Megan Gorman, just 23 years old, has had three surgeries in seven years for endometriosis, and she knows more are likely on the horizon. But the Staten Island resident has been determined to turn her experience into a positive one each step of the way, and running the New York City Marathon is another milestone.
“I get emotional just thinking about it, but it means way more to me than I could have ever imagined,” Gorman said. “When I saw the application to run, I thought, This is it! This is what I want to do! I never thought I could run 26 miles, but here I am!”
Gorman is in her second year of a three-year Doctor of Physical Therapy program. She will run on Nov. 5 with 50 others from the US and Europe for Team EndoStrong to raise more than $200,000 for EndoFound. The race will wind through the city’s five boroughs and is the world’s largest with over 50,000 runners.
Gorman’s journey with endometriosis began when she was 16 and felt nauseous one morning.
“I thought it was a stomach bug, but I woke up with it every morning after that, and it never went away,” she said. “I was sick for about six months, missed 60 days of school, had numerous trips to the ER, and was so fatigued. I also wasn’t getting my period during that time, so I knew something was wrong.”
She’d played soccer since she was five and ran track and cross country in high school.
“I’d been active my whole life, and then all of a sudden, I wasn’t,” Gorman said. “I was bedridden and losing a lot of weight.”
She went to one doctor after another and found no relief. One doctor misdiagnosed her with IBS. Others told her it was all in her head, that she needed to see a therapist, or that it was due to the anxiety of applying to college.
“I recall one specific doctor at a well-known hospital in the city—as soon as I walked in, her first words were, ‘You don’t look sick. What are you doing here?’ I started crying. I was so frustrated that nobody could understand what I was going through.”
When Gorman told a family friend about her plight, that friend said her daughter had similar symptoms and was diagnosed with endometriosis. She suggested that Gorman see an endometriosis specialist.
“I found one, he did laparoscopic surgery, and that’s when I was finally diagnosed,” said Gorman, who was still 16 at the time. “He said my uterus was flipped and twisted, I had eight ounces of toxic fluid sitting in my abdominal cavity, and the endometriosis was all over my intestines. It took a couple of weeks to recover, but the nausea and pain went away after that. It was night and day.”
She would have a second surgery in 2019 during her junior year of college. That was prompted when her symptoms returned.
“I suddenly got really sick, cold-like symptoms. I couldn’t swallow and thought I had the flu. But then my body just shut down, and I knew that feeling all too well,” Gorman said. “I couldn’t get out of bed. I was fatigued. I couldn’t eat. I went back to my doctor, who did an ultrasound and blood test, and he said my inflammatory marker was near cancer levels. He did surgery to see what was happening and found huge cysts cutting off my fallopian tubes and lesions everywhere. It was a lot more endometriosis than during my first surgery.”
She felt good for a few years, but new symptoms emerged in 2022.
“I ran cross country and track and field in college and was suddenly passing out when I was running,” Gorman said. “I knew, for as much as I’d trained, that that shouldn’t have happened. I also felt a lot of pain in my back and hips this time.”
Her doctor did an ultrasound and found several cysts on her ovaries. He gave her birth control for six months to see if that would help. It didn’t, which led to her third surgery.
“I had a lot of lesions that were so deep near my kidneys and liver, and again on my intestines and uterus,” Gorman said. “That surgery was in November, and I’m definitely feeling a lot better today.
She said she tries not to think about having more surgeries, but it’s always in the back of her mind.
“I know this is my reality,” she said. “I’ve changed a lot of things in my life, like my diet and just how I deal with some personal things, so I’m trying to avoid another surgery as long as possible. But I know that whatever happens, I’m in good hands and will get it figured out.”
That positive attitude has carried her to the marathon, which she’s been training for all summer.
“I know someone who runs and is sponsored by Nike, so I’ve been training with him and it’s been great,” said Gorman, whose longest run has been a half marathon. “There’s no doubt I’ll finish the race. I’m very determined. No matter what, I’ll cross that line.”
But she’s not doing it just for herself.
“I’m running for that 16-year-old girl today who is like I was—so scared, depressed, anxious, and doesn’t know what’s going on or believe she’ll ever find answers,” Gorman said. “It’s such an invisible disease. You get dismissed and told your pain is normal when it’s not. I’m excited to raise money for a good cause, and hopefully, we can get some answers for people who constantly struggle with this.”
To contribute to Megan Gorman’s New York City Marathon run for EndoFound, visit https://give.endofound.org/fundraiser/4782935.