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My name is Shannon Hannawald. I am a wife and mother. I am also 1 in 10. One in 10 women who have endometriosis.
What is endometriosis? If you ask a doctor endometriosis is defined as a painful disorder in which tissue similar to the tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus — the endometrium — grows outside your uterus. Endometriosis most commonly involves your ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue lining your pelvis. It has now been found on the lungs, brain and other organs outside of the pelvic cavity. However if you ask a women who has been diagnosed with endometriosis they will tell you endometriosis is a whole body disease that affects every part of each women in a different way.
Most know that endometriosis causes severe pain, infertility and numerous other medical issues but the way it affects us mentally and emotionally is just as important. It takes on average 10 years to receive a diagnosis, in which time most that know you don’t believe anything is wrong with you because the doctors do not find anything in the normal tests that are run. Endometriosis can ONLY be diagnosed by laparoscopic surgery.
In my personal story I spent the first 5 years of the doctors telling my parents I was lying because I wanted to get out of school. It all started when I was 15 and I was in excruciating pain that nobody seemed to know anything about or had any desire to help me figure out what was wrong. I now know as I look back my parents didn’t really have much of a choice but to believe the doctors but it took be a long time to be able to understand that and forgive the people who were supposed to love and protect me.
I spent the first 2 years in a severe depression because there was nobody that would listen to me. I had doctors telling my family I was lying, friends who stopped asking me to do things because I would always have to cancel plans, or have to leave early due to the pain I was in. These are memories that I buried a long time ago hoping to never have to relive them but I know in my mission to hopefully bring awareness to this disease and help other women I would need to be completely honest.
One night I had finally had it and I decided I couldn’t take it anymore. I went and got one of my medications and I took the entire bottle. I didn’t care anymore. I didn’t care who would be affected by my choice to do this, I didn’t care about anything at this point. My mom happened to walk in after I took the bottle of medication. She called 911 and I had to drink a bunch of charcoal to make me throw up the medication in my system. After that I was sent to a hospital for treatment of my depression but honestly what was the point there was not a single person who understood how I felt or what I was going through.
After that night I decided I wasn’t going to stop until I got answers. I needed to know what was causing me so much pain not just physically but mentally and emotionally as well. Nobody should be made to feel like there is nothing wrong with them because they “look OK on the outside.”
After searching for 5 years I finally found a doctor that knew exactly what was wrong with me the moment I told him my symptoms. Endometriosis? Why had nobody else known this or even mentioned this to my parents? Once I was diagnosed I was faced with a whole new set of fears, lifetime pain, infertility, doctors who weren’t really educated on this disease and many other chronic illnesses that are linked to endometriosis.
There have been hard days the past 25 years. Days or weeks of being in a dark place with depression and anxiety but I know I have to fight through them. I have to help other women not get to the place I was that night I decided to take that medication and end it all. This disease affects each of us differently but I can tell you each of us face the same emotional and mental issues that are placed on us from dealing with a disease most know nothing about.
We must all work together to support and comfort each other during this journey. We can not get through it alone. The next time someone says they are in pain or are having a bad day please remember that just because someone looks ok on the outside doesn’t mean they are OK on the inside. We all need some sort of support and compassion instead of judgment because you never know what battle someone else is fighting. Ask questions, educate yourself and others so that each women will know she has someone in her corner.
Having support from those closest to you or even an acquaintance can make a true difference in someones life. If we know we are supported it will help each of us to fight harder and be our own advocate until someone listens.
March is Endometriosis Awareness Month so if you know someone who has been diagnosed with this disease ask questions or do a Google search to learn more. There are many women who lose the mental and emotional battle this disease causes and that is not acceptable and needs to be changed. My heart breaks each time I hear of an Endo sister who feels she is so alone and cannot fight anymore.
Endometriosis is a horrible disease; physically, emotionally, and mentally. However if we have compassion and understanding for each other it make it a little easier to get through the hard days.
— To learn more visit the Facebook page “Endo Warriors of the Eastern Shore,” a support group Ms. Hannawald founded. She is also an ambassador for the Endometriosis Association with its website https://endometriosisassn.org.