March has whizzed by and is almost over, which means that Endometriosis Awareness Month is also drawing to a close. I absolutely LOVE awareness month as I feel justified in shouting about endo even more loudly than usual (this disease needs all the shouters it can get as far as I’m concerned) and channeling my energies into positive activities rather than feeling sorry for myself. With this in mind, I thought I’d give you all the lowdown on what I’ve been up to for the last few weeks.
Worldwide Endo March
This was the second endo march I have attended in London, and I enjoyed even more than last year. There was a great turnout and people really made the effort to wear yellow and bring banners etc. We turned central London yellow and made a real impact, it was breathtaking to see- I felt quite emotional. I made a poster with a part of my own story on. It said:
I ASKED FOR HELP FOR 14 YEARS WHILE ENDOMETRIOSIS WRECKED MY BODY AND JEOPARDIZED MY FUTURE!
One of the benefits of my poster was that it acted as a talking point, enabling lots of women approach me to share their own endometriosis stories. I talked to older women who had lots of experience, women who had undergone hysterectomies, and newly diagnosed teenagers. I always love meeting other women with endo. Even though I wish that none of us were sick, it helps me feel better understood and less alone. I’m not crazy when I am with them, my ‘normal’ is reflected in theirs.
The march made me realise how far I have come on my chronic illness journey over the past year. At the 2015 event I was newly diagnosed, frightened, and ridiculously ill as I tried to sort out a referral to a specialist to have the surgery I so badly needed. This year I am 7 months post-surgery and felt much healthier, better informed, and hopeful about the future, allowing me to focus on meeting people and raising awareness rather than stressing or seeking information from other about treatment options and experiences.
My mum and husband joined me on the day and we marched alongside endosisters from my Hertfordshire support group, which meant the world to me. My mum especially, as she is also chronically ill with rheumatoid arthritis, but she battled the punishingly long (or was that just me? My fitbit said I’d walked over 16,000 steps at the end of the day!) walk and made it to the finish line. I was so proud of her and thankful that she was there.
I have also been collaborating as a patient representative on a research study led by Dr Martin Hirsch at Queen Mary University of London. As we were both at the event we were able to meet up and chat in person (a nice change from emails) so that was great too and enabled much interesting endo-chatter.
To be brutally honest I was feeling a bit sad before the endo march as I had invited loads of my friends to come along to but none of them did. Some of them wanted to be there but had very valid reasons why they couldn’t be, and I guess others just didn’t want to. But that’s OK. I realise endometriosis is my battle and that most people cannot understand it unless they’ve lived it. On march day itself those negative feeling were washed away and I was so grateful for the support networks I do have.
‘Endo What?’ European premiere- London
I have been waiting impatiently and super excitedly for this documentary to be released for months, and jumped at the chance to get tickets for the London premiere as I live a short distance outside of the city. I had donated to their fundraising campaign via Indiegogo some time ago, so I knew that a digital download of the film would zoom into my inbox at some point. However, I felt that being able to watch it with other endo sufferers would be a vital opportunity to learn and network- both of which I think are vital for taking control of your health and managing your illness effectively. I can’t imagine opportunities like this will crop up often in planet endo, and I’m not a person who like to miss out. It was worth the MAJOR energy crash that followed the next day.
Again, Mr B was by my side- dedicated and lovely as he is, and we met up with a couple of friends from my support group. I enjoyed the screening immensely, and thought it was accessible and informative- it is indeed a ‘game changer’ as it bills itself. If I’d have watched it in school I might have saved myself years of pain and heartbreak- but never mind, I can’t change the past. I’ve read about endo A LOT and so feel pretty familiar with the workings of the beast, so there was nothing groundbreaking in there that I wasn’t aware of, but it was a good refresher course and great for Mr B to learn some new things too.
The panel discussion afterwards was so interesting and I wish it could have gone on for longer- but I thought it was able to explore some of the trickier claims made in the film (e.g. that ‘‘one surgery done well” should be enough to treat endometriosis) with greater nuance and depth. I’ve noticed that one thing that crops up a lot wherever I am is that people aren’t always aware about the UK specialist endometriosis centers which concerns me as they are so important for accessing appropriate treatment, especially in severe cases. In case you need it the link for the centers is here, do share it loudly and widely with your fellow endo-sisters should the opportunity arise. Being treated by specialist who actually knew a thing or two about endometriosis has really turned my life around for the better, and I’d like everybody to experience that.
I noticed a call out on my Twitter news feed to speak to a women’s health journalist about living with endometriosis, so I offered to participate in the article and was invited to share my story. Every article/video/ social media post published helps to chip away at the stigma and silence surrounding endometriosis, so I was pleased to have the opportunity to use my terrible past for something so positive. On a cheeky side note, it’s great because I gave a fairly long interview and she used the bit where I was passive aggressive about my GP-haha! You can read the full article here.
On twitter, I also hit a tweeting milestone of 2000 tweets about endometriosis. If you don’t already follow me on there, please do and come say hello! 🙂
So that was my endometriosis awareness month. It’s been pretty busy. To top it off I’ve been getting stuck into my new advocacy role for Endometriosis UK and am really enjoying its challenges and rewards. I would LOVE to hear what you have all been up to! Did you attend an endo march? Have you watched Endo What? yet? Have you been shouting from the rooftops or turning your social media yellow? Whatever you’ve been doing please keep up the good work!