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Chef at Sea Seeks to Inspire Women by Sharing Endometriosis Story, Funky Chef Jacket Designs - Hannah Staddon’s Endo Story

Chef at Sea Seeks to Inspire Women by Sharing Endometriosis Story, Funky Chef Jacket Designs  - Hannah Staddon’s Endo Story

Hannah Staddon was 24 when she had her first fainting episode from endometriosis in 2017. Making the situation more dire was the lack of medical treatment immediately accessible. She was isolated in the Atlantic Ocean, working as a chef on a private yacht. 

“We had guests onboard at the time, so I just fought through it,” Staddon said. “When I came around from it, I pulled myself up and carried on with what I was doing.” 

That fortitude has carried Staddon through the disease for the past seven years while she continues to create a unique culinary experience for passengers on a yacht captained by her husband, Dom. They regularly sail between Miami, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean. 

“Despite battling endometriosis and undergoing two surgeries, I refuse to allow this condition to dictate the course of my life,” Staddon said. “My career in the maritime industry has exposed me to some of the brightest and most entrepreneurial minds, and interacting with these inspiring individuals whom I serve has further fueled my ambition.” 

Ambition that has led to the founding of her business, Funky Chef, which designs and manufactures what she calls “the world’s first and only collection of fitted and fashion-forward chef’s jackets that reflect the creativity and professionalism of today’s female culinary talent.” 

“I found a real lack of options in jackets on the market for women,” Staddon said. “They’re generally unisex, and anytime I bought one, I had to have it tailored. So, I bought some material and had a seamstress make some up in funky patterns, and I just loved them.” 

Staddon began working on boats as a stewardess when she was about 20. With no cooking experience but a passion for learning, Staddon took a chance by leaving her job on the water in 2015 to put herself through the South African Chefs Academy in Cape Town, South Africa, her native land. She attended class daily and worked in a restaurant at night. Upon being named the academy’s Student of the Year a year later, she returned to the sea as a chef.

But not long after starting her new career, the endometriosis symptoms kicked in with force. 

Staddon fainted a second time in 2017 while shopping on Nassau in the Bahamas and went to the emergency room there. An ultrasound revealed a chocolate cyst, but limited care was available and the doctor didn’t seem overly concerned. Staddon never thought she’d had any endometriosis symptoms before the two fainting spells, though in retrospect, she did. 

“I had heavy and long periods as a teenager, but I never thought anything of it,” she said. “I just thought that’s the way it was.” 

After experiencing severe bowel pain and more fainting spells over the next few months, Staddon went to a doctor in the UK in 2018, where she was diagnosed with stage IV endometriosis during laparoscopic surgery. Three years later, she had a more complex surgery with a doctor in South Africa that included the removal of deep endometriosis from her fallopian tubes, ovaries, and bowel, along with a bowel resection. She also changed her diet after that surgery and was doing well until this past November. 

“My symptoms have come back,” Staddon said. “Once or twice a month, I have a bad cramp after coffee. I am also experiencing periods that are up to 25 days long, with a 23-day break before the next. This is affecting my quality of life, and being a full-time yacht chef, I have limited access to healthcare.” 

Staddon believes another surgery is inevitable and is trying to determine when and where to have it. In the meantime, she continues to work through the symptoms each day at sea and grow her Funky Chef business. Several jackets have sold out, though more are on the way. They come in eight sizes and more than a dozen “funky” patterns and colors, and some well-known chefs have worn them, including Tzarina Mace-Ralph and Lauren Van Liew (aka Chef Covas). 

Staddon is donating 1 percent of her profits to EndoFound because, she says, “I really believe the Endometriosis Foundation of America is making a big impact on the research that is happening.” 

And she will continue, verbally and by example, to impact other women who are suffering by sharing her story publicly and persevering through the disease. 

“I refuse to let endometriosis define who I am,” Staddon said. “My recommendation for other women is to refrain from battling alone and falling into a cycle of avoidance. Instead, seek out the support of doctors who are making significant strides in research. While surgeries may be daunting, don't allow this condition to dictate the limitations of your life.” 

To learn more about Funky Chef, visit www.funkychef.co.

*Patient stories submitted to EndoFound.org are the patient's views, not necessarily those of the foundation. All testimonials are from real patients, may not reflect the typical patient’s experience, and are not intended to represent or guarantee that anyone will achieve the same or similar results.