I write this while recovering from surgery number four. I’m surrounded by my four dogs, the Food Network on in the background, and knitting needles on the coffee table. I’m already going crazy from not working this first week, and thinking about not working for at least another week spikes my anxiety. I’m picking at the bandages on my hips and belly button. I’m tired and lethargic from the elevated dose of my usual pain medication. I am discouraged, because I know this will not be the last time I’ll be sitting in this exact same set, with similar props, and the same audience. In a couple of years, the little director inside my body will yell “action!” once more. I am weary after four performances. But let’s back up a bit.
I remember specifically when the pain started, because so many people would feel the need to voice their opinions on what I was experiencing. “We all have bad periods, Morgan.” My pain was apparently not unique to me, and was in fact shared by the entirety of the female population. I had just started a new job, and was doing anything I could to manage the pain so as to not risk this new position. These commentators were my coworkers, friends, and sexual partners. I don’t blame them, and hold no hostility because even I didn’t know there was a name for my pain, a reason I would stay home from school as a teenager, and a reason sex could be so uncomfortable. This dark time was filled with a great deal of doubt, self pity, ibuprofen, and alcohol. I had no idea that this was the beginning of what has now become a very lengthy journey, and one that is more than likely not ending anytime soon.
After seeing two doctors whose only solutions were taking birth control or having less sex, I found an OBGYN who, to this day, I consider to be one of my life’s greatest blessings. Someone who listened with open ears and an open heart. He knew that every woman who came through his doors deserved to be heard and have their pain taken seriously. He knew the fury inside my body because I was not the only woman scorned. He had seen it, and learned everything about it, and he did not give up, even when I did. He tried every avenue he could before surgery, but this pain is persistent and unrelenting. I don’t wish it upon any woman.
After surgery number one, I marked a victory. Which for me simply meant that my doctors actually found and identified exactly what my doctor had believed the cause of my pain to be. I never knew that one could feel so simultaneously angry and happy. It was as much of a victory for my loved ones as for myself, because now we could name my pain: endometriosis. Something that was now gone from my body. Something we conquered! Based on research, we were hopeful that this fury would not return, or at least not for many, many years. The fury returned in 11 months.
This time my doctor found two more friends to accompany my endometriosis, named PCOS and fibroids. This didn’t surprise me, or defeat me. The physical pain had been constant, but I was no longer feeling the insanity that came with something that was a guess. 10 months later, after lengthy discussions with my doctor and with myself (loudly, and not at all to myself), came the hysterectomy. The tissue was growing too fast, and I needed relief for longer than a couple months. After all, I was only 24 at this point.
I won’t dive too deep into the emotional trauma that comes with choosing a pain-free life over being able to have kids. My guess is that you, as the reader, are fully grasping how painful this journey has already been. Also because there are no words to accurately describe this sacrifice and the stress of how it will impact your future. At that point, I knew I was devaluing myself within the standards of our society and how women are viewed. I knew that not everyone would agree with my decision, but my body was screaming, and I was listening. And let me reassure you that those people who found less value in me because of my ability to procreate were swiftly removed from my life.
I truly believe that we, as women, have a duty to our bodies: to listen and value and appreciate all they do for us. We need to set examples of this to everyone who enters our lives, including our physicians. I look back and wish that I had practiced these values when a doctor told me he didn’t believe in endometriosis, and that my pain was either due to being a woman, or because having sex three times a week was “too much sex.” Now I look back on this time, and want to shake some sense into my 20 year old self. Now I look back and worry gravely for the women who sit in his office. By experiencing what I have, and advocating properly, I want any woman who is doubting to know that they are not alone. That they too can get answers if they do their duty and honor their body. That’s when the answers will come, and women like me will be here to listen.
Fast forward to three years later. I’m now 27 and just had my fourth surgery. I have no uterus, no ovaries. I have just had endometrial tissue resected from my bowel, and my intestines peeled out of the space that my hysterectomy left. I am not hopeful, but I am grateful. I am tired, but I am driven. I have learned that the toll this disease can take on your mental health can arguably be just as catastrophic as that of your physical health. There are days where the doubt leaves me physically and emotionally useless, and the feeling of guilt eats me alive. I convince myself that my loved ones deserve to see me happier. C’mon, perk up Morgan.
On good days, I remember what my passion for advocacy of endometriosis can do, and whose voice I can help strengthen because of my experiences. It is my hope that through outreach, support and advocacy, no woman will have to dig themselves out of—or even visit—that dark place that me and many others are so familiar with. And while I don’t ever wish to see more women struggle with the diagnosis of endometriosis, I feel hopeful to be part of a community and family that will be there to support and remind newcomers how valuable their body is and how beautiful life will continue to be. We are endo strong.
Morgan Babcock is 27 years old, and lives in Fresno, CA. She has a passion for writing and communication, and a strong enthusiasm for her job as the Project Director for one of Fresno's oldest brewing companies. She has 4 fur babies, and a loving support system behind her. She loves to advocate for women with endometriosis, as she has lived with the disease since she was 20 (that her doctor knows of). She aims to be someone that can be a comfort to those that are struggling, and bring hope to a community that continues to fight.
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*Patient stories submitted to EndoFound.org are the views of the patient and not necessarily those of the foundation. All testimonials are from real patients, and 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.