Endometriosis — just like any chronic illness — is a battle; however, the battle with the E beast is unlike standard issue military battles, where generals shuttle troops along the field, call in ballistic strikes from continents away, or rely on media coverage and polling data to determine the next course of action. No, the war with endometriosis is a never ending. Even with the natural decline in estrogen and implant death that comes after menopauses, the emotional and internal (and sometimes external) physical scars remain.
And for the menopause-thru-hysterectomy units, these women have fought their own vicious battle. A battle fraught with early menopause and hormonal supplements. Some women weather the battle better than others, while many return from the war wounded and unrecognizable from their former selves. Depression. Migraines. Lack of a sex drive. Pain.
We women with endometriosis command the front lines. In our daily lives we are bosses, teachers and police officers… We are important members of a constantly moving, ever-present society. We must be on 24/7, and often pain gets in the way. And yet, when we dare ask for reinforcements, we are pegged “seekers.” Or worse, this daily battle we fight is in our heads.
Doctors shrug off our pain and downplay the war waging in our pelvis’s. They toss a new strategy to keep the battle going — antidepressants, NSAIDS… the list is endless. But until a covert mission (i.e. a laparoscopy) is ordered, doctor’s won’t invest in the battle. And getting a doctor to sign off on that mission can be near impossible — at least until you’ve exhausted their mini attacks without success.
Even with spy data confirming enemy presence, a doctor will sometimes be cautious in their approach. I’ve heard from various women with Stage IV endometriosis and their doctors prescribe a course of birth control. Only. Two of these women hadn’t had their endometriosis removed during the original laparoscopy.
Some will say that the endometriosis war is a series of hellish battles. And I would agree. There is the daily battle. It’s wounds are depression, isolation and anguish — beyond the physical symptoms. There is the battle to diagnosis. It’s wounds are frustration (navigating the healthcare system is a daunting tasking — arm yourself with education and backup), powerlessness (doctor’s can be overbearing — remember, they work for you) and uncertainty (new medications come with side effects — keep a journal). Then there is the battle of knowing. It’s wounds are denial (even if you’ve been searching for this answer, it’s normal to question the diagnosis), anger (your body has failed you; doctor’s may have taken years to diagnose you or are suggesting a treatment you’re not comfortable with; or they believe you’re infertile), bargaining (this one applies to endometriosis patients who experience infertility, especially), depression, and finally acceptance.
But the thing about battling a chronic illness is that it’s never ending. And so are the stages of grief. Even once you’ve accepted it, you may find yourself angry that a new treatment failed; or bargaining for another surgery when the doctor insists it won’t help.
Regardless of where we are in the war, one thing is certain: We MUST persevere.
We must press for further research and back scientific endeavors searching for a cure. We must write our political figures and insist on protective legislation. We must stand firm and say NO to doctors when we feel uncomfortable about a drug or surgical treatment. We must feel empowered.
We must win this war.