Lately we have been hearing more and more celebrities speaking about endometriosis-related infertility. Jillian Michaels from the NBC hit television show, The Biggest Loser, recently talked about her struggle with endometriosis and how her journey with infertility has led her to the adoption process. Tia Mowry, an actress known best for her role on Sister Sister, talked about her struggle with endometriosis and her miracle pregnancy. Padma Lakshmi, host of Bravo’s Top Chef and an endometriosis sufferer, also calls her pregnancy a miracle and started the Endometriosis Foundation of America to help other women who suffer from this disease. So what is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a disease where the tissue that lines and then sheds from the uterus during a normal menstrual cycle, escapes the uterus and then grows on the outside portion of the uterus, the ovaries, the intestines or other parts of the body. During ones period, this rogue tissue also sheds and can cause severe pain and bleeding. Because the blood had nowhere to go, the tissue can exhibit itself as scarring and nodules. Endometriosis causes infertility. Sometimes the scarring from the endometriosis can damage the fallopian tubes. In other cases, the endometriosis can become so progressed that a woman’s entire reproductive system can be fused together. Some doctors believe that endometriosis can inhibit the fertilization of the egg or implantation of a fertilized egg. Although endometriosis affects millions of women, there is so much about the disease that is unknown.
I was diagnosed with endometriosis by my reproductive endocrinologist at the start of my infertility journey. After ruling out many other major infertility issues though tests and procedures, we were left with the possibility of endometriosis, due to my symptoms of painful periods. The only way to confirm this diagnosis was through a laparoscopy. A laparoscopy did show that I had uterine tissue growing on my ovary, my uterus and parts of my intestines. My doctor was able to use a laser to remove the tissue.
This diagnosis gave me a new understanding of my body. I always had severe stomach issues, especially around my period. After many tests and procedures which showed nothing, my gastroenterologist could only figure that Irritable Bowel Syndrome was causing my stomach irritations. I had been complaining of debilitating pain with my period for years. My gynecologist always told me that was normal! My period would also leave me exhausted and drained. I actually have to plan social events and functions around my period. When I was working I sometimes would have to sometimes leave early or call in sick. All of the stomach issues, the pain and the fatigue could now be explained by endometriosis.
There was a feeling of relief that came with my diagnosis. All those years, I had been basically told by medical professionals to “suck it up” . I had been made to feel like a wimp, like this excruciating pain I was in was “normal.” Then my initial relief turned to anxiety. After researching endometriosis, I learned that there is no cure for the disease and no one is sure how one gets the disease. Even though I had my laparoscopy, that was only a temporary fix. The tissue will grow back and can be dangerous. It seems like the best treatment is laparoscopic surgery, which is really disheartening because it is not an easy fix. There are other hormonal treatments, but there are side effects to these medications. I am currently trying to alleviate my symptoms through exercise and diet.
I am grateful to celebrities who come out and talk about endometriosis. I can only hope that making the public aware of this sometimes debilitating disease will help educate women who may be suffering in silence. I am also grateful for organizations like the Endometriosis Foundation of America. This organization is dedicated to learning more about the disease to help alleviate the pain that millions of women are experiencing on a daily basis. Some people in the medical field believe that endometriosis is genetic. If it is, I can only hope that when my daughter’s generation is of age, there will be a cure.