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If you are considering committing or recommitting to a healthful lifestyle in 2024, you should schedule a routine appointment at your local HerMD.

Over the course of my healthcare journey I, like many women also having gone through the U.S. healthcare system, have routinely felt dismissed, ignored, and shamed – to feel as if my symptoms and concerns were “all in my head.” I had spent years struggling through various chronic and acute health concerns, all while being met, quite often, with resistance, disbelief, and labeled a “difficult patient” from various healthcare providers and institutions. For as long as I can remember, one health concern that has continued to persist throughout my lifespan has been my body’s propensity to hold onto weight, and proven difficulty in keeping weight off. It manages to top the list of health concerns I have with each new year.

Throughout my health journey, doctors and other healthcare professionals had commented on my weight, sometimes noting it was too low after a bout of dieting and weight loss, but often that it had been too high and that I should reduce my calorie intake. My struggles with weight – and relationship with food – have been one of my largest struggles to date. I’ve worked through these issues since the age of 13, and the struggles I’ve overcome have inspired my career choice to become an aspiring Registered Dietitian (RD). Alas, you can imagine my surprise when, after decades of anecdotal evidence, along with formalized nutrition education, my best attempts at healthful eating weren’t correlating with the number I desired to see on the scale. My prior doctors’ advice to “watch what you eat” proved to be an unsatisfactory solution to ameliorate my weight concerns.

By going through my personal health journey, as well as through formalized education and awareness, I’ve learned healthful living is, in fact, so much more than simply relying on the “watching what you eat” principle. More recently, I’ve felt compelled to square away the root cause of my weight concerns, as I’ve also experienced additional, bothersome symptoms that have been outside the realm of “normal” for my body. I sought the advice of HerMD’s Dr. Somi Javaid to help guide me in my quest for answers.

I live in New York City, and consider myself fortunate to have access to a nearby HerMD. Geographically, the HerMD center closest in proximity to my home is the location in Millburn, NJ, which is just a quick ride on the subway to Penn Station, and from there, a 40-minute NJ Transit train ride to Millburn. Even better: upon arriving at the Millburn train station, you’ll only need to walk <5 minutes to the HerMD center – NYC friends – take note!

When I arrived at my appointment, the nurse reviewed with me the medical information I had populated into my intake forms prior to the appointment. After conducting a thorough discussion of my medical history, she turned to me and said, “Wow, you’ve been through alot.” I had. For the first time in my healthcare journey, I felt seen. Many of the chronic health struggles I had grappled with over the lifespan were legitimized in that moment. A sense of relief swept over me. “I have been through a lot,” I said to myself after the nurse’s words reverberated through my body. The mere recognition of my health journey thus far by a healthcare provider granted my body the permission it needed to allow a free expression of self. Thereafter, I felt comfortable discussing, with the nurse and later on with Dr. Javaid, the health struggles I had faced, those which I liken to “walls”, unable to be broken down irrespective of internal or external pressures.

Of note, I’d like to bring attention to the measures that HerMD employs to ensure your health appointment remains woven with integrity and dignity. While the nurse was reviewing my medical history, I remained clothed for the duration of our discussion. Even after the nurse completed her tasks, she asked that I remain clothed for my initial discussion with Dr. Javaid. Although it may seem like a small token of respect for a patient, remaining clothed during my interactions with HerMD’s healthcare professionals meant a great deal to me. It solidified my integrity, dignity, and ultimately, safety, remain intact, even in the midst of a vulnerable situation.

During my (clothed) time with Dr. Javaid, she remained present, thoughtful, and engaged. “Have you ever been tested for PCOS?” she asked. Polycystic ovary syndrome, abbreviated as PCOS, is a common condition in which an individual’s hormones become unbalanced, often causing a wide-range of bothersome symptoms which present across the body. While I had been formally tested for PCOS prior, I didn’t quite meet the criteria for a PCOS diagnosis at the time. I continued to muse to myself and others this likely diagnosis, however, in spite of a concrete diagnosis. PCOS would, after all, serve as a likely explanation for the range of symptoms I experienced over the years: weight gain, hirsutism, acne, anxiety, and periods that were just starting to become irregular. I proceeded to undergo the necessary testing for this presumed diagnosis; a welcome task after years of seeking answers to my most bothersome health concerns.

In addition to addressing my most pressing health concerns, Dr. Javaid spent ample time discussing with me the various screening and disease prevention strategies I should actively practice given personal and family medical history. Together, we reviewed the results from the MyRisk® Hereditary Cancer Test, which screens individuals with a strong family history of cancers for genetic mutations that may predispose them to developing certain cancers in the future. My family history of cancers, which I endearingly refer to as mostly “lady cancers” or cancers of the uterus, breast, and ovaries, is strong. After combining my personal and familial health histories, the MyRisk® test identified any possible genetic mutations, and also projected my lifetime cancer risk score. While my test results indicated I was negative for any possible genetic mutations, my lifetime cancer risk score resulted above the threshold of what is considered “normal.” Consequently, I, at the age of 32, will need various, modified breast screenings for optimal disease prevention – and these screenings will start now. Had I not had this personalized risk information available to me, in the future, I would have continued to follow the breast cancer screening guidelines issued for general public use, thereby increasing the possibility of a missed cancer diagnosis and the potential for diagnosis when a cancer may be more advanced. 

Finally, in the same spirit of screening and disease prevention, Dr. Javaid spent ample time discussing with me the importance of lifestyle modifications to support overall health & wellness. From optimal sleep, to stress reduction, exercise suggestions, to family planning, and beyond, Dr. Javaid took the time to ensure I understood and subsequently embraced these best practices to optimize my health journey. Do busy healthcare providers actually do this?!

I walked away from this appointment armed with answers, and feeling revitalized and inspired to set out on my 2024 health journey & beyond. Alas, if you’ve made it to the end of this blog, my hope, above all, is that you too feel inspired. If you’ve been struggling with personal health concerns and you’re seeking a safe space to have those concerns addressed, HerMD is here for you. If you feel like you’ve “fallen off the wagon” and need a direction reset, HerMD healthcare providers can help you to take charge of your health needs and goals in 2024. Tired of feeling dismissed and ignored? HerMD healthcare providers are here to engage, listen, and provide you with a targeted treatment plan – one that fits your unique lifestyle.

And, if you’re seeking additional inspiration on your 2024 health journey & beyond, below is a carefully curated list of women’s healthcare “Ins” for 2024:

  • Healthcare providers who legitimize your health concerns 
  • Expressing your health & wellness needs with dignity and within a safe space
  • Listening to and understanding your body; taking inventory of that which is considered “normal” for you and your body
  • Understanding your personal risk for developing certain cancers
  • Performing an “intake” of your lifestyle, and employing behavioral changes when necessary to optimize health outcomes

Are you interested in seeing the team at HerMD for your healthcare concerns? Schedule an appointment today!

Michelle D. Nezolosky

Michelle is the Director of Programs, responsible for leading the education and health intervention programs at HerMD. She supports the health and well-being of staff and patients through training and education, community outreach, and research initiatives.

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