Battling with a reproductive disease or mystery infertility can easily feel like a lonely, uphill battle. But it doesn't have to. These inspiring female athletes remind us how strong and resilient we all are and that no matter what, there is hope!
Australian swimmer Emily Seebohm delayed endometriosis surgery to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. “It was more of a mental battle for me than a physical one. The days that I felt so sick that I didn’t want to go to training were hard.” Seebohm swam her heart out and proudly bowed at the podium to receive her silver medal. “Sometimes I think, ‘Wow, I must be a really strong person to achieve what I have achieved in life while having endo. Every day is a battle.”
Marathoner Kara Deschenes refuses to let endometriosis stop her from crossing the finish line. “I was not willing to give up running because my body wouldn’t cooperate,” she explains. Deschenes took a proactive approach and reached out to her doctor to discuss a treatment plan. “[One] that I could not only live with but also run through,” she adds. “The road to healing was a long one filled a lot of experimentation to not only treat the symptoms of my endometriosis but also control it from recurring. I had various surgeries, took the birth control pill constantly for a steady stream of hormones and even tried hormone creams. Eventually, I found the right combination for my body, and I’m happy to say I’ve been
able to run pain-free for the past 10 years.”
In April 2016, New Zealand Track Cyclist Kirstie James underwent laparoscopic surgery for endometriosis. “One of my fears of talking to the doctor about it, and getting this surgery done, was that nothing would be found. My fear was that maybe my pains were simply ‘normal’ and that I was just crazy for feeling these stabbing pains,” revealed James. Those fears were put to rest when post-up she discovered doctors removed lots of endo and even a golf ball-sized cyst on her fallopian tube. She allowed herself a two-weeklong recovery and then hopped right back on her bike to train.
Tennis Hall of Famer Gigi Fernandez won the Grand Slam Doubles tournament an impressive 17 times but was served a devastating blow about her chances of having a baby after retiring in 1997 at age 33. Doctors told her that her eggs were too old, and blamed her demanding tennis career. “It was crushing,” Fernandez has said. “I felt almost like I wished I would have never played tennis.” Fertility treatments over the span of five years cost her $100,000. Finally, in 2008, with the help of donated eggs and sperm, she got pregnant and welcomed twins Carson and Madison.
Dara Torres became America’s sweetheart by winning gold on the USA swim team at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing at the age of 41. But her baby dreams sunk because of a mysterious bout of infertility. "It's very frustrating because here I am this healthy woman who's been to the Olympics and never had any health problems, and I can't get pregnant," she’s confided. "I thought if I could share my story it might really illustrate that this can happen to anyone and that you're not alone." In 2006, she gave birth to daughter Tessa Grace, with the help of fertility treatments. “Yes, she’s into swimming,” Torres has said.
Olympic weightlifter Carissa Gump unknowingly suffered from PCOS for years before being correctly diagnosed. She spent months of unsuccessfully trying to start a family and then suffering a miscarriage before she was referred to the Colorado Center of Reproductive Medicine (CCRM) in Denver, which is where she got the PCOS diagnosis. “I could have done cartwheels out of the office,” Gump’s noted. “Someone was finally able to tell me why I had hypothyroidism, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, anovulation, and hypoglycemia.” Under the care of CCRM, Grump has had two successful pregnancies and gave birth to a daughter, Camille, and son, Alexander.