two months

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Abnormal, painful, heavy and/or irregular menstruation.

Intense abdominal pain and cramping outside of period.

Fatigue, bloating, nausea.

These are the vague symptoms you will find if you Google endometriosis.

Endometriosis occurs when the endometrium tissue lining the uterus is found around the organs, pelvis and other areas of the body instead of being shed during monthly menses. This causes scar tissue, chronic debilitating pain, mood swings, anxiety, depression, infertility, body image issues just to name a few symptoms.  No one brings up night sweats, blood clots, or nausea. How about chest pain, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat and dizziness. I bet you didn’t know that knee pain, back pain, certain food intolerances, and vitamin deficiencies are also associated with endometriosis.

Many women (including myself) suffer in silence and the usual timeframe for diagnosis is 10 years, as it is difficult to detect. Endometriosis is incurable. 

No one tells you how it happens, about the days you will cry because you are in intense pain or how many times you will have to call in “sick” to work with no real explanation of what the heck is going on with you. I am constantly faced with physical pains that I can’t control even with the strongest painkillers.

I can date my symptoms back ten years ago.  I was only thirteen and had to make an appointment with a gynecologist. While I won’t mention this well-known doctor’s name, she brushed it off saying, “It was just a part of becoming a woman.”‘ Uh, yikes ok. 

So I went on accepting this as my truth. Accepting the days of sitting in class pretending I felt okay that extended well into my working years. Calling in sick makes me feel guilty because my boss or co-workers don’t always understand what I’m going through and I often think I’m letting them down.

As the years went by, sometimes I would mention it here and there to doctors and they would act nonchalant as if living with this pain and discomfort was something I could get by with.

The final straw was when my previous doctor told me I was ovulating and it would pass. When I insisted differently, she suggested we change my birth control. Not only would this wreak hormonal havoc on my body, but I also knew it wasn’t the answer. So I stood up for myself. I said no.

I kicked her to the curb and demanded she refer me elsewhere.

I couldn’t do it anymore.

So after countless dollars spent on wasted doctor’s appointments, I saw a leading physician specializing in endometriosis. She suggested I have a laparoscopic procedure because she was sure I had endo.

I was overwhelmed. After I stopped ugly crying, I realized I was relieved. Finally. Vindication. Confirmation. I am believed.

I told a select few people.

What will you do? Make sure you do it. Are you going to do it? I don’t think you’ll do it. Please do it. Have you tried yoga? Have you considered meditation? Have you tried not eating dairy? How about nutrition? Medication is bad for the body and you’re an addict. All those chemicals. You can’t take that. What are you going to take instead? Can you have babies? Are you infertile? You should have a baby. You should start having babies. Why aren’t you having babies? Are you better? We can’t wait for you to feel better —to get back to normal.

Normal is now tiredness. Exhaustion. It’s being slow. It’s feeling slow. Withdrawn. Feeling sick. I am sick. Always keeping it secret. F. Feeling small. Thinking about it. Thinking about pain. Always thinking about my body. Your body. Assessing every twinge, every tug, every pull, every ache. Waiting. Holding your breath and counting. Waiting for it to stop. To get worse. To come back again.

Two months ago today, I was first diagnosed and had a laparoscopy. My endo is so severe it caused organs to shift and tilt.

I am now faced with the harsh truth that the physical pain is paired with the emotional pain of the possibility of not being able to carry a child, my first surgery will probably not be my last and I am on a medication that has kicked my body into early menopause.

While the road ahead is difficult, I know had I not been an advocate for myself while sitting in a small cold exam room with nothing but a gown the quality of a cheap paper towel, I would still be suffering in silence.

Fortunately, I have learned the capacity of my strength and fortitude due to this disease.

If you’re a woman suffering from chronic, mystery pain that doctors are just shrugging their shoulders at, I hope you are inspired to be an advocate for yourself as well.

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Coffee Break Thoughts from the Airport

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My job can be a little exhausting. Okay, sometimes a lot. We are a dedicated nonprofit with a small staff. I’m actually doing two jobs within the organization right now during a transition period.

Through my job, I am tasked with traveling sometimes. There are one-day trips to exhibit and then there are week-long trips for conferences. I have essentially traveled three weeks of the past month. I haven’t been home much and as I sit here in the airport waiting on a flight that won’t get me home until 11:30 tonight (then I have to drive an hour home), I think how fortunate I am to be able to travel alone.

I’m not sure if you’ve had the opportunity to travel alone, but let me tell ya… it makes for some serious self-reflection/processing time. As I walked every inch of the city of Louisville (and visited the underground speakeasy you see above) with no one but me, myself and I, I had the sweet, rare opportunity to really process where I was at and how I was doing in terms of life in general. I was challenged and reminded and affirmed of His love for me and plan for my life all at the same time.

I am exhausted and looking forward to some time at home for a long weekend before I fly out again two weeks from now. But I’m so thankful to have had that time to step away and be alone. I know the craziness of the holidays is soon upon us, but if you have the chance to carve out some alone time for yourself, whether it be a couple of hours or a whole weekend, I can’t encourage it enough! It was pretty transformative for me.

I am so overwhelmed and I am so thankful.

So here’s my question for you, friends, how are you doing, doing. Are you giving yourself the rest you need? Are you giving yourself the grace you deserve? I haven’t been.

There will be a million things telling you that you’re not doing enough or being enough or accomplishing enough. But you have one friend right here today telling you this simple truth… you already are. You Are. Enough.

If you’re like me and have a hard time believing that to be true of yourself, my challenge to you today is to pause. Give yourself the rest you don’t think you have time for because I guarantee you that you do.  There will always be a million excuses not to, but you know what I can promise? Life will go on. And you? You will be so much better off for it.

Go buy that Starbucks holiday drink and go on a walk around the prettiest neighborhood you can find. Or curl up on the couch and put on a Hallmark movie… and instead of checking your email inbox and finding other ways to do a million things at once, just watch. Light your favorite candle, put on your favorite worship song and spend thirty minutes journaling and pouring your heart out to the Lord. Replace one of the “to do list” things you feel like you have to do with something that brings you rest.

I know I know.. it goes against everything our millennial-multitasking minds tell us to do, and that’s the beauty of it.

Let’s fill this season with a bit more rest, ok?  That’s how I intend to round out the remainder of the year.

So before I step off my soapbox, let me just say one last thing. It is good to trust in the Lord. He is faithful, and He is the best author. Trust Him with your story, friend. In the valleys, remember there are so many pages you haven’t lived through yet, and remember that His love, which is so far greater than any love we’ll ever find here on this earth, will lead you through each one.

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