Woman reading a book
Women's Health,  Patient Advocacy

Interested in Women’s Health and Patient Advocacy?  Here are Two Books I Highly Recommend

I love to read and I’m a voracious reader. I mostly love fiction and can always get behind a good boddice ripper or beach read, I am from time to time drawn to non-fiction works to expand my rapidly shrivelling 59-year-old brain. Now that I find myself a bit of a women’s health crusader and patient advocate, I have been picking up books on related subject matter. Two reads right now that I strongly recommend are All in Her Head and Rebel Health. 

All In Her Head, The Truth and Lies Early Medicine Taught Us About Women’s Bodies and Why It Matters Today by Dr. Elizabeth Comen, MD will have your feminist mind blown within the first few pages. I follow Dr. Elizabeth on Instagram and pre-ordered this title before it became available. I have zero regrets. Since its release, the book has become a much-talked-about smash hit, garnering the attention of Oprah, Maria Shriver and even First Lady Jill Biden. 

A breast oncologist at Memorial Sloan Ketterling and a medical historian, Dr. Elizabeth explores the way women have been treated like objects to be “practiced on” by the medical community over history and even into current times. Her dustcover sets the tone saying women have been “examined and ignored, idealized and sexualized, shamed, subjugated, mutilated and dismissed.” 

Using Grey’s Anatomy the standard for medical teaching practice as her framework, Dr. Elizabeth takes the reader through the road map of the eleven organ systems, sharing stories and medical theories that continue to inform the way medicine is taught and women are treated today. In her first chapter, she opens with the poignant (and personally touching) story of Ellen — a patient of hers. Ellen has breast cancer. She is dying of the disease and in her last days. And yet, when Dr. Elizabeth leans in to give her comfort, Ellen feels compelled to apologize to her own doctor for sweating on her. 

The stories Dr. Elizabeth relates continue to shock and appall. 

Within her pages — and these are just a handful of the stories she shares — we meet Mary Ashberry an achondroplastic dwarf and her nameless baby. When Mary dies in childbirth — her child too large to pass through her pelvis — she becomes a specimen to be examined. Her bones and that of her baby are bleached and reassembled on a pipe. Now nameless objects of curiosity, Mary and her baby have stood behind glass at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia for more than a century. We also meet Catherine, who from the age of 16 began refusing food after her parents insist that she marry her sister’s widower. After entering the nunhood, Catherine dies at 33 and is canonized a saint. And last but not least, we meet Miriam, Dr. Elizabeth’s own mother, who has her symptoms of a concussion dismissed as PTSD, anxiety and/or the by-product of old age. 

In my humble opinio, All In Her Head should be required text book reading in medical school. It is a must read for any woman, or anyone who knows a woman. 

Rebel Health by Susanna Fox is another terrific book I highly recommend. It was suggested to me by Zayna Khayat, Deloitte’s Health Futurist, who after hearing me speak about my health journey, AskEllyn and the advocacy work I’m doing, urged me to pick up a copy. Again no regrets. Every word in Susanna’s book spoke to me. It dives into the world of patients, who, dissatisfied and frustrated by a healthcare system that is built to heal, not innovate, become “seekers and networkers” driven to find new and better ways to manage their condition. This is my story to a T. As a first time patient in the Canadian healthcare system, I knew intuitively that I needed to quickly acquire knowledge about my breast cancer diagnosis, surgery and treatment options. I wanted to have good conversations with my doctors and hold my own in the decision-making process. I wrote my book FLAT PLEASE to pass that knowledge along to other women who may not have the same ability or time to do that research for themselves. The creation of AskEllyn, done in partnership with Gambit Technologies is now allowing me to deliver the knowledge and support contained in my book at scale, in any language and around the world. 

In Susanna Fox’s words, every seeker needs a solver. This seeker found her solver in the team at Gambit. Seekers and solvers also need champions to help them bring their innovation to market. We’re still in the early stages of building relationships with those champions but have found an extraordinary one in Dr. Illya Gipp and the team at GE Healthcare, who appreciate the work we’re doing, love what we have built and are helping us share it with the world. 

Ellyn Winters-Robinson is a breast cancer survivor, entrepreneur, author, in-demand speaker, women’s health advocate, professional communicator and a globally recognized health rebel. Ellyn's best-selling book "Flat Please Hold the Shame," is a girlfriend’s companion guide for those on the breast cancer journey. She is also the co-creator of AskEllyn.ai, the world’s first conversational AI companion for those on the breast cancer journey. With Dense Breasts Canada and award-winning photographer Hilary Gauld, Ellyn also co-produced I WANT YOU TO KNOW, a celebrated photo essay showing the diverse faces and stories of 31 individuals on the breast cancer journey. Ellyn’s story and AskEllyn.ai have been featured in People Magazine, Chatelaine Magazine, the Globe and Mail, CTV National News and Your Morning, and Fast Company.

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