I started visiting an OB/GYN at the tender age of 12. After a long family history of fibroids, tumors, hysterectomies and reproductive conditions, I was on watch as soon as I received my period.
My cycle was the most dreadful experience I had ever encountered. Debilitating pain, blackouts, loss of memory, excessive bleeding, and migraines kept me home from school monthly. I remember waking up on the floor of a bathroom, not knowing how I got there. At 13, my threshold for pain had become one of a Greek God. At the age of 15, after the close of my basketball season, of course, I underwent surgery to remove multiple lemon-sized ovarian cysts that had been growing on my ovaries since I was 13. However, I went in for surgery and came out with a diagnosis of Endometriosis.
My parents had no idea what Endometriosis was. All I knew was that I was one of the youngest patients in the history of that hospital to undergo that surgery and receive a diagnosis that at that time typically was reserved for women over the age of 40.
Post-operation, discussing treatment plans, at 15, I opted out of medicine, steroids and birth control pills. I remember saying to my mom, "I want to see what I can do to heal it. Taking all of this medicine wouldn't feel right. I want to regulate my period. I'm too young for all of this." Luckily, I had an amazing Indian male OB/GYN, who personally practiced Ayurveda and Holistic Health, and supported my decision. He was our family physician and had knew our history for long over four decades. We discussed alternatives to everything on the market and worked to create a healing path that would carry on for nearly 20 years. At the age of 17, I changed my diet, lifestyle, and went right to work on this dreadful "time of the month" that had taken so many of my best days.
Intrigued with all things uterus, I decided to explore it further in college. I minored in Women's Studies in undergrad and immediately following, I went on to pursue a masters in Women's & Gender Studies: Health and Sexuality. Here I studied the women's health movement, reproductive justice, holistic health, contraception usage, regulation of childbirth, and the history of sterilization and over-and-under medicalization of Black and Brown women, etc. Through this, I focused my research on showing women/people with uteruses how to take their reproductive health into their own hands. My friends, often referring to me as their "OB/GYN," would always ask me about their cycle, vaginal health, the best menstrual products and contraception methods, anything you can think of, it was second nature.
Immediately after grad school, I began to practice yoga, in which my OB/GYN was extremely pleased. My doctor visits were full of rich conversation about holistic health, my studies, the medical industry, and the great work I was doing to virtually eradicate my cysts that had long plagued my genetic pool. Like yoga, maintaining my reproductive health became a lifelong practice.
Nearly 20 years later after my diagnosis, Endometriosis is more widely discussed. Celebrities are coming out sharing their diagnosis, there are support groups on Facebook, and I often stop to think, "how would this have affected me if I was diagnosed at this age?" I encountered it so early, it became as much as part of my life as anything else. At 15 I wasn't having sex, and I wasn't trying to get pregnant. All I cared about was lessening my period pain. It wasn't until speaking with countless women about their period symptoms, infertility, or massive weight gain due to prescribed steroids, that I realized the gap. When I meet with women, I am shocked to learn that the questions I ask them have never been brought up by their primary care physicians.
For someone who has lived with this for 20+ years, trust me, there is something you can do about it. Your situation can change, and I am here to support you through it. Whether you decide to have children or not, your healing will come.