There were five major events that led me to create the International Gynaecological Awareness Day.
Diagnosed with Vulva Cancer
When I was diagnosed with Vulva cancer, I endured a tremendous process of grief and personal physical and emotional struggle with first the diagnosis and then with the terrible suffering of the surgery and life post-surgery. Excuse my frankness, but at first, I was shell shocked that I had to choose between dying and living without my ‘female sacred soul’ for the sake of my family, as they wanted to cut out my clitoris, lymph glands and vulva. The first thoughts after diagnosis were, “What will I be without my genitals?”, “What about my sexual life?” and “Will my husband leave me?”, which then progressed to “What am I?” and “Where do I fit in society?”
Discovered Daughter had Endometriosis and Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome
Then a short time after my surgery I discovered that my daughter had Endometriosis and Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). Through ignorance, I had been unsympathetic and unsupportive of my daughter, secretly thinking ‘suck it up, princess, we all have pain with our periods’. I had little knowledge of gynaecology risks and symptoms, so I was mortified to learn that my daughter had been suffering severe levels of pain and doing that suffering relatively alone. She had joined the ranks of the millions of women in the world who suffer in silence with these conditions.
Someone Who Shared My Experience
I met a woman who had been through the same experience as me. I realised that there was healing in sharing stories and it was really important. I also realised that knowledge is power and that often the medical profession holds all the knowledge and only tell the patient what they think the patient needs to hear, not recognising that the patient might want deeper level information or access to others going through the same or similar challenge. I recognised that this needs to change. That there needs to be an opportunity for all to come together and share information.
Advertised in Prominent Women’s Magazine
Placing an advertisement in a prominent women’s magazine, I was flooded with letters from women who were suffering in silence expressing their loneliness, shame, embarrassment and frustrations. It again impressed upon me how women are geared towards communal living and needed the opportunity to come together for healing and sharing.
Started a Support Group for Women – GAIN Inc
I started a support group for women, which morphed into GAIN Inc. And it was as we were building this group, that I had the thought about creating a Gynaecological Awareness Day to help break down the stigmas and barriers and bring the medical profession, men and women to the same table to share our experiences and our knowledge. As I explored this idea, Senator Amanda Vanstone informed me that I could just name the day and make it happen. So, I decided to make it an International Day and so the International GYN Awareness Day was birthed.
The key messages about this day are:
1. Bring together the medical profession and community for the purpose of greater education, awareness and sharing of experiences.
2. Bring the men of our community into the picture, acknowledging that they often carry the load when their partners, sisters, mothers, aunts, daughters, work colleagues are suffering and encouraging them to gain their own knowledge of Gynaecology.
3. To break down the stigmas and barriers associated with Gynaecological, Sexual and Mental Health and to bring a fresh, fun and vivid image to this topic, taking it out of the closet.
4. To link Gynaecological, Sexual and Mental Health together, so we treat women holistically.
I am now looking for CHANGE CHAMPIONS who will embrace my message and run with it. If you are someone who is passionate about making a difference, willing to follow simple instructions to achieve big results, I need your help to make the International GYN Awareness Day an International reality so that we can start this conversation in every corner of the globe.
How to get involved:
1. Go to kathmazzella.com/IGAD and download the IGAD Kit, which takes you step by step through the process of how to celebrate and share the message.
2. Join the Facebook Page, https://www.facebook.com/KathMazzellaUBUCampaign/ join in the fun!
3. Make the decision to celebrate the International GYN Awareness Day on 10th September.
4. Book Kath to come and speak to your group or to do an Undies for Better Understanding Workshop with your community or corporate group.