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Dare to be Aware

 article about Dare to be Aware


The
female body is often viewed as an object of beauty, intrigue and
sexuality. When discussing a woman's body many features come to mind:
smooth skin, soft lips, the vulva and curvaceous hips and breasts. Hold
on, what an earth is a vulva?




In a society where sex,
drugs and profanity have become paramount, why is the word vulva considered
unmentionable? It is the notion of 'inappropriateness', as well as the
embarrassment and shame, affixed to gynaecological conditions that contributes
to many preventable female deaths all around the world each year.




For the unaware,
the vulva refers to a woman's visible external genitalia. This includes the
mons pubis (known as the mount of Venus) the majora labia and labia minora
(outer and inner lips), the vestibule (vagina entrance) and the clitoris.




Kathleen Mazzella,
founder of GAIN (Gynaecological Awareness Information Network) endured the
trauma of being diagnosed and treated for gynaecological cancer. At 42 years
old Mrs. Mazzella underwent a vulvectomy resulting in the removal of her entire
vulva.




The first Saturday
in April 2006 marked the Vulval Awareness Day, a day Mrs. Mazzella has dreamt
about. She likened her dream to the desire of owning a Lamborghini. "You've
worked for it and lived it, breathed it, drank it, smelt it, sexed it, and
finally your dream comes true. I had a dream to have a national gynaecological
awareness day – which we've had. And I have had a dream to have an
international vulval awareness day."




In response to the
needs of women throughout the world, Mrs. Mazzella is lobbying for more
awareness, funding and research for Gynaecological Cancers and Pre Cancers.




Politician Louise
Pratt MLC declared the Vulval Awareness Day open with the ceremonial cutting of
a brightly adorned pink ribbon.




"Women really do
need to be able to talk openly about their gynaecological health with health
professionals and with each other" Ms Pratt said, commending GAIN for the
Vulval Awareness Day.




Ms Pratt went on
to state the importance of ensuring that "women's voices are heard by public
health professionals, policy makers and politicians. These (gynaecological
conditions) are not just medical conditions, they have a profound impact on
women's sense of self and their day to day lives both psychologically and
physically."




"Being female
often isn't much fun. From periods to managing sexual health and negotiating
safe sex, to having the confidence to talk to your doctor about sexual
reproduction, from thrush to pap smears, to ingrown hairs on your bikini line,"
Ms Pratt spoke candidly, "it is actually really refreshing to be able to stand
on a public platform and talk so openly about such very personal things
associated with being a woman."




Whilst women have
"come some way in lifting the veil from this ‘secret women's business'" Ms
Pratt said that "too many women are still putting their lives at risk from a
lack of confidence" which would enable them to negotiate safe sex, have an STI
test, get regular pap smears or conduct a vulval self examination.




Melissa Beeck,
GAIN member, Science Graduate, pathologist, reflexologist, massage therapist
and naturopath to be, assisted in establishing the Vulval Vestibulits Support
(VVS) Group. At the Vulval Awareness Day she shared her gynaecological
experiences.







For ten years Mrs.
Beeck has suffered VVS which refers to the inflammation of the vestibule and
vagina. VVS can be spontaneous or due to a trauma of the vulva and as of yet
there is no cure. Accompanying VVS, Vulvodynia concerns intense vulva pain. In
both conditions the skin is usually extremely dry, tearing easily, leaving tiny
painful fissures.




"The pain is like
a sore throat that's been turned inside out and dragged along gravel" Mrs.
Beeck said.




The extreme vulva
pain caused by VVS and Vulvodynia often makes intercourse impossible. Mrs.
Beeck spoke about the heartache she felt being unable to experience sex with
her husband "because of this excruciating pain that everyone insists is in your
head."




Mrs. Beeck proudly
announced that after eight years of Allopathic treatments, physical therapy and
naturopathy she is "only raw at the vestibule, no longer throughout the
vagina." Whilst intercourse is still painful this is a vast improvement which
has allowed her to become pregnant.




Pathologist Dr.
Jane Thompson studies conditions that occur in vulvas. "Once we get over the
taboo and everything that we think is sexual, what we are actually looking at
is skin" Dr. Thompson said with regard to the vulva.




"We're taught that
‘down there' is essentially dirty but in fact the vulva and vagina are actually
an incredibly clean space" Dr. Thompson said.




Dr. Thompson
pleaded with the audience, "Ladies, if you've got a lump or a bump, don't just
ignore it because you feel it's in the wrong place or it's in a place you feel
ashamed of. See your doctor immediately and if you're not happy then get a
second opinion."




For more
information visit the GAIN Inc website at www.gynsupport.com






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