As a young Black woman being diagnosed with not one but two female disorders, it’s frustrating and at times, exhausting to explain the life given to you. Because the choice that every woman believes she has to give birth—or not—is immediately gone with the diagnosis of Endometriosis (or Endo) and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS.
Endometriosis is pronounced en-dow-me-tree-oh-sis, but who can figure out what that means when you can’t say it right or spell it correctly? Somehow, in a twisted game of fate, endometrium (the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus) grows outside of the uterus, which is a no-no. But wait—it gets better. The tissue can’t escape, so it gets trapped inside your body and starts to cause adhesions. Endometriosis can spread everywhere, even to your lungs and brain (in rare cases). I know, right! What about your fertility, you ask? Almost impossible to conceive without a team of specialists, lots of fertility drugs, narco money and a prayer. You are also gifted with crippling nausea that may lead to vomiting and the debilitating fatigue that has been compared to the fatigue cancer patients experience on chemotherapy.
But the best present of Endometriosis is feeling like you’re going into labor during your period. The pain is overwhelming and blinding. Literally. If you don’t pass out, you wish you would. Sometimes, you get the relief of blacking out. That’s a good day. Your vagina is contracting, you’re being stabbed in the lower back, and all of a sudden, you feel the urge to push. Push what? Push all your hopes and dreams right out of your body as you wonder why you haven’t bled to death yet. And I almost forgot about the nerve pain in your back and legs that makes it difficult to walk. Falling down is very unladylike…
To be fair, I can’t talk about one best friend without talking about the other. PCOS… The misunderstood loner. This frenemy will make you fat for no reason. Cheers to stretch marks! Cause you lose hair in the right places (head) but grow hair in the wrong places (face). And having oily skin doesn’t even come close to describing the amount of grease you produce that could fry chicken and fries. Also, if you thought the horrible and scarring acne was only reserved for your face, Surprise! You also have it on your neck, chest, stomach and back. Sometimes, you get a little on your butt just for fun.
Fertility, you ask again? Sure. Just use an at home ovulation test and you’ll be fine… Except PCOS causes you not to ovulate at all, but gives you false positives on the tests so you never completely lose hope. It’s such fun!
Your depression deepens and your anxiety increases as the years pass. Internally, you’re almost 10 years older than your actual age and let me share the joys of premenopausal night sweats. There’s nothing like waking up drenched in your own bodily fluids every night for days. That could explain your high electricity bill because cold is never cold enough for the internal heat sent straight from hell to punish you for being a woman with a messed up reproductive system. Even your struggle is struggling.
But guess what? None of these symptoms are exclusive to menstruation, as they can come and go as they please. One day, you’re fine and enjoying life. The next day, your dying from the inside out while also dealing with work stress, personal problems, family/friend/significant other drama, constant police brutality, and a whole damn pandemic. I would like to take a moment to send a special shout-out to Endometriosis for weakening your immune system so that you’re considered high risk for COVID-19. YAY!
And while PCOS will make you think that you won’t ever get another period again, Endometriosis will quickly remind you that you don’t have to bleed to experience a slow death. I can’t even explain how amazing it feels when you experience Endo belly, which is painful bloating that’s not related to diet, lack of exercise, or alcohol. The stretching of your abdominal wall is a glorious pleasure as it gives you the physical appearance of being four months pregnant when… You’re not.
Are there treatment options? Of course, but finding out which specific individual treatment works for you is harder than finding a good man in these streets. And we all know how hard that is. Is there a cure? Umm… Is there a cure for cancer? Then there’s your answer. A baby or a hysterectomy won’t cure you unfortunately. But a baby is definitely a miracle if you can achieve that goal. Refer back to finding a good man. If you’re wondering are there trials and new innovative research on the rise? Yep, but your great, great, great niece will probably receive it first. They say it’s hereditary but rarely will two sisters or cousins in same biological family will be dealing with these two toxic disorders at the same time.
The “White Girl’s Disease”
It’s a “white girl’s disease” most elders will say in the Black community. You definitely aren’t praying enough and you are obviously stressing too much. And when folks get over those lies, they will try to force you into adoption and/or surrogacy, as if that will cure all your woes. Don’t forget the never ending pressure to freeze your eggs or go through IVF/IUI. Great options, by the way, but who’s sugar daddy is paying for all that? It’s beyond expensive and these basic health insurance plans will not give you a penny.
Professional therapy (having a Black therapist matters), and local/online support groups are a couple of options for coping, but managing the symptoms is tricky because you find temporary solutions, but your body adjusts and changes each year. You’re always starting over. Treatment depends on your age, symptoms and whether or not you desire to bear children. There are pain-control medications, low-dose birth control pills and hormonal therapy options but (as always), you will need to seek the advice of a medical professional to decide which options may work best for you.
Whatever treatment options you choose, be sure to practice whatever form of self-care provides you with the relief you need. Reach out to others who may be suffering from the same condition/s. Don’t feel guilty for taking the time you need to tend to your own mental and physical health.
For more information on endometriosis and PCOS: