Julie Devaney, a Toronto-based health activist and writer, knows pain all too well. Initially diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (and later re-diagnosed with crohn’s disease), she spent almost six years undergoing intense medical therapy, leading to the removal of her large intestine and colon.
During her long recovery, Devaney wrote about her experiences in detail, including the pain of being referred to as “weepy” and the shock of seeing her colostomy bag for the first time. In 2006, Devaney’s writings became My Leaky Body, a play and workshop series that has travelled across Canada and reached as far as New York, Washington, and the UK. Aimed at healthcare providers, medical students, and general theatre-goers, My Leaky Body highlights pervasive issues in healthcare, shows what it’s like to be patient with a chronic illness, and encourages better understanding and communication between patients and healthcare providers.
In addition to running My Leaky Body, Devaney joined the Gateways to Cancer Screening Project (GCSP), which revealed through a participatory research study that disabled women face multiple barriers in cancer screening and therefore, higher rates of undetected cancer. Now, Devaney is the curriculum coordinator for GCSP and, with her colleagues, is preparing an educational intervention with medical professionals to improve the breast cancer screening access and experience for women with physical disabilities.
Photo credit: Nadia Cheema