by Anielka Medina
Such an interesting week for me, as if I have lived 100 years! It may seem like an exaggeration, but truly everything I've learned and witnessed in these last several weeks has led me to the conclusion the purpose of life is to share joy and help others.
Talking with the women in the community and listening to their stories has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. In so many ways it affects me emotionally because I relate to their lives due to my own upbringing.
Last week I met a woman who came in for the exam and when I explained to her the procedure of the examination she began to cry. At that moment I felt helpless because her story really touched me. She was middle-aged woman who suffered sexual abuse when she was 11 years old. She had been married for many years, but she explained that she never wanted to have sex and now its worse because she is starting menopause, and her husband always forces her. My mind was so disturbed listening to her. I wanted to help but did not know how, so I wrote a note to her husband explaining the changes one suffers when going through menopause and a plea to let her choose when she is ready. Also, the treatment I was giving her required a break from sexual relations for 30 days.
I had the opportunity to see her the next day and to my surprise she was smiling. She told me she handed the note to her husband and he said he would respect it and told her not to worry; he understood. I felt so happy. I realized in that moment that sometimes little things have great value.
Our team is really focused on the biggest problem for women in Nicaragua: cervical cancer, and we know our culture is something that has created the problem. We developed a banner that explains how culture influences health, and we try to get the women attending to think about it. Regardless, there is always an objection. I examined a woman who is just 29 years old. Utilizing VIA, I explained that she needed to return for cryotherapy treatment. Unfortunately, she did not return so I decided to call her. I actually had to listen to the husband tell her that treatment was not necessary and just a lie. My mind was exploding with rage, and I told her to bring her husband to talk with me, but he wouldn’t agree. She never arrived. How can a man tell the mother of his children not to go to treatment for something that could kill her?? It's so sad to see how sexism is killing our women.
If our women received a screening at least once in their lifetime, cancer in Nicaragua would be reduced to 20%. We must be strong. Our culture must change for the sake of our children; for the sake of ourselves!
Today was our last day in the small fishing community of Miramar. It was so amazing to partake in the lives of the women for the past two weeks. I believe the women in the community are strong. They wake up every day to make tortillas, pelicanear (a term used for women who work cleaning fish), gathering firewood to be able to cook, washing clothes and taking care of their children. Laborioius tasks are just a part of their life because they also have to deal with their husbands who pay them no respect and only use them for selfish needs and desires. Women here rarely have time to take care of themselves.
I have so much respect for the ladies that received the exam and treatment w. I know that for so many it must have been very dificult to find a way to tell their husbands that they could not have sex for one month after the treatment. Its incredible how life just goes on for these women. Even right after treatment, I saw many of them in the town working to feed their families.
I’m thankful to all the women who left their homes for a moment to be part of this important project. We cannot do this alone. It truly takes brave women in the community to really make our vision into a reality; a vision that at the core simply wants women to be healthy for their families. Together, we will make it happen. We are strong.