I started my period when I was nine years old. For as long as I can remember, I suffered from severe cramps and body pain. And I'd continue to suffer from my menstrual cycle until I was 33.

Growing up, my mom reassured me my aunt also had bad cramps. So, she would keep me home from school the first two days of my cycle and I would take over-the-counter medication to help with my pain. When I was 15 years old, my mom passed away and I learned a lot about my body and my strength. When I went off to college, my pain and symptoms got worse, so I went to the gynecologist. After multiple medical examinations and tests, a mass was found on my right ovary.

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I was terrified.

The doctor informed me that I had to have surgery. At the age of 21, my surgery determined that I had a chocolate cyst (ovarian endometrioma) the size of a golf ball on my right ovary. The doctor also told me that I had a condition known as endometriosis, not because of the cyst, but due to all of the tissue growth and adhesions that came along with it.

Endometriosis is an autoimmune disease that affects 1 in 10 women, typically during childbearing years. It typically affects the reproductive system, but in rare occasions, it can also travel to the lungs and the brain. Over time, my endo traveled to my kidneys, uterus, ovaries, bladder, and bowel. After my initial surgery and "treatment", I completed college and moved back home which meant looking for another doctor because I continued to have severe pain. I went to a total of three doctors who I stopped seeing after one visit each. The reason being, when I met with each doctor and discussed my medical history, they'd read my chart and respond with, "Just because you had a chocolate cyst doesn't mean you have endometriosis," or "I think you're not used to pain, birth control pills will help," or "Typically when you start having children, endometriosis will go away." Blah, blah, blah. That's not all I was told, but you get the gist.

After seeing those individuals, I just stopped trying to find a gyno for seven years. Yes, I know that's a long time, but when you spend your whole life sick and in pain, you finally have a name for it and still no one can help you understand what it is happening -- you feel cheated. The process became discouraging to go in and out of doctors' offices with the same results that didn't work. But in 2012, that cycle came to an end. I saw a commercial on television about a doctor who specialized in endometriosis. The next morning, I scheduled my appointment.

On the day of my appointment, I was very nervous. All I could think was, Is he going to say the same thing as everyone else? I sat in the waiting room, then on to the exam room. When the doctor came in, he greeted me and said, "Tell me about your menstrual cycle." I began explaining my medical history and what my periods have been like, he looked at me and said, "Okay, it sounds like endometriosis to me, I'm going to do the pap smear then a pelvic exam and we'll go from there."

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I wanted to cry. I couldn't believe it. I finally found a doctor.

From 2012 to 2014, my doctor performed three surgeries in the efforts to preserve my ability to give birth, but endometriosis ate my uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. The day my doctor told me I had to have a hysterectomy, I felt like I was in a Charlie Brown cartoon. I prayed and cried like a baby just about every day up until the surgery and well after my surgery. After my hysterectomy, I went into surgical menopause and my emotions were on a roller coaster ride that seemed like I would never get off. The reality of not being able to give birth to children along with other menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, insomnia, anxiety, and weight gain was overwhelming.

During all of my menopausal madness, I decided to go to therapy. This Black woman fluffed pillows and laid back on the couch to talk about all of my challenges. Though therapy helped, I started feeling like I needed to do something, I knew there were others like me. On March 1, 2018, the first day of Endometriosis Awareness Month, I launched my business, Millennial In Menopause®. As I started sharing my journey and providing insight, I began receiving lots of good feedback in the comments of my Instagram and in my DMs. I didn't realize just how much this platform was needed.

With all that I was going through in my body, I decided to learn more about nutrition. In January 2019, I received a certification as a Nutrition and Wellness Consultant. I decided to take what I've learned to inspire women on how to live their best lives while managing reproductive health challenges. Although I still have my days where I feel emotionally withdrawn, I think back to where I was at the age of 33 and the woman I am today at 38, giving birth to what God has turned in my favor.

This feeling is priceless.

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissions@xonecole.com.

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