March is endometriosis awareness month. Something that, ten years ago, would have meant very little to me.
My best friend called me one day in 2007 as I was walking from Brady commons to meet my roommate at Cornell so that we could have lunch. My friend had been having pain and ended up phoning a nurse who told her the symptoms might be endometriosis. She then went back home and was admitted to the hospital for that pain. She had a laparoscopy and they found her endometriosis. Since then, it has been treated with birth control, but it still comes up. Just recently, after a move, she found herself in between doctors and didn’t have a prescription. After two weeks of being off birth control, she was immobilized due to the pain.
My story is a bit different. When I made the decision to start having sex with J, I got on birth control. I took that birth control at 2:20 PM every, single day. I didn’t miss it due to the fear of becoming pregnant when I wasn’t ready (I want to say this is hilarious, but it’s hard finding the humor.) My periods were okay; painful, yes, but I assumed it was normal. I was one class away from a Women’s and Gender studies minor and wrote a paper on how PMS is a social construct.
I got off birth control when we got married and did notice more pain. So yes, I was able to tie it to an event – getting off birth control. Since birth control can help even the normal woman manage period related symptoms, I assumed I just didn’t remember how I felt without birth control. My pain was intermittent, but would take my breath away. I couldn’t speak, at times and would feel most comfortable in the fetal position. I never wanted to be the person who missed work or let someone down due to – essentially- being a woman, so I ignored it. Fast forward to my diagnosis of stage IV endometriosis and at least it makes sense. It’s somehow validating that the pain isn’t in my head (not a nerve joke, though funny). Harkening back now to my w&g studies classes, I wonder if men ever feel the need to justify pain. Not scared of being chastised, they may trust their feelings without abandon. (Clearly, the evidence known as the “man flu/cold” supports this theory.) Or yes, it’s possible that men, afraid of appearing weak, practice this tactic, as well.
See above for the example chart of endometriosis. The bottom left is a stage IV score of 114. My current diagnosis is stage IV with a score of 126, so perhaps this helps the visualization.
I don’t know if I would have known earlier if it would have helped, but probably. I was off birth control for a couple years prior to my surgery, so it was allowed to grow and flourish. I reread the surgery recap last night to understand a bit more. It’s a hard thing to read, but better to be informed than ignorant.
So, since this disease is prevalent in some form 1 in 10 women, do remember it exists! It’s not always “a painful period.” Hopefully, earlier diagnoses of it could help prevent other little women from growing up in pain (and infertile).
Excited to start my injections next week to prepare for April’s transfer! Two intramuscular and one subcutaneous (good band name)!