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Uterus isn't a four-letter word

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Marcysuterinepost.jpgBy Marcy Kurtz

Most importantly, I'm a daughter, sister, aunt and dependable friend to many. I practice law as a vocation and yoga as an avocation. I'm deeply committed to helping people, as a lawyer and as a yoga instructor. I'm a two-time cancer survivor, beating breast cancer diagnosed in October 2005 and uterine cancer diagnosed in August 2010. I'm just another ordinary person living an ordinary life, one day at a time.

Admit it. The headline for this post made you cringe a little, didn't it? Who really wants to say that word? Uterus is a six-letter word that has the same stigma as a four-letter swear word. None of us readily admit to using it and we try hard not to say it out loud -- at least not in public.

It took us (the general American population) more than 20 years to get comfortable saying aloud the word breast, another six-letter word.

While we remain silent and fearful of uttering the names of such a sexually charged pair of body parts, too many women, and men, died from a disease that today many can live with because we finally found our voices.  

Release the stigma

Our societal release of the stigma around saying the word breast allowed people to raise much-needed awareness about early detection and even more needed money to develop life-saving treatments. 

Now we must also release the stigma around the words that define other vital body parts unique to women -- uterus, vagina and cervix, which, interestingly, are all six-letter words. 

These are the body parts women are born with and yet we're trained from childhood not to say these words, certainly not out loud.  

Sometimes, we're even taught instead to use silly nicknames for our body parts. The stigma starts early.

The consequences follow us through a lifetime and are deadly. We must take sex out of the six-letter words.

Cancer is yet another six-letter word we have difficulty saying.

Our refusal to speak these words, much less headline them in any way, negatively impacts the ability to spread awareness about the early detection symptoms for women's cancers.

It also severely impairs fundraising efforts essential to advancing life-saving treatments. 

How on earth do you find any words that rhyme with, or even sound good with, the word uterus? Planning fundraising or awareness events is a challenge with the focus on our body parts.

Soften the approach
I am a two-time cancer survivor. All I've done for the past seven years is talk about my body parts. Out of necessity, I got over the stigma.  

However, as I was undergoing treatment for uterine cancer I decided that maybe the way to draw attention to women's body parts and get people talking was simply to soften the approach, using the names of the actual body parts as a "byline" instead of as the headline. Hence, Peach Outreach was born.

Peach is the color for uterine cancer but is often also used as the color reference for other gynecological cancers. One of the key missions of Peach Outreach is to raise awareness of the symptoms for endometrial (uterine) cancer and other gynecological cancers.

With greater awareness will come much needed funding and, hopefully, more willingness to say words like uterus out loud so lives can be saved.

Read more posts by Marcy Kurtz

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