This is the first time I have done one of WordPress’s Daily Word Prompt Challenges, so I hope I am doing it correctly. Today’s word is profound, and *cue the cheese* it had a profound effect on me.
I, and 176 million other women on this planet we call Earth, suffer from a disease called endometriosis. That number equals out to about 1 in 10 women. So let’s say you know about 100 women. That means 10 of them have endometriosis whether they know it or not. But it’s a disease almost no one has heard of. How can this be? Because it’s a “below-the-waist” issue, which has been an area of the female body that people feel ashamed to talk about due to cultural taboos that exist to this day. So what? Let’s talk about it.
This is a disease in which tissue similar to that which lines the inside of the womb is found outside the womb, most commonly on structures in the pelvic cavity. However, it can migrate, like a cancer, to the abdominal cavity and beyond; endometriosis has been found lining the diaphragm, lungs, and as far away from the pelvic region as the brain.
Endometriosis is a disease of crippling pain for most women it effects. And this isn’t normal pain. Some cramping during a woman’s menstrual cycle is normal, and girls are taught in school and continue to be told by physicians throughout adulthood that all pain is normal. But gut-wrenching, doubled over pain that makes a woman or girl miss out on school, work, or other activities is not normal. Common symptoms, courtesy of the Center for Endometriosis Care, one of the world’s top treatment centers, include:
- “Crippling period pain in menstruating females
- Abdominopelvic pain at any time, often intractable
- Bowel or urinary disorders/pain/dysfunction
- Painful intercourse/penetration/sexual activity
- Infertility/pregnancy loss/possible link to preterm births
- Immune-related and other comorbid disorders
- Allergies, migraines or fatigue that may tend to worsen around menses
- Coughing up blood in cases of pleural/thoracic endometriosis
- Leg and lower back pain, particularly in cases of sciatic endometriosis”
Women may present with few or many of these symptoms depending on the location and depth of lesions. Girls may begin experiencing symptoms of endometriosis even within 6 months after her first period; in fact, it has been stated that as many as 70% of teenagers with pelvic pain go on to be diagnosed with endometriosis.
Endometriosis can only be diagnosed via a laparoscopic surgery where biopsies of tissues can be taken. The gold standard therapy is a surgery known as excision, which only about 100 specialists worldwide are able to perform due to the need to be able to operate on essentially all organ systems within the body. Many OB/GYNs will perform surgeries called ablation, coagulation, or fulguration, but these methods leave endometriosis cells behind and have a 40-100% failure rate. I have experienced this firsthand. I have also experienced excision, which in the right hands has a 15-20% failure rate. Two years after my excision surgery, I had another surgery that confirmed that no endometriosis was present, which is as good as a cure. Keep in mind also that endometriosis has no cure, so numbers that good are stellar. Many physicians will use methods such as birth control or other medications that put the body into a temporary state of menopause to decrease pain. But these methods are only palliative measures and the pain will return following cessation of the medications. And by the way, pregnancy and hysterectomy are not cures either.
But why does it matter? Who cares about a disease that won’t kill you? Because the effects it can have not only on the life of the person who has it, but the effects on their spouses, partners, loved ones, and friends can be truly detrimental as well.
Has your wife or partner ever complained of pain during or after sex, or made “excuses” that it hurts too much to be intimate? She may have endometriosis.
Has your daughter, wife, or partner ever been curled up in the fetal position with a heating pad during or around her monthly cycle, missing school, sports, work, or other activities she normally enjoys? She may have endometriosis.
Have you, as a woman, or your wife or female partner ever experienced difficulty getting pregnant? 30-40% of women with endometriosis are infertile, and many women aren’t diagnosed until they attempt to conceive. You or she may have endometriosis.
Have you, as a woman, ever experienced any of the above symptoms? You may have endometriosis.
Endometriosis has a profound effect on the lives of not only the women who have it, but on the lives of those who love those women, too.