Endometriosis Awareness Month
by Serena Gestring, staff writer
MARCH 2021 – March is Endometriosis Awareness Month. This is a time to spread awareness of a little-known illness and hear the approximately 176 million voices of those living with it all over the world.
Endometriosis is a medical disorder in which endometrium, the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus, grows outside of the uterus, usually onto the ovaries, fallopian tubes, pelvic tissue lining, and sometimes other pelvic organs.
According to the Mayo Clinic, endometriosis can be very painful. This is because the endometrial-like tissue growing outside of the uterus also congeals, breaks down, and then bleeds with each menstrual cycle like normal endometrium does. Unlike endometrium, however, there is nowhere for that blood to go, and so it is trapped in the body.
Other complications can arise as well. If endometriosis involves the ovaries, cysts referred to as endometriomas can form, causing the surrounding tissue to become irritated. Scar tissue will eventually form, as well as adhesions, or abnormal bands of fibrous tissue. These can cause pelvic tissues and organs to stick together. Fertility issues are also common with endometriosis.
Christine Whyde is a senior Bio-Med Science Academy student who was diagnosed with endometriosis when she was fifteen years old. The process that led to her diagnosis was long and repetitive.
Although Whyde did not provide details, she said she could tell something was wrong at around age ten. Whyde went to a doctor who put her on birth control. According to her, normally doctors will start patients on a basic hormonal birth control, usually an oral medication, as many reproductive conditions are treated with those. For Whyde, the birth control made her symptoms worse.
If previous attempts do not work, doctors will move on to a shot to regulate hormones. Whyde tried this medication option, but that also made things worse. Then she went to another doctor who gave her a new medicine that ultimately did not work as well.
“I was just passed around from doctor to doctor for over three years,” Whyde said. “Basically it was a chain of that [until] I finally had to go to an adult OBGYN when I was fifteen, which was unusual because I was the youngest person that was in there.”
At that point, Whyde underwent surgery so the doctors could look with a small camera to see any problems that could be the cause of her symptoms. They also biopsied the surrounding tissue for examination. Afterwards, Whyde was finally diagnosed with endometriosis.
“I’m trying to think of a way to word this that isn’t very depressing,” Whyde said in regard to living with this condition. Whyde went on to say that it makes her feel bad because she cannot do things that regular people her age can do at times because of her symptoms.
“Sometimes when my parents are outside doing yard work and they need help with something, I feel terrible because since I’m in pain a lot of the time, I can’t help them do anything. It really kind of limits me,” she said. Whyde also had to be exempted from gym class due to her illness.
The immense pain that can come with endometriosis was one of the major reasons Whyde pushed to get diagnosed.
“[The pain] was so bad that I was missing days of school because when I would have a flare up or something, I couldn’t even get out of my bed. I couldn’t even sit up or do anything,” she stated. “So it was affecting my education at that point, and my social life because I was just staying home instead of doing anything.”
Whyde’s condition also makes her sad because of its extremity.
“Some people will just get put on birth control or something and it gets fixed for them, which is great,” she said, “but it sucks that the condition is different for everyone who has it and unfortunately I am just one of those people that it just gets worse as I get older … I had two separate doctors look at my parents and say that there was like nothing else they could do for me.”
Having endometriosis has limited Whyde’s future as well.
“I wanted to be in the military for example, and [I] can’t do that because technically … endometriosis isn’t considered a disability yet because again there are some people who aren’t in any pain at all, but it’s a chronic condition regardless,” she said.
There is also the possibility of Whyde not being able to have children or needing to have a hysterectomy at a young age.
“It’s put me into some difficult thing, like I have to think about things that other kids our age don’t have to think about,” she said.
There are millions of people with stories like Christine Whyde’s. It is estimated that one in ten women have endometriosis, but not all of them are aware of it. According to the Metro OBGYN Team, a lack of awareness of this illness and the normalization of its symptoms has contributed to delaying a diagnosis for many women. The National Institute of Health and US Library of Medicine reported that it can take between three and eleven years for someone to be diagnosed with endometriosis.
Becoming educated is a start for correcting this issue. Get familiar with what endometriosis is and its symptoms. This will provide the ability to educate others. Then begin talking about it. Yellow is the symbol of Endometriosis Awareness Month. Wearing yellow clothing or a yellow ribbon is a simple conversation starter anywhere.
By spreading awareness about endometriosis, more people will be diagnosed and treated sooner for this illness. Endometriosis Awareness Month is a great time to start.