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As a mental health practitioner, life coach, and three-time caregiver, Asha Tarry has a full schedule. During a point in her life when she felt constantly unwell, she took time out to explore the power of nutritious food, herbs, and lifestyle changes.

Today, Tarry advises clients to do the same. “The first thing I tell every client is to make time for solitude and quiet,” she says. “Next, I encourage them to check their calendars and block out time for themselves. Wellness visits, dates with friends, and rejuvenating pastimes are non-negotiable.”

Dr. Kyri Mosley, founder of Kyri’s Kookies, received the diagnosis of Stage 4 Ewing sarcoma in 2019, but by the time it was discovered, it had infiltrated her right pelvic wall and lungs. Aggressive treatment involved six weeks of daily radiation treatments and chemotherapy infusions lasting from 80-120 consecutive hours for each treatment.

“Seeing the fragility of life has forever changed me,” Dr. Kyri remarks, “but today, my health is my wealth. My battle convinced me to leave a stressful career and make daily choices to sustain my health. Remission is not the end — it’s my new beginning.”

Gloria Kolb, co-founder of Elitone, felt young and physically fit in her twenties but faced bladder leaks after the birth of her daughter. “I saw incontinence as an issue for older adults, but I came to realize that health can change at any time,” she recalls. “What’s more, I saw how health impacted every aspect of daily life — my happiness, self-confidence, and ability to be active. For me, prioritizing health requires an investment in the tools that care for my pelvic floor, which I see as an investment in my future.”

Similarly, before Dr. Sulagna Misra, founding physician at Misra Wellness, began her medical career, she underwent a shocking health scare. Within days of her mother being diagnosed with ovarian cancer, she found herself virtually paralyzed in her neck and left arm. “During one of my exams, I suddenly could not hold anything in my hand,” she recalls. “A doctor showed me a scan, pointed to a mass, and told me I had cancer.”

Though Dr. Misra’s cancer proved to be a misdiagnosed disc impingement, she never takes her clean bill of health for granted. Today, she prioritizes health with equal parts work, play, rest, and proper nutrition.

 

Health disparities among women of color

When prioritizing health, BIPOC women are disproportionately burdened by chronic issues, including cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke, and cancer. Compounding these health risks, they fight cultural pressure to deal with health concerns privately and a higher probability of misdiagnosis.

“I want to speak to the misdiagnosis of black women,” Dr. Kyri says. “As I sought the reason for the pain and extreme swelling in my right leg, I was personally misdiagnosed four times. Black women and racial minorities are 20-to-30% more likely than white men to experience a medical misdiagnosis. This statistic is extremely poignant in light of a study revealing that nearly 1 in 4 hospital patients who die or are transferred to intensive care experience diagnostic errors.

Kolb elaborates on how women of color are also less likely to discuss their health issues. “We often allow health conditions to worsen before we ever bring them up,” she observes. “In my case, this resulted in my pelvic health and incontinence getting much worse. Waiting made it much harder to return to a healthy state.”

Dr. Misra says that women’s expectations concerning health largely depend on culture. In her case, even though she comes from a family of physicians, her family does not typically schedule appointments with medical professionals. “We don’t go to doctors until we are at death’s door,” she admits. “Preventative care is not part of our culture.”

Tarry observes that while many women of color look beautiful on the outside, it isn’t necessarily reflective of their internal health. “Growing up, I was surrounded by women who prioritized their health, sought out different opinions from multiple doctors, and built solid relationships with primary care physicians. That’s not typical.”

Tarry urges women of color to build a strong connection with at least one trusted physician. She also advocates for finding a women’s clinic where providers specialize in women’s health.

 

The importance of self-care for women of color

Tarry defines the crucial act of self-care as both luxury and practical preventative maintenance. “My self-care includes sleep, rest, and unplugging from devices,” she explains. “It includes reading, learning new things, nurturing relationships, and indulging in things that bring me joy.”

Dr. Misra bases her entire practice and profession on helping people along a personal journey of self-care. “I meet people where they are because everyone’s journey is different,” she says.  “My path to self-care involves playing with my dogs, reading, writing, painting, and helping people. These are the things that feed me, and I help others find what feeds them.”

In the quest for health, Dr. Kyri urges women to put their well-being first. “We are instinctive nurturers,” she notes. “Just as you place professional meetings and children’s recitals on your calendar, don’t neglect to schedule your own needs. Block out quiet time, workout time, meditation time — whatever else is critical for your wellness.”

Kolb sums up her advice on self-care by encouraging women to view their health as a long-term commitment: “If you fail to prioritize your health now, prepare to pay for it 10 times over in the future!”