Saturday March 30, 2019 By: Lara Ahmed
Over the last few decades, women have achieved slight progress in areas such as work place harassment, equal pay, and in bridging the gap between men and women in general. Yet, when it comes to endometriosis, arguably less success has been madeto enlighten the general population about the disease and why raising awareness about it truly matters. As Endometriosis Awareness Month comes to an end, it’s a good idea to recap what you might have done to show support, and can still do to help further the cause.
Endometriosis is a chronic disease that affects approximately 10% of women worldwide. Still, the disease is often left in the dark due to the lack of real awareness. In order to truly help those suffering from endometriosis, it is important to first understand what the disease entails. The Mayo Clinic describes it as “ a painful disorder in which the tissue that usually surrounds the inside of the uterus grows in other parts of the body.” Unbearable menstrual pain and an unusually heavy bleeding are the characteristics most common with endometriosis. The trouble is most women have no way of knowing just how abnormal these symptoms are if they’ve been suffering from them their whole lives. The pain can even extend to days when a woman isn’t menstruating, with some women experiencing non- stop pain on a daily basis.
Despite the fact that it is a common disorder, the condition goes largely undiagnosed. One explanation for this is because the symptoms, which sometimes include severe pelvic pain and infertility, are often linked to other conditions instead. Another reason, according to the Mayo Clinic, is because surgery is sometimes the only way to diagnose the disease with certainty. However, the most worrisome reason for the disorder to go undetected is because society dismisses the symptoms as simply being “women’s problems”. When women’s closest friends or most trusted doctors shut down these complaints, they risk making them feel like they are weak or just exaggerating.
In 1980, Mary Lou Ballweg helped founding the Endometriosis Association to find a cure and prevention for endometriosis while at the same time providing education, support, and research to those affected.The color yellow was associated with the disease since then, when Ballweg sent out endometriosis brochures in that color to countries all across the globe. Before she knew it, the yellow ribbon became a universal badge of solidarity to those fighting for endometriosis awareness, and it continues to be the symbol most associated with the disease. In 1993, Ballweg founded the Endometriosis Awareness Week together with seven other women. They soon realized that one week was not enough to carry out change across the world, so they expanded it to a month. Ballweg chose the month of March as she hoped that the mild climate would serve as a good time away from severe heat and cold that summer and winter usually promise.
Once you’ve given yourself a rough understanding of the disease, adding your voice to see tangible action being taken to help those who suffer is vital. Just because the media doesn’t always put endometriosis in the spotlight, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t either. Social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter are effective ways to advocate for the cause, and you can make a difference in another person’s life through mere communication. Posting basic facts like proven statistics or sharing personal stories of how the disease awareness has altered people’s lives, can go a long way in educating users. Furthermore, the large reach that social media provides is a sure way to connect with all kinds of people quickly. Hashtags and posts can spread like wildfire, sparking the conversation to unexpected depths. Be sure to use social media to assure endometriosis sufferers – or ” endo warriors”- of any treatments you might be aware of, whether its healthy lifestyle habits to relieve pain, or great doctors. However, avoid recommending anything you can’t back up with confirmed facts, such as the myth that pregnancy is a cure for endometriosis (which has been widely recognized as simply being a temporary relief for some) according to endometriosis UK
Though many women have shared their stories of defeating the disease through dietary changes and surgery, medical practitioners hesitate to use the word “cure” when it comes to Endometriosis. Contraceptives are always an option for giving women vast relief, though the right treatment depends on the patient. Excision surgery (a heat-based surgery to remove unhealthy growths and scar tissues) is generally considered to be the most effective procedure and has even been known to give some women complete relief.
Looking for the most relief can be a rollercoaster of emotions for an endo warrior, sometimes all you need to do is listen to a woman express her feelings about the condition rather that judge and assume you understand exactly what she is going through. Once you feel you have a basic understanding of the disease, a great action you can take is sharing what you’ve learned to whoever you can.
Similar to women all over the world, women in Egypt are also suffering from this invisible disease. Yet, as in other cultures where menstruation is a taboo, the suffering of Egyptian women is unheard, and often ignored. And as long as women’s suffering remains belittled, so too, will women themselves. Lifting the fog off this so-called “private pain” is a good first step in the journey of helping women with endometriosis and, by extension, of helping women in general. March should not serve as the only time to raise awareness for this condition, it should simply be a declaration that the cause is alive and going strong- as more voices join the chorus worldwide.
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