways to navigate it without spiraling into hopelessness. 

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Health Care Health Wellness

Yes, your body is making enough milk

“You should just give him formula when you go out,” my friend told me when I asked to use a spare room to nurse my son while dining at her house. In her opinion, I was putting myself through unnecessary trouble. Like many, she thought that instead of breastfeeding, I should take advantage of the convenience that formula has to offer today’s parents.

In the early 1900s, breastfeeding was considered an old-fashion practice or a custom of lower classes. But breastfeeding levels have significantly risen since the 1960s as various governments and health researchers have recognized the importance of encouraging mothers to breastfeed.

The World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that babies be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life. For the remainder of the first year — and longer if possible — they should continue to be breastfed while receiving appropriate complementary foods. But even though the U.S. has one of the highest breastfeeding rates in the developed world, only 16 percent of American babies are exclusively breastfed to six months, and only a third of babies are still being breastfed when they turn one.

A whopping 77 percent of women now initiate breastfeeding in America, so many babies are now getting the benefits of colostrum, the special breast milk in the first few days after birth. But between two weeks and two months after birth, there is a sharp drop in the number of mothers who continue to breastfeed. While some moms go back to work, some can’t take the sore nipples, while others think that they aren’t making enough milk and turn to formula.

For moms with multiples, with serious health concerns, or babies with allergy-related issues, breastfeeding may not be feasible. Working moms may face too many challenges at work. But women who are able to breastfeed and want to breastfeed should be encouraged and supported in choosing to do so, because breastfeeding by no means is an easy task.

After the birth of my first child, I learned that breastfeeding, especially in the first few weeks, was far from glamorous. Sitting down and getting my newborn to latch while suffering from hemorrhoids and stitches was extremely uncomfortable. Having to get up several times at night to treat engorged breasts, in addition to nighttime feedings and diaper changes, was frustrating. When you add leaking breasts, chapped nipples, and continuously changing bra sizes to the equation, breastfeeding was far from the lovely bonding experience I had imagined it to be.

But for the most part, I was fortunate to have a very supportive circle when it came to breastfeeding my children. Many of my relatives and friends had breastfed and thus continually gave me sound advice and words of encouragement. My husband was understanding and helpful. Our outings were planned around our baby’s feeding times and to places where there were either nursing rooms, quiet corners or nearby parking spots, in case there was nowhere else to nurse. I was given good education on why I should breastfeed and how to breastfeed from our birth educator, my son’s pediatrician and the lactation consultants and nurses at our childbirth center.

In the early stages of breastfeeding, like many women, I worried I didn’t have enough milk. My son would nurse for just five minutes and then he’d be hungry again in an hour. I paid several visits to the lactation consultant’s office to address my concerns. They would weigh him before and after a feeding to show me that he had drank sufficiently. “He’s just a speedy drinker,” they explained. “And most breastfed babies tend to cluster feed in the evenings.”

The La Leche League website was my reading companion while I nursed, helping me overcome the issues I faced during the various stages of breastfeeding. Once I understood how breastfeeding is all about supply and demand, and that babies grow in spurts, I stopped worrying about my milk supply. Just as the experts had told me, the first six to eight weeks of breastfeeding were really tough. But after that, things got a lot better and breastfeeding became more like the pretty picture I had had in mind.

Making sure moms get the right information for breastfeeding is key to getting more moms to breastfeed. But if breastfeeding wasn’t difficult enough on its own, many women are often given inaccurate advice and inadequate support to successfully breastfeed. I remember how upset one of my friends was because her mother-in-law kept saying to her she didn’t have enough milk. So in the end she put her baby on formula. But while some women really don’t make enough milk, low milk supply is one of the biggest misconceptions about breastfeeding.

According to the WHO, “Virtually all mothers can breastfeed, provided they have accurate information, and the support of their family, the health care system and society at large.”

Similarly, one of my cousin’s told me that her aunt kept telling her to supplement her daughter’s feedings with formula because formula makes for healthier, or bigger, babies. But once formula is introduced into the mix, our bodies produce less and less breast milk. This is also the case with introducing other liquids and foods into the baby’s diet before six months. What is important to remember is that breastfed babies grow faster than formula-fed babies in the first two months of life, and then they slow down around four months.

Thus, the growth curve, which is usually based on formula-fed babies, makes breastfed babies look as if they are falling behind.

I remember a relative telling me, around nine months into breastfeeding my second child, that I should stop breastfeeding now to take care of my health.

But studies have shown that breastfeeding doesn’t negatively impact the mother’s health. In fact, breastfeeding offers many benefits to moms too, such as higher iron levels, reduced risk of type two diabetes, and lower chances of breast, ovarian and uterine cancers.

Education and conviction about breastfeeding is still lacking in our society. But if you are a breastfeeding mom, keep at it, no matter what others tell you. And if you have concerns, contact your child’s pediatrician, your lactation consultant or find a La Leche League group near you.

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Health Care Health Science Wellness Now + Beyond

Here’s why colloidal silver might be doing more harm to your health than good

Let’s face it, if someone gave us a vile filled with a magic potion that would fix all our problems, would we even give it a second thought before drinking it? After all, we’re all always on the look for “the cure” that does everything without considering the repercussions. Colloidal silver is one such concoction that people consume without knowing that it might be doing more harm to their health than good.

Known for its antibacterial properties, colloidal silver is a product containing microscopic flakes of real silver and is suspended by demineralized water. This product is usually sold as a dietary supplement with companies marketing it off as a “cure-all.” According to sellers, this is the magic potion that can eliminate allergies, boost your immune system, treat diseases like HIV/AIDS, and, surprisingly enough, it can even cure cancer.

Let me guess, too good to be true? You’re on the right path.

As popular as colloidal silver is, what is little known about this product is that it can cause health issues if consumption is prolonged. It is unclear how much intake of colloidal silver can cause problems but if taken for a long period of time, the silver flakes in the product can start building in your body’s tissues. In turn, this can cause a condition known as argyria which results in a blue-gray color of the skin, eyes, nails, internal organs—you name it.

Although argyria doesn’t pose as a serious health condition, you still wouldn’t want to walk around looking like Violet from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In fact, after consuming large amounts of silver, the discoloration of the skin does not go away even if you have stopped taking the product. The use of colloidal silver can also rarely, but potentially, cause health defects such as kidney damage and neurological problems, noticeable with seizures.

It is true, however, there have been some recent findings that suggest that colloidal silver makes a good topical ointment for treating open wounds. A 2007 study suggested that dressings that contained silver were more effective in preventing infection than products that make the same claims. In fact, The National Institute of Health also supports the claims of colloidal silver being safe as a topical treatment.

But while it may have some protection against infection, there is little to support the “miracle cure’s” claim to protect against diseases. In fact, since 1999, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has indicated a lack of evidence that colloidal silver has health benefits in eradicating or preventing disease. The FDA has also taken action against some manufacturers who had been making false claims regarding this “miracle product”.

And still, colloidal silver can also often be found in skincare products such as Omorovicza’s Silver Skin Tonic or Heritage Stores’ Colloidal Silver Soap. Many people use these products for their “anti-aging” and “anti-acne” properties. But some studies have shown that with the continual use of these products, the skin can absorb the silver particles in them causing the same problems that oral consumption of colloidal silver will—which is argyria.

If taken with other medication such as antibiotics, colloidal silver can also limit their absorption by the human body making them ineffective. Pregnant or nursing women should also steer clear of this product if they want to use it as an alternative to, for instance, flu medication as there has been no research that deems colloidal silver safe for fetal development.

Although magical ingredients that heal all your worries away are usually hard to come across, you need to keep in mind that most manufacturers are making these claims without any clinical proof. As done with colloidal silver. And as always, remember that before taking any sort of oral medication, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional first and do your proper research.

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Health Care Health News Health Gender Wellness

We need to talk about prostate cancer

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), prostate cancer is the second most common malignant tumor. It is a non­dermatological tumor diagnosed in patients beyond the age of 50, which is also the second leading cause of cancer-related mortality across the globe after skin cancer. The lifetime risk of developing a microscopic, clinical disease and prostate cancer-related death is 30% in developing countries.

The prostate is a small walnut-shaped gland that sits below the bladder near the rectum, surrounding the urethra, the passage in the penis through which urine and semen pass. Most people are not sure what the prostate is, what it does or when to call a doctor if they think they might have a problem.

I reached out to medical experts and doctors in Pakistan to find out more about the disease. The overall elderly population of Pakistan currently stands at 10 million, half of which live in rural settings where health facilities are not as upgraded as they are in cities, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), 2017.

Dr. Shahzad Ali, an oncology consultant, said that prostatic cancer does not show early signs of physical harm unlike other forms of cancer.

“As cancer progresses, it spreads to the bones causing intense pain in the back, hips, and the pelvis,” he said, adding that there is still no robust medical arrangement that could detect the malignancy at its earliest.

“The cancer detection rate using prostate-specific antigen (PSA) measurements is between 2 to 4%.”

He further added that about 20% of men with prostate cancer will have PSA levels within the normal range. Therefore, PSA alone as a screening test is controversial.

“If digital rectal examination reveals a prostate that is hard and nodular accompanied with high PSA levels, then trans-rectal ultrasound scan (TRUS) and biopsy are indicated. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and TRUS are for staging the local disease. While x-ray of chest and liver function tests are carried out for metastatic spread of the disease,” explained Dr. Ali.

Sohail Rauf, 61, was diagnosed with prostate cancer last year. To further understand the impact and toll it takes to battle this disease, I reached out to him.

“I am a diabetic patient and last year I was facing excessive urinary problems. I thought it was due to high diabetes so I went to a doctor only to find out that I was suffering from prostate cancer,” he said.

Rauf went through a physical examination, followed by a biopsy. A biopsy is the only way a firm diagnosis of prostate cancer can be made. “The doctor removed small samples of tissue from the prostate, using very thin, hollow needles guided by an ultrasound,” he said.

Rauf faces no hurdles in his day-to-day life after going through prostate surgery.

“I was asked to limit my consumption of red meat, including beef, lamb, and goat, and was advised to stop smoking and drinking alcohol.”

The doctor suggested he consume healthier sources of protein such as fish, skinless poultry, beans, and eggs.

Apart from these precautionary measures, Rauf is supposed to visit his consultant for the rest of his life for regular check-ups every six months.

In response to a question about delay in seeking medical care, Dr. Masood A. Sheikh, a urologist said, “Men with urinary symptoms are hesitant to discuss the problem, perhaps, because of embarrassment, believing that all of it is part of ageing or due to the fear of treatments such as surgery.”

The findings of the study on clinicopathological characteristics of prostate cancer suggest that there is also a need to improve public attitude regarding urinary symptoms in older age men and knowledge about prostate cancer in Pakistan.

The Distinguished Gentlemen’s Ride (DGR) is a unique event that helps raise awareness and funds for prostate cancer in Pakistan since 2015.

“It is a themed ride for café racers, scooter riders, bobbers, choppers, and scramblers,” said Faisal Malik, the official spokesman for DGR in Karachi.

“DGR takes place on the last Sunday of September. The event’s main aim is to spread awareness and raise funds for prostate cancer research and other health issues that men face in Pakistan,” said Nabil Hasan, media executive of DGR.

Talking about the event, Hasan said it takes place in over 400 cities, across all five continents, with more than 15,000 participants that ride their classic motorcycles, dressed up in their finest attire, taking the cause to the streets of Karachi.

One thing that sets DGR apart from other cancer-related campaigns is its future-oriented approach.

Prostate cancer is a risk for people as they age, but if it is caught and treated early, the outlook is generally good. So, as you or someone you know gets older, be sure to have open conversations with your doctor about your risk.

If you have any symptoms you think might be prostate cancer, talk to your doctor right away. And even if you do not have symptoms, consider adopting a healthy lifestyle to decrease your risk.

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Health Care Mental Health Health The Vulvasation Wellness

Don’t forget to advocate for yourself when it comes to your Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

Vulvasations is a Tempest Love and Health exclusive series dedicated to spreading awareness about the female reproductive system, debunking myths about periods and dissecting everything vajayjay related. Let’s talk about vaginas!

I only recently found out about Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) despite being a person who’s welcomed a certain monthly visitor into my uterus since I was 11-years-old.

PMDD is a more chronic and severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) that often results in psychological symptoms such as irritability, anger, fatigue, moodiness, insomnia, paranoia, difficulty concentrating, and more.

Other PMDD symptoms include respiratory, eye, skin, and fluid retention problems such as allergies; infections; vision changes; ankle, hand, and feet swelling; and acne as well as gastrointestinal, neurologic, and vascular symptoms like nausea and vomiting, dizziness, fainting, easy bruising, muscle spasms, and painful menstruation.

What’s frustrating about any and all of those symptoms is they can easily fall under a variety of different disorders like bipolar disorder, depression, thyroid condition, and anxiety, making PMDD hard to diagnose for some people with periods.

I’d also like to add that PMDD feels even harder to diagnose because people with periods have been told over and over again that our menstrual cycle will make us overly emotional. Modern Family is but one example of media turning this experience into a joke, and it feels like yet another way for patriarchal societies and men to dismiss women and people with periods.

My own periods usually arrive after an onslaught of cramps, breakouts, and mood swings—typically high highs and low lows with a spattering of extra irritability and sensitivity thrown in just to keep things spicy. When I was 18, I decided to go on birth control. After just one month of being on birth control, I noticed that the specific brand I was using amplified my mood swings and even made me depressed. This can be common for many people, and I quickly asked my doctor if we could try out a different brand.

A few weeks ago, I emailed my doctor because the pharmacy gave me the wrong brand of birth control. I knew it was a brand that exacerbated my period symptoms because of my past experiences. But I have to admit, I felt silly having to say to my doctor, “I need a different birth control brand because I know this one makes me moody.” And I was annoyed at myself for feeling silly about drawing attention to real concerns. Adding fuel to the fire, my doctor never followed up with me; she simply emailed the pharmacy and the problem was resolved.

But is the problem resolved? Should my doctor have looked into whether or not I’m one of the estimated 5.5% of women who develop PMDD symptoms in their twenties?

The MGH Center for Women’s Mental Health notes that PMDD can be distinguished from other mood disorders because of its cyclical nature. Typically, symptoms will occur during the last two weeks of the menstrual cycle and there will be a grace period in which people with PMDD don’t feel any symptoms at all. The Center suggests helping your doctor confirm the diagnosis by charting your symptoms daily.

When diagnosed with PMDD, there are a variety of treatments, including lifestyle changes, therapy, and medication. The International Association for Premenstrual Disorders (IAPMD) also offers resources for those with PMDD.

I’m disappointed that people with periods aren’t always taught about PMDD. Because many of the symptoms are psychological, I feel like there should be more awareness around this disorder; but because many of the symptoms are psychological, I can’t say I’m surprised many people don’t know more about PMDD. Emotional women have long been discredited and overlooked by society—unless they’re being used as the butt of a joke. And these biases have often been reinforced by those in the medical industry.

Thankfully, the IAPMD is helping to raise awareness of this disorder, encouraging people with periods like me to advocate for themselves in their doctor’s office.

If your period is painful, mentally and/or physically, there could very well be a medical reason for it, and you deserve to know that reason.

I encourage everyone to take care of themselves. In your doctor’s office, this could mean being bold and advocating for your needs.

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Health Care Mind Mental Health Health Wellness

I took a chance with birth control and I don’t know what it did to my mental health

I went on the pill for health reasons. After years of struggling with painful and irregular periods, my gynecologist explained how I had a hormonal imbalance. The hormonal imbalance was causing a small benign cyst to grow in my uterus. If left to grow, the cyst could become dangerous, and the hormonal imbalance affected my chances of having children in the future. My gynecologist explained how taking the pill was my best chance to make the cyst smaller, prevent future cysts, and increase my chances of having children in the future. 

I was hesitant to go on the pill due to cultural reasons. Zimbabwe has one of the best-incentivized birth control programs in Africa. Birth control is quite affordable and easily accessible. However, there is a lot of stigma surrounding the pill. Young unmarried women are discouraged from getting the pill and are shamed for choosing to protect themselves. As a result, I wasn’t comfortable with the idea at first (I mean, what would my mother think!). However, I realized that taking the pill was the best way to take care of my reproductive health, and I had to ignore what society had to say. 

The nurse at my university’s health center quickly breezed through the pill’s side effects and how it would take time for my body to adjust. I knew that birth control would affect my mental health, but I didn’t spend time thinking about it because my mental health was stable at the time.

I did not suffer from any severe side effects from the pill. If anything, I felt so much better. For the first time in my life, my period was regular, and I didn’t suffer from excruciating cramps. 

I was emotionally stable when I was on birth control. My mood swings were under control, and my anxiety was less heightened. Considering how much pressure I was under as a college student, the pill made stress management easier. Using the pill as a hormone regulation tool worked well in my favor. After three years on birth control, the gynecologist told me that the cyst was almost gone, and my body could probably regulate hormone production by itself. The pill had done its job, and it was up to me to continue with the program. 

I was confused about whether to stay on the regime or not, but I ultimately chose to stop taking the pill. I read studies and knew that it would harm my health if I took the pill for too long.

Getting off the pill was one of the most nightmarish experiences I’ve ever been through. My period was regular, but my cramps were worse than ever. It felt like my body was punishing me for getting off synthetic hormones. My mental health took an even bigger hit. 

I went through a depressive episode within a month of quitting birth control. My anxiety was through the roof, and there were days where I could barely get out of bed.

I sought help, and my therapist explained how quitting birth control probably played a role in my mental decline. She explained how my body relied on the pill, and I was now going through heavy withdrawals. I considered going back on the pill, but she offered a more holistic solution. She encouraged me to wholeheartedly commit to therapy, do the work, and then see if there were any changes. If there was no change in three months, then I was free to go back to the pill.

It has been six months off the pill, and I am now much happier. I feel better than I have in years. I’m not sure if it’s the therapy that helped or if getting off birth control is what I needed all along. I’ve figured out that birth control is what my body needed at that time, but I have now moved past it.

I may not know whether birth control improved or worsened my mental health, but it was a necessary personal journey. I am happy that I took a chance on the pill, and now I know what contraceptive method would (or rather wouldn’t) be best for me. 

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Health Care Mental Health Health

Here’s how you can use mood tracking to manage PMDD symptoms

Anyone who has had the lovely luck of menstruating knows that it brings many weird symptoms with it. Like really weird. From boob pain to headaches to constant nausea, the list goes on. And likewise, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is equally awful to experience. But have you heard of premenstrual dysphoric disorder? I’d bet anything you probably haven’t, but you should. It’s very similar to PMS, but it tends to be more extreme. PMS on steroids might be a way to describe it. 

Like PMS, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) occurs before your period. It can be anywhere from one to two weeks before, and the symptoms should usually die out around two days into the period. The disorder brings bouts of depression and anxiety, which are more extreme than those found in PMS, and it affects around six million people worldwide. But here’s the real kicker, it tends to show up more commonly in people who already have depression and anxiety, usually making their symptoms worse. It’s the gift that keeps giving.

I have PMDD myself, and I can attest to the fact that it makes life miserable. My symptoms tend to show up around a week and a half before my period, and it’s usually more depression-related than anxiety. I feel a sudden loss of interest in everything happening around me, extreme fatigue that leaves me unable even to attempt the chores or activities I plan, and a deep, dark state of sadness and hopelessness that looms over everything I do. 

I will say that I’ve gotten pretty good at hiding most of my symptoms, but for a long time, that was what kept me from discovering that I had PMDD. In fact, I had to research and figure it out on my own. My doctors knew about my symptoms, I talked to a counselor regularly about my troubles, but no one cared to help me look much deeper. Figuring it all out was an accident and then a google search.

It all started when my counselor asked me to start tracking my moods to help us figure out what might trigger my depressive episodes. At first, it seemed ridiculous. How would knowing my moods help me with depression? My moods were low during depressive episodes, and I knew that already. But her approach was different from what I imagined. She had me install an app that would allow me to log my moods multiple times a day and the activities completed during that time. She thought there might be a pattern related to my daily activities that could solve the depression.

She was right, and there was a pattern. It’s just not what she expected, and for a long time, she and I were confused because neither of us could see it. Then one day, while I was lying in bed, my sister asked if my period was coming up. She pointed out that I get tired and moody right before my period. And I decided to double-check that, opening the app I use to track my cycles and comparing it to the data on my mood tracking app. 

It clicked for me then, but my counselor still didn’t buy into it, and my doctor was in denial about it as well. So I was left to solve things on my own. The most common ways to deal with PMDD involve specific birth control pills or depression medication. But due to some other circumstances, neither of those were options I wished to pursue, and instead, I decided to use this mood tracking idea to help me manage my symptoms. 

One of the critical factors in my symptoms is the loss of appetite, which quickly leads down a slippery slope of losing energy for everything else in life. And tracking that, alongside my mood, usually helps me see if I’m coming up at that time of the month, allowing me to put plans in place to ensure I eat consistently and keep up my energy. Seeing my mood lowering and noticing that I’m finding less joy in activities also allows me to prepare ahead to get most of the crucial tasks out of the way and put systems in place to ensure I can have help on any other tasks as they come. 

It’s been a lifesaver to know that I can now sort of predict when my mental health will slip and be able to handle things. Of course, it’s not perfect. There are days where I get slammed with depression out of nowhere, and my schedule falls apart then. But when things clear up just a little bit, I still have plans and routines that can help me get on track again.

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Health Care Health

This Melanoma Monday, we’re talking about how to reduce your risk

Today, the world celebrates Melanoma Monday. This special day is set aside to raise awareness in regards to melanoma, its causes and symptoms. You can join the movement by wearing orange, and you can also play your part by learning more about the disease. 

Most of us are terrified when we hear the word melanoma. The words skin cancer are the first to come to mind, and terrifying images flash in our heads. In reality, we are unaware of the true reality and ways to reduce our risk and prevent the disease.

So let’s break it down. Here are the four main types of melanoma:

1. Superficial spreading melanoma

This is the most common type of skin cancer. According to the Melanoma Research Foundation, it accounts for approximately 70% of melanoma cases. It’s also the most visible because it grows horizontally across the skin. While it may be visible on the top layer of the skin, it moves deeper into the other skin layers. The deeper into the skin it goes, the more danger it poses.

Superficial spreading melanoma is relatively easy to spot. While you may find it on any part of the body, there are signs that you can look for to catch it early. The melanoma is easily identifiable by its shape. If you have a freckle or mole that grows horizontally and appears lopsided, you should carefully track its growth. 

The color and location can also help you identify melanoma. The freckle can appear in various colors, but you should be wary of any color that isn’t brown or black. The risk is even higher if the freckle changes color over time. The freckle/mole can be located on the torso (on men) or the legs (on women). In some cases, it can appear on the upper back for both men and women. 

2. Lentigo maligna melanoma

Lentigo maligna is the more invasive skin cancer. It’s the rarest type of melanoma, and it starts by growing on the skin’s surface. It is harmless when it’s on the outer surface, and it grows cancerous once it penetrates the top layer. 

It starts by growing slowly but quickly spreads when it turns invasive. Lentigo maligna is relatively difficult to spot because it appears with age. It looks natural at first, but a closer look will determine whether to raise the alarm. It has similar symptoms to superficial melanoma, but the color will be blue-black. 

Like the superficial spreading melanoma, it often appears on the surface space. However, it is better at disguising itself. It would be best if you watched out for it on your ears, upper torso, and face. 

3. Nodular melanoma

Nodular melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. It spreads aggressively and is often caught when it is in its late stage. This is rather unfortunate because it has a high survival rate when caught in the early stages. 

Nodular melanoma is the easiest to spot. It grows vertically, so the mole appears as a bump on the skin. You are more likely to notice nodular melanoma than the other types. It is easy to tell the difference by looking at the shape, the color, and undefined edges. 

Unlike other types of melanoma, nodular melanoma shows up as new growth. It is easy to identify because of the fast pace at which it grows. This type of melanoma commonly occurs in the upper body, especially the neck and head. Birthmarks and benign moles are soft when touched, but if the new growth feels hard, you should probably get it checked out by a medical professional. 

4. Acral lentiginous melanoma

Acral lentiginous melanoma (ALM) is the most common form of skin cancer amongst people of color. It appears as a dark stain, so it isn’t easy to catch early on. You may think of it as just a bruise, but it may indicate worse. 

The fastest way to catch ALM is to look at the borders around the bruise. If the edges are highly pronounced and there is a clear difference between the dark skin and your normal skin, then you may be at risk. 

The struggle with ALM is that it appears in places that are hard to spot. It can appear on the soles of the feet, the hand, on fingernails, or toenails. You may think the bruise is natural when it first appears, but you should track its growth, just in case. 

Now that we have spoken about how to spot melanoma, here are ways to reduce your risk and prevent melanoma: 

1. Wear sunscreen 

Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight is one of the leading causes of skin cancer. Slapping on some SPF before you go outside could be a game-changer. Don’t forget to also apply sunscreen on cloudy days and during winter. Just because we don’t feel them, doesn’t mean that the sun’s harmful rays aren’t at work. 

2. Avoid tanning beds

The common misconception is that that tanning beds are harmless, and yet they emit dangerous UV rays. Exposing direct skin to the UV rays at such a close distance (for extended periods) increases the risk of melanoma by 75%. We advise you to look for safer and more effective ways to get a healthy glow. 

3. Wear protective clothing

Wearing protective clothing is a surefire way of protecting yourself from direct sunlight. Wearing a shirt, a hat, and sunglasses go a long way toward protecting you from dangerous UV rays. An action that seems futile at the moment could make a massive difference in the future.

4. Stay in the shade

The best way to keep yourself safe when you go outside is to avoid standing or sitting in direct sunlight. It may feel great at the moment, but it can also have long-term effects on the skin. You can enjoy the beautiful outdoors while reducing your risk of melanoma.  

The best way to celebrate #MelanomaMonday is by keeping yourself safe and raising awareness for the disease. Melanoma Monday is a reminder to regularly examine your skin for any defects. Early detection and early treatment save lives.  Don’t forget to rock your orange outfit and spread the word! 

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Health Care Health

A woman discovers she has two vaginas—but why did it take her doctors 25 years to realize it?

Vulvasations is a Tempest Love exclusive series dedicated to spreading awareness about the female reproductive system, debunking myths about periods and dissecting everything vajayjay related. Let’s talk about vaginas!

I was today years old when I discovered a person could be born with two vaginas.

It was a typical Thursday night for me. I was swiftly approaching too many hours spent scrolling on TikTok when I stumbled upon a now-viral video posted by TikTok user @britsburg, Brittany Jacobs. Like most stitched TikToks, the video started with a prompt: What is something a doctor completely ignored you about when clearly there was something wrong? Jacobs immediately claims, “I’m about to own this!”

And own it she does. Jacobs goes on to reveal she was born with two vaginas. This is actually a rare genetic condition known as double uterus or uterus didelphys, which means a person is born with two uteri and potentially two cervixes as well. Typically, a baby’s uterus originates from two small tubes called Mullerian ducts that eventually fuse together while the baby is still in its mother’s womb. With uterus didelphys, however, the tubes never fuse and instead remain divided by a thin membrane.

Pretty cool, right? Well, not exactly.

Jacobs explains that every month, she experiences two painful periods, heavy bleeding, and painful sex. When she was pregnant with her son, she only carried on one side. The only reason she found out about her condition is because a nurse noticed it when she was giving birth to her son.


#stitch with @omqgabbi HOW DO YOU NOT NOTICE THAT LIKE WHAT. #UD #BiggerIsBetter #ShowerWithMoxie #uterusowner #womenempowerment #momsoftiktok

♬ original sound – Britsburg

My first thought after watching this TikTok a few more times was how did the doctors not catch this earlier? As a 25-year-old woman, Jacobs has technically been going to the doctors for 25 years, including gynecologist and obstetrician-gynecologist (OBGYN) visits. The side effects she listed should have clued her doctors into her condition long before she delivered her son.

But this isn’t actually all that shocking when we take into account how modern medicine often fails minority communities.

Historically, medical institutions have long upheld racism and sexism. This deadly combination has culminated for hundreds of years and put many BIPOC in danger. Black women especially are often taken advantage of and dismissed by practicing doctors to this day, with many Black women going on TikTok to discuss why doctors need to do better.


#stitch with @omqgabbi consistently failed by doctors #fyp #doctorfail #listentoblackwomen

♬ original sound – Meikoshi

In fact, doctors’ implicit race- and gender-based bias has put many Black women in jeopardy. The medical industry’s malpractice has contributed to horrible statistics like 40% of Black women being more likely to die from breast cancer compared to white women and Black women being three times more likely to suffer from severe complications from childbirth than white women—both of which could be lower if proper care had been provided by medical professionals.

While egregious facts like these have roots tracing back throughout U.S. history, it’s important to note that “history” doesn’t always mean very long ago.

In the 20th century alone, federally-funded programs included forced sterilizations of immigrants, people of color, including 70,000 Native American women, poor people, unmarried mothers, people with disabilities, and the mentally ill. And, like most of American racism, this practice carried over into the 21st century. Between 2006 and 2010, California prisons authorized the sterilization of 144 female inmates, a majority of whom were Black or Latina.

Let’s say Jacobs did share her ailments with her doctors prior to her pregnancy. Even then there is still the possibility that her doctors dismissed her pain because she’s a woman.

In the 19th century, “hysteria” was often used to “diagnose” women and force them into mental institutions. At the time, it was perfectly okay for husbands to admit their wives to these institutions without the women’s consent. Postpartum depression, infertility, masturbation, and homosexuality were also reasons women were placed in mental institutions.

It’s important to know this history, wrought with the trauma and pain of racism and sexism because we need to be better about holding the medical industry accountable.

I think one of the reasons why we as a society have failed at this is because of doctor dramas like Grey’s Anatomy, Scrubs, The Good Doctor, House, and more—all of which can be viewed as the medical equivalent of Brooklyn Nine-Nine cop propaganda.

Doctor dramas often show medical professionals going the extra mile to deliver care to their patients. For example, Meredith Grey has been suspended, fired, arrested, and jailed throughout her story’s 17 seasons. She usually faces these consequences because she broke rules in order to help save her patients.

But doctors outside of dramas are not always known for having this same level of dedication. Many of my friends and coworkers struggle with chronic illness and have shared stories about having to convince their doctors to take them seriously and administer a diagnosis.

In addition, people with disabilities reportedly receive inferior health care because less than 20 percent of medical schools teach their students how to talk to patients with disabilities. Furthermore, patients with disabilities are often otherized, which adds a psychological toll for these patients who are already having to advocate for and even explain their medical care to their doctors.

Though we’re told to trust our doctors, this is often easier said than done for many communities. Women of color, especially Black and Native American women, and people with disabilities face discrimination in the medical industry every day, with many people struggling for years to demand proper medical treatment. If our doctors don’t see anything wrong with that, then they are part of the problem.

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