I feel, I should preface this review with the fact that I read this book right after getting out of my own endometriosis excision surgery and off my head on oxycodone. However, it was the exact thing I needed to help navigate my emotions and physical trials during the post-op period.
Ask Me About My Uterus - A Quest to Make Doctors Believe Women’s Pain by Abby Norman is part memoir and part non-fiction, divided between heavy medical research and Abby’s personal experiences intertwined throughout.
The book begins with Norman sharing the catalyst of her quest for doctors to take her pain seriously - an acute attack of pelvic and abdominal pain in her college dorm shower. She then delves into the history of classifying uterine issues as a symptom of psychiatric illnesses, and how this is still the norm for patients seeking medical treatment for gynaecological conditions today. Many women are still told they are imagining pain, being neurotic, or are anxious. Norman asked “Was the underlying pre-existing condition being female?”
She presents cases, experiments and facts from hysteria history in a digestible format for those who don’t understand medical jargon. I definitely began to wonder if being a female was the main roadblock to receiving adequate reproductive healthcare.
When unpacking these complex subjects, Norman recognises endometriosis isn’t just a “woman’s disease,” and considers the experiences of the LQBTQ+ community in discussion.
Some of the things I read in the research portions absolutely blew me away and will be hard to forget. The fact, which first comes to mind is, endometriosis has been found in human female fetuses at different gestational ages, during autopsies… insane!
I thoroughly enjoyed the chapters focused on research as it helped me learn more about my anatomy, my bizarre yet common endometriosis experiences, and the history of reproductive medicine and how it still affects gynaecological treatment in the present.
Ask Me About My Uterus, while telling the unique experience of a girl in a unique life stage, can resonate with almost all endometriosis sufferers. So many of us have presented to A&E, only to have our life choices criticised and be bombarded with skepticism over our experience. I can say from personal encounters I’d rather stay at home in distress than go to hospital and be mentally and emotionally put through the wringer.
Norman’s recount of her journey through the American healthcare system is quite shocking, especially to us Australians. While both systems have their positives and negatives, for me, it highlighted just how lucky I am to have access to specialists through the private system. Seeing the experience through the eyes of someone who doesn’t have the same level of access or subsidisation was quite the reality check, and showed me I might not be doing so well if I was unable to access private medical assistance. Many people can’t financially afford healthcare, but also can’t “afford” to be stuck on the years long waiting list to see a specialist. The waiting game is an issue affecting all endometriosis sufferers, hence the average of a decade to receive a diagnosis.
The biggest learning points can be found in both the scientific facts and Norman’s personal experience. The history of female health in medicine is fascinating to those with and without endometriosis, and should be known by every woman to better understand how to navigate their reproductive health in a biased system. Her personal stories illustrate the flaws in healthcare, the frustration of not understanding her own body, and how various health conditions can impact a person’s finances, studies, relationships, sex life, self-confidence, employment, sense of self and self-worth.
Ask Me About My Uterus is a must-read for anyone struggling with endometriosis, as Norman’s journey, traumatic as it is, will resonate with you, reassure you and show you that you’re not the only one experiencing this disease and it’s symptoms. It could also be a great read for someone close to you trying to understand endometriosis, such as an intimate partner or family member.
Endometriosis or not - everyone would benefit from better knowledge of this common disease; the way its represented, and how sufferers experience life with the medical odds stacked against them.