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It’s been almost six weeks since the birth of our daughter and I’m slowly beginning to come out of the fog .

 The shock of birth and subsequent demands of caring for a newborn are starting to wear off, and I have a little more mental capacity to think beyond the next breastfeeding. I’ve been thinking about this topic for a while now, and I’m finally able to say it:

I have postpartum depression and have been struggling with it for a while.

While there are articles about postpartum depression where the mother is so depressed she is detached from the child or has suicidal thoughts, those are not the only symptoms of depression. I suffer from a form of PPD that doesn’t manifest itself in wanting to kill myself or harm my child. Nonetheless, it is depression and it is serious.


I thought I was just shellshocked from giving birth. I thought I was struggling to adjust from the sleep deprivation, the getting used to breastfeeding (holy moly, it hurts!), the routine of caring for the baby, etc. I thought it was the aftermath of all the events that had happened around the baby’s birth — from our dog being sick with cancer and having to put her down, to firing the first nanny, to finding a replacement nanny, who was amazing but kept me in a state of constant worry because she could leave at any moment due to her next engagement.

These may have been contributing factors to my current state, but I was already at high risk of PPD after suffering anxiety and depression during my pregnancy.

I’m supposed to be checking in with my health care providers, but I keep lying to them and telling them I’m fine. My psychiatrist’s answer is to keep pushing meds on me, and I’m determined to try to not go the medication route as much as possible while breastfeeding. My ob-gyn, while being well-intentioned, thinks the solution is to just lecture the heck out of me every time I see her about how I need to let things go and make my husband take on more responsibilities. I stopped seeing a therapist after a few sessions because she didn’t quite understand me. I don’t want to burden my husband with this because he’s got a lot to deal with at work. I can’t talk about this with friends because it will make them uncomfortable after a while. So, who do you talk to when you are struggling with PPD?

It’s such a taboo subject, especially in Asian culture; it almost seems shameful. Even as I write this, I am worried and scared of the reception I will receive — from the people who don’t understand why I would even have PPD (it’s not a choice), to people who say “Don’t worry you’ll get over it soon” or “It’s natural to feel a little down, you’re not depressed,” the folks who exclaim “You’re so strong I would never imagine you having anything like this,” and the well-meaning folks who will want to constantly ping me to ask if I’m OK.

Having PPD is not a choice. I didn’t ask to have these feelings or have my mind work this way. Every day I struggle between feeling helpless and hating myself for being in this state.

I’m severely behind on work and scared to even open up my email or check Slack. I turn down invitations from friends to meet up, and I haven’t stepped foot outside in weeks apart from doctor’s appointments. I forced myself to go to a social function soon after giving birth, then quickly went back home to my self-imposed solitude. Last weekend, I forced myself to get up and go to the farmer’s market for produce.

Slowly, I am fighting to gain a foothold on this downward spiral of apathy, depression, and helplessness. I crave human companionship and understanding, yet I shun it and push it away because it’s too overbearing and too much for me. I want help from others, yet I’m loathe to take it when offered. It’s not because I don’t appreciate it; it’s because I don’t know how to quite deal with it. In the past, I’ve been so burned from seeking help and not getting what I need that I’m scared to ask.

If you read this, and you see me, please don’t pity me or smother me with well-intentioned but overbearing advice or words of comfort. A simple, quick, silent hug will mean the world to me — to remind me I am not alone.

I will start my blog. I will plow through the backlog of work. I will go outside for walks with the baby. I will breathe. I will live again. I will win.

All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

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