“Endo-metri-what-ee?” was my response to being told about my diagnosis after a laparoscopic surgery to remove an ovarian cyst at the ripe old age of 18. Granted, I was still heavily under the influence of anesthesia, so I mentally filed the diagnosis away until I was in a better state of mind. A few days later, still home from school recovering but bored out of my mind, I did what any teenager would do to learn more about the condition that had been a pain in my side (literally) for years – I googled it.
Baaad idea. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to be educated on health issues that are affecting you or loved ones, but there are so many doom and gloom, worst case scenarios out there online that searching the web doesn’t always bode well for one’s anxiety level.
I remember the thing that scared me the most was the impact endometriosis can have on fertility. “Would I still be able to have my babies? And what would I do if I couldn’t?” – I remember thinking to myself. I knew from early on that I was born to be a mom, just ask the squad of babydolls I had growing up that were religiously swaddled, burped and snuggled. And to think the condition I had might keep me from realizing this dream shook me to the core.
Fast forward 9 years and my journey with endometriosis is on a happy path, thanks to a proactive management plan put in my place by my doctor, who is the bomb dot com. Not only did he deliver me almost 28 years ago, he performed my surgery, made the diagnosis, and is in large part the reason I can children. Having him deliver my first little in November 2016 was the icing on the cake!
I know I’m not the only mama with a past, present and future with coping with the condition, so in honor of Endometriosis Awareness Month, I’m here to share a few things I’ve learned, some things I wish I had known and some personal anecdotes that I’ve experienced along the way of my endo journey:
- You’re not alone – It’s estimated that 1 in 10 women suffer from endometriosis during their reproductive years; that’s 176 million women worldwide, including well-known celebrities like Julianne Hough. The more gal pals and acquaintances with whom I’ve shared my endo story, the more I’ve realized I’m not alone in dealing with this condition – my coworker, a family friend, my best friend’s brother’s girlfriend… And sometimes it just helps to lament together (which is the inspiration behind this post).
- Be open and honest with your partner – My husband’s known about my endometriosis from the very beginning, seeing as I had to decline his invitation to his school’s winter dance because I was still recovering from my surgery. When our relationship got serious, I was honest with him about wanting to try to start a family sooner rather than later because of the unknown. He may not have completely understood my fear of infertility, but it made all the difference in the world having his unwavering support.
- Educate and empower – I wish I had known the warning signs (i.e. painful, painful cramps that got me sent home from school every month starting in the 5th grade) and that I was at high risk for developing endometriosis. Genetics are known to be one factor that causes the condition, and both my mom’s mom and sister had endo, too. That’s why movements like Endometriosis Awareness Month are so important – spreading the word about the little-known condition to the women in our lives so that another 10-year-old girl isn’t wanting to curl up into the fetal position during math class.
There is rarely a day that goes by that I don’t think about my condition. Was that twinge I just felt in my side another cyst? Will I be able to have more babies? Questions like these are my norm, but with fear comes faith, and the willpower to overcome endometriosis. While writing this post, the lyrics to Kelly Clarkston’s “Heartbeat Song” have been running through my head, but with a twist – “This is my endo story, and I’m gonna say it.” Super corny I know, but that’s why Kelly gets paid the big bucks 😉
Do you or a woman you know have endometriosis? In what ways do you/they cope with the condition?