Millions of women the world over wear white, but why do they do so with trepidation?
Owning and, more importantly, wearing a white dress is something Tanika Gray Valburn does proudly, because there was a time in her life when it was impossible – and for many women like her, it remains taboo. But to Valbrun, the founder of the US-based NPO, The White Dress Project, it’s a symbol of empowerment.
During the month of September, Tanika Gray Valburn is on a personal mission to educate men, women, healthcare professionals, HR managers and anyone who will listen about uterine fibroids and adenomyosis. Sharing Valburn’s passion for edification and empowerment, is South African interventional radiologist Dr Gary Sudwarts, whose Fibroid Treatment Clinic is busy changing the lives of women with this potentially life-threatening condition. Sudwarts does this by performing Uterine Fibroid Embolisation (UFE), a highly effective and far less invasive alternative to the usually recommended, and mostly unnecessary, hysterectomy.
Valbrun has a personal journey with fibroids – her mother lost two successive sets of twins, with Tanika the only surviving child, and she has first-hand experience of living with the pain, anaemia and fatigue associated with fibroids (not to mention the reproductive issues). She founded The White Dress Project in memory of the brothers and sisters she couldn’t grow up with, as a testament to her mother, and to create a vehicle through which she can advocate for change and grow global awareness around what is often an ‘embarrassing’ topic for many.
Sudwarts, who also has a personal connection to the condition, has chosen to focus his skills as an interventional radiologist on helping as many women as possible: “My own mother had a hysterectomy for fibroids when I was 14 years old. I remember her lying in bed for weeks recovering from the surgery. The defeminising loss of her uterus had a profound effect on her. When I became a radiologist, I realised that I had a skill that could save many women the ordeal of major surgery for their fibroids.”
Why a white dress? Valbrun says, “Wearing a white dress is unthinkable for a woman with fibroids, as often they have no advanced warning of when their menstruation cycle will begin, and it can arrive in a flood and at the most inopportune moments. We chose white as a symbol of hope, perseverance and empowerment.” By choosing UFE, a woman can wear white, something many take for granted. It’s also a colour often associated with a clean slate, and a new beginning.
Valbrun and Sudwarts have formed the partnership between their organisations, to create a greater awareness around the option of UFE as a viable and workable first line therapy. In the years to come, they also hope to raise funds for women in South Africa who do not have private medical insurance (the procedure is covered by most) so they, too, can live a better life.
Sudwarts, Valbrun and a panel of experts, including gynaecologist Dr Selina Ramatsoso and Dr Lukhaimane, have announced their formal partnership in Johannesburg and Cape Town in informative sessions for patients with fibroids, their partners, as well as gynaecologists, healthcare professionals and human resource managers who need to be more open to the notion of ‘period pain’. For more information about the event, visit The White Dress Project.
Source and images: The White Dress Project