AML patient and Empowerment Lead, Sasha Tanori, shares how she had to overcome several biases to get doctors to take her symptoms seriously.
So, of course, I can’t speak for everybody, but of course for me, I am Mexican American, I’m from a little small area called The Imperial Valley, it’s like at the very, very bottom of California, and it’s literally like 20 minutes away from Mexico. So right off the bat, I experienced a lot of low-income poverty type of bias, I guess you could say. And then being plus size, that was another thing when I initially first went…I remember one of the first things that they told me, I was like, “Well, first of all, you’re obese, and you need to lose weight.” And I was like, “Well, I have to deal with the bruises?” And they were like, “Well, maybe your body.” They’re just coming up with different excuses as to why, maybe it’s because I have this problem or that problem, and I was just like, “Well, no, I don’t really think that’s the issue.” So then they had misdiagnosed me, I got sent home and then when I had went back to the hospital, that was another thing they brought up again, I was in the hospital, because I had a giant bruise on my lower back, and it was like I looked like a tire mark. And they were like, “Okay, well, it says here that your BMI is high.” And I’m like, “But what…what does me being plus-sized have to do with the giant bruise on my back? This doesn’t make any sense.” No correlation, nothing.
So that was another big thing that just has always irritated me my entire life, I’ve always been a pretty big chubby girl, so if I had hurt myself they would always bring up my weight somehow it’s just like, that is looking to do with me breaking a bone or me having the cold or something dumb like that. So that was another thing that kind of bugged me whenever I was first diagnosed, they would always kind of bring up your weight, and another thing is that because I live in a low-income community, we don’t have resources like cancer doctors down here, I think there’s like maybe two and they’re not even in my local town, they’re in the town over. That’s like a 10-minute drive. So when I was first diagnosed, I was at the hospital for 12 hours. I was there with my mom and they had no clue what was wrong with me, so then I got sent to San Diego, which is like two-and-a-half hours away, and when as soon as I got there, within like 30 minutes, I was diagnosed with cancer.
So that’s how quickly they were able to catch it and everything, but in my local town they had no clue what was wrong, they didn’t know it was cancer, they didn’t know what was going on. They just kept doing tests after tests after tests, and they’re on blood work, and finally, they were just like, “We have no clue, we’ve got to send you somewhere else. You’ve got to get in an ambulance and leave.” So we were just like, “Okay.” So yeah, that was definitely something that…it has a lot to do with my culture. I live in a small mostly Mexican-driven city location, I guess the Imperial Valley is like a valley, I guess it has five or six different little towns all put together, so a majority of us are Mexican, so we’re considered low-income poverty, we don’t have a lot compared to when it comes to bigger towns like LA or San Diego or San Francisco, but yeah, I think those were my biggest issues. And then, of course, being a woman. No matter what, you’re always going to get that. People aren’t going to take you serious. We’re going to get that, “Oh, man, she’s just overreacting. She’s on her period,” or your typical misogynist stuff that people say about you. But those are my biggest things or I guess adversities that I had to go through when it came to my cancer journey.