Endometriosis is a disease that affects 176 million women worldwide. It usually shows its symptoms when women are most likely to reproduce. The disease causes the lining of the uterus to collect outside the uterus and onto other parts of the body, which can cause painful cramps, nausea, longer periods, and even infertility. Despite the very real effects of endometriosis, many women often go undiagnosed. To delve more into the realities of living with this disease, we asked one of our interns at New York Minute who has endometriosis, Kianna Gonzalez, to tell us about her understanding.
NYMM: When were you diagnosed and how was that experience?
KG: I was diagnosed in May 2016 when I was 19 years old. My doctor diagnosed me after a 15-minute examination and when he told me that I had endometriosis, it was as if all of my health problems were solved as well. The diagnosis brought me out of the dark and at first I was relieved, but then I remembered that my life and how I view myself was permanently changed. I was happy that the problem was discovered and would be taken care of, but in the same breath, I felt damaged. I kept my diagnosis and surgery private from a lot of people because I didn’t want pity added to my self-inflicted judgment.
NYMM: What’s the biggest thing you want people to know about having endometriosis?
KG: I want people to know how common it is and that just because it happens to women with uteruses doesn’t mean that this isn’t a conversation for everyone. If you have a question, ask! Go online and do research about endometriosis.
NYMM: How does it affect your daily life?
KG: My daily life involves taking birth control, which is a total blessing. I wouldn’t be able to heal and live without it. I also have some restrictions on my diet. I don’t eat beef, chocolate, or caffeine in the form of coffee or tea. I also very sparingly drink alcohol or eat gluten and dairy. All of these restrictions are meant to help reduce the amount of inflammation caused to my body. I also can’t do yoga. I don’t know the exact reason why, but my doctor says no. More privately, I see my scars every day. At first I was really shy about it but now I find them comforting.
NYMM: Do doctors ever tell you “it’s nothing” or disregard your feelings? Do you think your experiences reflect how women are often disregarded and patronized by doctors?
KG: 100 percent! I got my period in 4th grade and from then until my diagnosis, my body was a mystery to every single doctor I saw. I was once in the hospital for my excruciating period pain, hooked up to an IV and everything for about three hours just for the doctor to say, ‘It’s your period. Drink water.’ I got two colonoscopies done before I turned 18 years old. I have had endless blood tests, sonograms, you name it, and not a single doctor thought to question it because, superficially, they just saw that I was a young girl with her period.
Women’s bodies are still a huge mystery to the medical world. I think the ignorance many doctors have for women and their health is a mix of little knowledge and preconceived assumptions. Women are viewed as more emotional. Everyone acts like women are hypochondriacs or attention-seekers. However, no one knows our bodies like we do and not being taken seriously is an aggravating and expensive inconvenience. Women’s bodies are really amazing – we can create life! To not know enough about the gender that is the backbone of human reproduction is insane to me.
NYMM: Do you have any advice for others struggling with endometriosis?
KG: If you have endometriosis, your pain is real. You are not an inconvenience or dramatic. Since my diagnosis, I have never felt a greater sense of community from people that do not know the others exist. We are all endo-warriors and we are unstoppable! You are sexy with that hot pad on your stomach and you are strong for just getting up.
If you don’t have endometriosis or think you have it – educate yourself! It is possible that you or someone you know has endometriosis and support is always appreciated. No pity or unwanted opinions allowed.
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