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Endometriosis Ate My Uterus

I was terrified.

Her Voice

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.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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