My earliest symptoms were heavy cycles. I would bleed so much, it would make me pass out.
I was 19 when I had my first myomectomy and 23 when I had the second.
My periods were so intense, that I tried every birth control possible to control the bleeding. When I was put on Depo, I bled for 6 months straight. Nothing worked and I felt hopeless.
I didn't find out I had endometriosis until I was 26, but the news hadn't come from a doctor. My symptoms were familiar to a close friend's who urged me to have a full examination. It wasn't until I was in my mid-twenties that I was diagnosed with a condition that I now know affects nearly 5 million women every year, and I didn't even know it. That condition is called endometriosis and is prevalent amongst black women.
Endometriosis affects me every day and causes pain even when I'm not menstruating. And when I am menstruating, I have to wear pulls ups when my cycle comes on because the bleeding is so heavy. If I'm scheduled to do something and my cycle comes on, that's a wrap. I have to cancel.
With endo, I have to schedule my entire life around my period.
For years, I have been bed-bound for 7 days a month, 12 months a year because the pain is unbearable. So far, I've had three blood transfusions and often need iron to replace what I lose during my cycle. Almost a year ago, I had a blood transfusion and had a near death reaction. My eyes turned yellow. I couldn't swallow and was hospitalized for days. The days I wake up pale and find it hard to breathe are signs that it's time for another trip to the hospital.
My diagnosis has taken a toll on me mentally, physically, and emotionally. To the women who have have battled with this ruthless condition: I understand your pain. I know it's frustrating, but please don't not give up. Your story matters. Your life matters.
Most people don't know that endometriosis has stages just like cancer. I started to share my story and bring awareness because there are so many women are suffering in silence and depressed, some of which have even committed suicide. It's a lot to deal with mentally.
To manage my pain, I pray A LOT. I believe God is going to heal me. There are a lot of women suffering alone. I suffered for years without me or my doctor being aware that endometriosis was a possible cause of my symptoms. I've learned not to dwell on the past, but to make it my mission to make more women aware in the future.
Here are three tips that I have for women that are currently struggling with endometriosis:
A hysterectomy will NOT cure endometriosis. A hysterectomy causes so many side effects. I had two myomectomies to remove fibroids and endometriosis grew in the lining of my surgical scar. When my cycle comes on, I still feel swelling and pain along my surgical scars.
Skip Birth Control and Try Holistic Healing
When women complain to their doctors about their menstrual pain, the first suggestion that we hear is to try birth control. I can promise you that it will only put a band-aid on your condition, and has the potential to make things worse. Don't keep trying birth controls because the hormones make the fibroids grow. Try acupuncture and holistic remedies instead.
Change Your Diet
Change your diet and change your life. Fast food isn't great for your reproductive system and dairy products only make things worse. To ease the symptoms of endometriosis, try to avoid consuming fast food, sugar, or dairy products. They will make fibroids grow.
I'm currently trying holistic ways to heal my endometriosis. I was on a regimen by Dr. Wallach that included all-natural hormonal supplements for a few months, and they helped me a lot. My cycles were way lighter and I didn't experience as much pain.
10% of black women battle with the debilitating effects of endometriosis, but with a healthy diet and the right resources, we can still win the war
I turned 30 in April, and it has been four years since I was diagnosed. I cut my hair off because years of birth control made it thin, and I am now reclaiming the time my condition tried so desperately to steal from me. I decided that endometriosis would no longer run me. Every day is an effort to take my power back, and I sure look good doing it.
- As told to Taylor Honore