Lighting A Fire In Women

“Gaslighting” is a term that I think few of us have been able to avoid in the last couple of years. It is popping up on news channels, social media outlets, and mental health awareness information all over the world. The definition on Google is simple, “manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.” But how many of us know about medical gaslighting?

Let me paint you a picture: you are a woman walking into a doctor’s office because you have been feeling unwell for some time and know that there is something deeper going on medically. You sit and have the doctor listen to your symptoms which could be anything but especially concerning emotions, weight gain, or pain. The doctor tells you it’s nothing to be concerned about and when you try to push and say that it’s not normal for you to feel this way, they dismiss your feelings yet again. Maybe in this case this is the first doctor you are seeing for this problem; maybe it’s your twelfth. But you still feel as though you are screaming at them while they are wearing noise-canceling headphones. 

This is something that most women experience in their life. Don’t believe me? Take it from someone who has had it happen to her for over 6 years now. I have chronic migraines, which means that I have a headache every single day from start to finish. I have gone to see specialist after specialist, even traveling across the country to try and get a cure or explanation. Most of these doctors have told me that my symptoms are because of my “womanly hormones,” birth control, I was “being too sensitive,” and so on. At one point one doctor even told me that it was because I was overweight and that if I just lost weight all my problems would go away. That particular doctor told me this at the age of seventeen after I told him repeatedly that I had rapidly gained weight without any change in my pretty healthy lifestyle, and couldn’t shed any pounds despite diet and exercise. His response was a bit of a laugh and throwing at me some pills, that had a side effect of weight loss but no other relation to my symptoms. This included mental lagging which meant that my already struggling grades in school due to my health became worse because I was unable to form sentences due to forgetting words or would forget information for testing even if I had studied for hours and hours. 

Here I am six years later writing an article about medical gaslighting after seeing the term pop up across multiple news outlets in the last few months. These stories told of women that had cancer go undiagnosed because their doctors were unwilling to listen to them or run further testing. This new term of “medical gaslighting” and reading these articles made me feel validated and like I had allies. Writing that down feels a bit sad thinking about it. Why is it that for me to feel like I’m not crazy or don’t need to question what I am feeling, do I have to know that others are going through the same thing? And that those people had to go through cancer, strokes, or chronic illness for me to know I’m not alone?

To answer some of the questions that you may have about medical gaslighting and why it is especially a problem for women I would point you to a book that I discovered because of an article that I read on the topic. This book titled, The Invisible Kingdom by author Meghan O’Rourke was very much eye-opening to me. Though I will warn you, reading the chapter titled “The Woman Problem” will leave most people baffled and ready to smash the patriarchy. Even knowing that “Until recently, most medical research was performed almost exclusively on cisgender men and male animals” according to O’ Rourke. Her book also cites women’s health research associate director, Dr. Janine Austin Clayton, who states, “we literally know less about every aspect of female biology compared to male biology.” This alone begins to frustrate me, but as I continued reading I learned that in emergency rooms women are 13-25 percent less likely to receive opioid painkillers as well as having to wait fifteen minutes longer to be seen than men in those emergency facilities. I’ll also point out that O’Rourke says, “When a female patient complains of pain or discomfort, her testimony is viewed as a gendered expression of a subjective emotional issue rather than a reflection of a “hard” objective physiological reality.” 

This is hard to read for me as a woman, knowing that because of my gender a doctor is already not going to take me seriously is like walking into battle already defeated. But I actually have it better than some, because for women of color the statistics are even worse, so though I am screwed for having ovaries I still have a certain privilege for being a white person with ovaries that I must recognize. 

Even still, as someone that does have a serious medical condition that has gone undiagnosed because of doctors who would not listen to me, I know how frustrating it can be. I know the mental toll that it takes on a person to have the medical field, an institution that we are told from a young age will protect us and heal us, tell me that what I’m feeling is in my head and not real. For most people that experience gaslighting, I think we all know what it’s like to question whether we are right in what we feel or we really are crazy. 

I’ve gone through months of doubt because of what doctors say, or insurance companies denying coverage of procedures because I’m “too young and too healthy” to have the condition I do. Making me jump through more hoops to prove myself to them. I’ve had powerful moments of telling my primary care doctor that I’m not asking him to run a test anymore, I’m telling him that he is putting in the order for blood work whether he wants to or not because he invalidated me so long that it put my health at risk. I’m willing to talk about my struggles with others so that no one, especially no other young woman has to go through what I have in order to be heard. At the same time that I am writing this article, this week alone I have had two doctors shut me down and tell me that what I am experiencing is not happening according to their tests. 

So I can’t finish this article with a happy ending, I’m on the other side and taking you with me, point of view. I can tell you what I do know though to try and help anyone reading this in the future if they experience medical gaslighting. Although my message is directed at women, I also hope that men learn something to help themselves too. My tip is to stay convicted; know that you and your health are worth fighting for answers, and if a doctor truly will not listen when you push back, get a new doctor. Period. The fact is that there will be someone out there that will believe you. Wasting your time, energy, and emotional investment on a doctor that is unwilling to assist you is not worth it. I hope that this advice is something that helps someone get the answers and treatment they deserve and feel validated, as I did, if only to avoid being on the bad side of the statistics in the future. 

Welcome to the Final Warning

I don’t think anyone living in Colorado would have expected the events that happened the day before New Year 2021. No one knew the destruction that was coming to the communities on the Front Range that can’t seem to catch a break anymore. They definitely did not expect that three months later the same tragic events could happen again. But this time fire rescue teams were prepared. And as many residents of Boulder relived the trauma that they were still swimming through, we all watched the news waiting to see how many more homes would be lost and waiting for the rolling evacuation orders. 

The NCAR fire was less devastating but still as important as the Marshall Fire. As residents of Colorado, we have become used to fire season being in the summer with some of the largest fires in the history of Colorado happening this past summer. According to the website of the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control, four out of the five largest wildfires in the history of the state have occurred in the three years between 2018 and 2020. Now it seems as though winter is just as much of a danger. Watching the news in the last few months since the Marshall Fire, it seems like any warm, windy day is a day with a new fire. Few are as catastrophic as December 30, 2021. On that day over 1,000 homes were lost with a total of over 6,000 acres burned. The NCAR fire burned around 200 acres and luckily no homes or structures. I think it’s a wake-up call that we all need to take very seriously. 

Though I am overjoyed to see how much the state of Colorado has come together to help the victims of the fire, I am also a bit saddened by what actions are not being taken. At no point in the conversations about what caused the fires, or how first responders could have done more to save homes and communities, has anyone ever said, “But what about how we prevent this in the future?” Or “How did we get here?” By this, I mean no one is talking about how Colorado is sadly not the only place in the world where dry conditions are sparking fires at levels previously unseen in the last few years. In 2020, we saw Australia deal with a mega-fire that burned approximately 60 million to 84 million acres of land. Places such as Alaska have also been hit hard by fires in recent years. According to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry, there were a total of 389 fires in 2021. These fires burned 254,500 acres of land. To put that into perspective, the Cameron Peak fire here in Colorado burned 208,913 acres and is the current largest wildfire in the state’s history. 

I put current in italics because I don’t need to be a psychic to see what the future holds for Colorado in the coming years. With hotter summers and less precipitation, it’s not hard to see what’s coming. If we as a state now, collectively, hold our breaths on windy days in the winter, what can we expect for the summer? I don’t think I need to dance around the term “global warming,” considering the information that has been put forth. And what the solution is to the current problems facing our state, our country, our world, I don’t have the answers to that. But I think that it’s getting more and more difficult to ignore the literal smoke signals that mother nature is laying in our path. 

Exploring Uncharted. (From a Person Who’s Never Played The Game).

Is this movie the next major film franchise to blow up or just a one-trick pony headed out to pasture? That’s a question one has to ask themselves based on the box office numbers for the new action movie, released in theaters on the eighteenth of February this year, starring Tom Holland and Mark Walhberg. 

This film follows Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) and Victor “Sully” Sullivan (Mark Walhberg) as they trek across the globe in search of the treasure left behind by Ferdinand Magellian. Along the way, they run into others searching for the treasure and discover that trust is hard where treasure is involved. 

So, what do I think as someone that wanted to see the film without even knowing it was based on a popular Playstation game. Honestly, I thought that overall the movie was entertaining. There were plenty of laugh-filled moments, offset by twists and turns full of backstabbers and double-crossings. I can’t say that the plot was all that unpredictable. Though, if you ask me, there are few movies made these days that truly are.  

If I was going to try and paint a picture for someone that is considering seeing the movie I would say it is a bit like the grown-up version of The Goonies. Though some of the reviews that I read before going to view the film compared Uncharted to the National Treasure films, I was not able to see that comparison in action. (There’s no Nic Cage wanting to steal the Declaration of Independence).

So, I enjoyed the film as someone who had not played the games. But how would a fan of the games rate the movie? I took a friend along who had played them in the past to help give some insight into how the film stood up against its Playstation original. According to him, it is a good movie, but if you are looking at it like it’s going to be exactly like the games, you’re going to be sadly disappointed. The main movie characters don’t even look like their counterparts in the games and the plots are noticeably different. Though he was much more excited about a certain cameo than I was because of his knowledge of the games. 

As far as I’m concerned, there are few film adaptations that stick to the originals anymore, whether it be a remake, a book, or in this case, a video game. The film industry is happy to cast the current big names, like Tom Holland, despite their similarities to the characters they are brought in to portray. Overall, I’d recommend seeing the movie. Though if you do, and you like history, be warned the ending will sting a bit. For that reason, I only give it four out of five treasure maps. And with that, I will leave you to chart your way to the nearest movie theater and enjoy Uncharted on the big screen. 

Spring Break Day Trips for the Adventurous Student

With spring break quickly approaching, many FRCC Westminster students may be dreaming of long days filled with sleep and Netflix shows. But for those of us who can’t afford a trip to warmer tropical destinations yet still dream of some fun activities to fill our days off, I present to you a list filled with the wacky, weird and wonderful things in our own backyard here in Colorado. 

The time estimates that appear next to the towns are given in reference to a starting point from the FRCC Westminster campus, but all can be found with a quick google search to chart your own routes. Make the most of our week off and take some friends to make some new memories!

Paint Mines Interpretive Park – Calhan (2-hour drive)

This is a perfect road trip for people who like the great outdoors and going someplace off the beaten path. Located in a very much middle of nowhere town, which is about 45 minutes outside of Colorado Springs, you cannot even see the amazing landscape from the road or parking lot. A short hike in will reveal amazing views and over three miles of trail to follow that can easily fill an afternoon. This attraction is amazing due to the variation of the rocks that have eroded away, leaving behind the bands of color left behind by different sediments over thousands of years. 

Baldpate Inn (Seven Keys Lodge)- Estes Park (1 & ½ hour drive)

Another spot that can’t be seen from the road is this inn that sits just outside of Estes across the street from a beautiful lake with trails to walk around. When you walk in, just say that you are there for “the keys,” and you will be directed to a room filled with keys of all shapes, sizes, and origins from all over the world. It is free to enter, but stick around for a while and read up on the history of why the keys are collected. It’s also a great place to grab some homemade lunch that truly is the definition of mountain deliciousness. 

Swetsville Zoo (sculpture garden)- Fort Collins  (1-hour drive)

Want something even a little stranger to fill your time? Check out this amazing sculpture garden created just outside of downtown Fort Collins. The sculptor, Bill Swets, loves to transform old metal into living creatures, and the property is filled with so many sculptures to explore it will make for a great afternoon activity. Afterward, head into town and walk around and try some of the great restaurants, maybe even check out the local art galleries while you’re there. 

The Wild Animal Sanctuary- Keensburg  (1-hour drive)

Though this spot is a bit on the pricey side compared to the other destinations to fill your spring break with, it is definitely one worth the trip if you have never been. The tickets for an adult are $50, but that money does go to the operations of the sanctuary, which rescues animals like lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!) but is also home to camels, wolves, bobcats, and so much more. Not only are they doing so much to help protect and save these animals from horrible living environments, but they are giving them a place to roam free. The sanctuary has acres upon acres of property out in this rural farm town and visitors get to view the animals from a mile-long suspended walkway above their habitats. A fun little fact: many of the tigers rescued from the zoo that Joe Exotic owned ended up going to this sanctuary. 

UFO Watchtower, Gator Farm, The Great Sand Dunes National Park  (4-hour drive)

These three are all lumped together for a bit of a longer road trip experience, but they are all in the same area and on the way to The Sand Dunes. The UFO Watchtower is an…eccentric stop to say the least. This little igloo-looking hut is surrounded by a bit of a shrine or as they call it a portal that is filled with all the weird wonders that people decided to leave behind for outer space visitors to discover. It’s a great stop to look at the stars at night from the upper deck and maybe even see something out of this world.

The second stop is another strange attraction of course! A gator farm in the middle of nowhere in Colorado may sound a little strange, but these chompy little dudes were brought in to help control tilapia populations at a fish hatchery nearby and came to stay. Visitors even have the opportunity to hold smaller gators for a picture if they are brave enough before walking through to see the bigger gators, lizards, turtles, and other reptiles on the property. 

The Sand Dunes are always a great stop if you are eager for outdoor activities. From sandboarding (think snowboarding but on sand) to hiking the dunes, this natural wonder is a great place to see at least once in your life. Fair warning, be prepared for warm and cold temps, pack sunscreen, and if you are unlucky to be there on a windy day just know that having your legs sandblasted is pretty painful. 

Hope this list provides you with some great starting points for your spring break adventures and let us know here at the newspaper what you thought!

Becoming an Artist, One Panel at a Time

Andy Rodriguez is a twenty-something student at FRCC Westminster who has found a fondness for art. He truly is a bit of a Renaissance man when it comes to his passion. There has never been a second that I have known him when he does not have a sketchpad and pencil within a few feet. Even now, as I sit down to talk to him about his time at FRCC Westminster in Dot’s Diner in Boulder, he is scribbling away, capturing the other patrons as they eat their greasy breakfast.

My first question to him was what made him get into art, and after looking a little stumped and chuckling he replied, 

“This is hard….” 

An answer that is very much signature Andy. Being the humble guy he is, he took a second to think. He told me about how he was on track to be a lawyer, but then he started reading comics around 17 or 18, which really ignited a passion.

“I have a whole list of artists and comic books that started my interest in art. When it came to comics, I love people like Gary Frank, James Jean, and John Buscema and I would later come to admire earlier illustrators like Charles Dana Gibson and Frank Frazetta, and to go even further back I like Caravaggio. He has to be favorite at the moment, so much spirit in his compositions.” he said.

He told me how, when he started reading comic books, he would dig more into the history of the artists and authors of the books which really intrigued him. 

“I could probably talk about anything having to do with comic art, the Golden Age Illustration, or even fine art because of that time in my life that I just wanted to learn more,” he told me.

“So then what is your favorite style of art to do?” I asked.

“I don’t really have a favorite type of style, because I like to play with a lot of different styles and mediums.” He explained, “I think each medium informs what I am doing. That being said, my favorite thing to do is drawing, so line art is probably my answer.” 

This led me to ask about his coming to FRCC Westminster and how he feels he has grown as an artist since starting at the school. He told me about how he was able to gain a lot of training and go at his own pace, with teachers providing resources for his personal development. 

“All of these things allowed me to be more expressive with my artwork and skills.” He continued. 

“So then what class did you most enjoy or find most challenging?” I asked.

“You’re really challenging me with these questions,” Andy replied as he sketched some more and thought a bit.

 He told me that his most fun class was figure drawing, because it is his favorite subject to draw, and he got to have real people modeling for him in class. The most challenging he said was the 3-D art class that he is currently enrolled in because it is a new media for him and a new experience. He talked about how he really appreciates that the teacher in the class pushes his students to do better from project to project.

“So, what are your future goals or plans for your art?” I asked as we wrapped our working breakfast.

“I guess I want to start selling pieces.” Andy reflected, “I am starting to sell originals online right now, but I plan to do prints in the future, too. I am also trying to create more brand awareness by growing my online presence. I guess I’d really like to go into illustrating comics one day.”

“What would you say to students at FRCC Westminster, or anywhere really, that want to pursue art?” I asked Andy, as we paid our bill and started walking toward the door.

“Just do it!” he replied, in a very aggressive Shia LaBeouf impression. “Just kidding haha, but really, they should just go for it.”

I think that is pretty good advice considering it comes from the guy that I could never see him being a lawyer, but I know he is bound for great things in his art career. In his last remarks, he said that if people are interested in seeing his work, they should check him out by googling, “Andy B. Rodriguez Art.” and in his words, 

“They should definitely check out Dot’s Diner cause it is the best!” 

Welcome to our new columnist

Darby Holman is a staff writer for the Front Page, who is double majoring in communications and English. During her time at FRCC, she discovered her love for creative writing and one day hopes to publish a fiction novel. Though she is new to the newspaper writing game she is excited about the new experience and to be able to share the stories surrounding the FRCC community. When she’s not in school she can be found adventuring to strange destinations like the gator farm in southern Colorado, listening to classic rock music, or spending time reading and snuggling with her adorable little pup named Shadow.