Our mission is a big one. It challenges the medical system, the pharmacare regime of 2019 and the opioid crisis. It impacts women, and those who identify as such in a significant way. And most of all, it puts the patient’s needs on centre stage. Until 1994 only men were included in clinical trials conducted here in Canada - a disservice to at least 50% of the Canadian population. As the number of invisible illnesses, chronic illnesses and infertility are on the rise, we are starting to shine a light on the misunderstanding of non-cis-male bodies. We are starting to highlight the gender bias in all areas of treatment, we are identifying the severity of andronormativity existing today, and we are starting to close the gap between ‘actual’ and ‘contested’ illnesses. Altogether Femade’s mission is to elucidate the root cause behind chronic pain in each individual, work in parallel with their allopathic journey and provide our clients with every opportunity to live a less painful life.
"Women with chronic pain may be particularly vulnerable in this traditional communication style and rebuffed by physicians in their attempt to express the multiple ways in which their pain affects the quality of their lives and their ability to function”
— The girl who cried pain: A bias against women in the treatment of pain (Hoffman, Tarzian)
Pain is a complex symptom, and when presented on its own can be a challenge to treat. Pain can indicate a much larger problem. It can start out small (acute and faint) and can develop into chronic (long lasting) pain with sometimes no other accompanying symptoms. Recent metadata has shown cis-males tend to seek guidance from their physicians once the pain has impacted their work life. On the contrary other genders tend to seek assistance from social circles and will proceed to consult with a physician when the pain starts to impact their duty as a partner and a caregiver. Moreover, the narrative of these genders tends to be colored with emotions which, as described above in the The Girl Who Cried Pain, lends itself to vulnerability whereby the physician assumes the patient’s pain level is much lower than the patient is reporting.
This, in the medical world, leads to contested illness precisely because they cause a clash between the physician’s biomedical knowledge and the patient’s experience. In the patient community we call these invisible illnesses - ones which cause the patient a high degree of pain but cannot be linked with blood work or scans linking the cause of this pain. Sometimes the pain is located in specific locations (as is the case with adenomyosis) or can be generalized pain (as is the case with fibromyalgia). With each invisible illness cis-males tend to be the minor target, and cis-women tend to be the major target. Data on transgender are not yet large enough to report on in these cases though we know transgender are targeted just as much when hormones are a major player in the illness.
Across Canada we have a variety of pain clinics affiliated with specific practices. These have extended the tools to be used for patients suffering from chronic pain. But the reality is, for the number of individuals suffering from chronic pain there are too few specialists to handle the patient load and too few affiliated pain clinics to fill in the gaps. Furthermore, access into the affiliated clinics requires these patients to be seen by one of the centre’s physicians. Femade’s goal is to provide access to women and those who identify as such in a significant way, suffering from chronic pain. Our approach is personalized in nature and will require each client to build a long-term plan incorporating their allopathic journey, family history, and personal triggers. We hope to work closely with physicians to become a regular part of their service offerings alongside pharmaceutical and surgical options. We also hope to serve the greater population of individuals who are pending approval by a specialist in their area.
Like we said, our mission is a big one.