March is Endometriosis Awareness month. All over the world, meetings and events are held to raise awareness for this serious disease which affects one in ten women during their reproductive years. That’s around 200 million women in the world. Some experts even claim it’s one in every eight women. So even if you don’t suffer from it personally, chances are high that you know someone who does. The worldwide endometriosis awareness movement has many famous ambassadors who take a stand against this condition. Here, we introduce eleven of them.
This year, Chrissy Teigen (1985) was trending topic on social media after speaking out about the operation she’s had to alleviate her endometriosis complaints. The American celeb, who made her top model debut on the cover of the 50th Sport Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, tweeted about the surgery she underwent in February 2021 and showed her belly full of bandages. Earlier, the ‘de-motivational speaker’ (we quote her bio on Twitter) tweeted about her miscarriage after endless pregnancy complications – thanks to endo. Picture: Twitter.
Julianne Hough (1988) ignored her menstrual pain for five years. The American dancer only discovered she had endometriosis when she was rushed into the emergency room because of severe cramps, aged 20. ‘At the time, I felt very lonely and like nobody understood me. I had no idea so many women had endometriosis.’ Nowadays, the fact many women suffer from this disease is more common, partly because of Hough, ambassador for the endometriosis movement, who openly talks about how it influences her sex life. ‘Sometimes we’re in the middle and I’m just like ‘AH, stop!’ It can be very frustrating.’ Picture: Twitter.
Worldwide around 200 million women have endometriosis
Sarah Hyland (1990) is best known for playing Haley Dunphy in Modern Family. Apart from endometriosis, the American actress has to deal with other health issues as well. She suffers from depression, an abdominal hernia and kidney displasia, which already resulted in two kidney transplants. Also for her endometriosis she’s had surgery, in 2018. Hyland is very outspoken when it comes to physicians who don’t listen to female patients and their menstrual complaints: ‘A lot of doctors think that when you’re in pain, you’re not really in pain, that you’re just being dramatic, that it’s all happening in your head. I’ve been through that. I’ve dealt with doctors like that. Those doctors can go to hell.’ Picture: Twitter.
Ashley Nicolette Frangipane (1994), better known as Halsey, decided to freeze her eggs at the age of 23 to try and preserve her fertility. The American singer was diagnosed with endometriosis after she had a miscarriage during her tour. In her speech at the Blossom Ball 2018 of the Endometriosis Foundation of America she talks about how this has influenced her life. ‘It was in that moment that I realised that part of being a woman and dealing with reproductive health is being treated like you’re not a human, is being treated like you’re a robot and you’re supposed to wake up everyday and get over it.’ Picture: Twitter.
Padma Lakshmi (1970) is, apart from actress, model, interior and jewel designer, writer and television host (Top Chef), also co-founder and figurehead of the Endometriosis Foundation of America. That’s no coincidence. Born in India and raised in America, the multi-talented Lakshmi knows firsthand how serious this disease can be. After suffering from heavy pains for over twenty years – something some medical experts claimed was ‘all in her head’ -, she was finally diagnosed with endometriosis aged 36. Originally, she thought suffering was just a part of menstruation. ‘I expected the pain, saw my mother go through it in fact, month in and month out.’ Picture: Twitter.
Daisy Ridley (1992) is an English actress. She’s best known for her lead role in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) and Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017). Ridley first opened up about her struggle with endometriosis and PCOS on her Instagram page, in 2016. ‘At 15 I was diagnosed with endometriosis. One laparoscopy, many consultations and eight years down the line, the pain was back (more mild this time) and my skin was the worst.’ Extreme menstrual pain is a common symptom of endometriosis; acne one of PCOS. Picture: Twitter.
Extreme menstrual pain is the most common symptom of endometriosis
Whoopi Goldberg (born as Caryn Elaine Johnson, 1955) is an American stand up-comedian, actress, political activist, author and media personality. And she’s also an entrepreneur: together with Maya Elisabeth, she founded Whoopi & Maya: medical cannabis products for relief from menstrual discomfort. Goldberg has experienced herself how painful and uncomfortable menstruation can be. She was diagnosed with endometriosis since the 1970s and said that ‘after a lifetime of difficult periods, cannabis was literally the only thing that gave me relief’. Despite the fact that endometriosis is one of the main causes of female infertility, in 1973 her daughter was born: Alexandrea ‘Alex’ Martin. Picture: Timothy White/Twitter.
Emma Bunton (1976). Yes, also Baby Spice of the Spice Girls – the name Baby is allegedly tattooed on her buttock – was diagnosed with endometriosis, at the age of 25. The remark of her doctor, that 50% of women with endometriosis go on to have children, didn’t put her at ease at all (‘What? Only 50 per cent? It scared the life out of me.’) Bunton was part of the lucky 50%. She got two baby spices: Beau, in 2007 and Tate, in 2011. Picture: Twitter.
Dolly Parton (1946) is a world famous American singer-songwriter, actress and author. One of her iconic songs is about the struggle with PMS. And that isn’t her only menstruation-related problem. In 1982 – when touring through the USA and Canada – Parton ended up in hospital with severe pains. There, part of her uterus was removed due to endometriosis. She was 36 at the time, and unable to have children after this operation. In 2008, she shared her story about this partial hysterectomy and the depression that followed: ‘It was an awful time for me. Every day I thought, ‘I wish I had the nerve to kill myself’.’ With these words in mind, her song PMS Blues suddenly doesn’t seem so funny anymore. Picture: Twitter.
Susan Sarandon (1946) is an American actress who has starred in a long, long list of movies. She’s also someone with a message. Particularly after she got sent home in 1983 with ‘a half-assed diagnosis’, painkillers and the contraceptive pill. ‘Without further explanation about the disease.’ She was told she’d need an operation to have children (she ended up getting three kids). Invited by the Endometriosis Foundation of America, in 2011 she gave a feisty presentation. Bottom line: ‘It is NOT OK to miss a part of your life because of pain and excessive bleeding. It is NOT OK to be bed-ridden for two-to-three days a month. It is NOT OK to experience pain during sex. It is NOT a woman’s lot to suffer, even if we’ve been raised that way. Picture: Twitter.
Actress and comedian Lena Dunham (1986) tackles many women’s issues. She acted in and created the series Girls and launched the feminist newsletter Lenny Letter, with this letter about her endometriosis. After eight prior surgeries without result, at 31 Dunham decided to have a hysterectomy. The removal of your uterus isn’t a decision that’s taken lightly. But by sharing her medical story with the general public, Dunham raised worldwide awareness about the impact of endometriosis. Picture: Twitter.
Because of corona, there won’t be any #Endomarches this year. However, this doesn’t mean there’s no endometriosis awareness. The 14th World Congress on Endometriosis (WCE2021) will take place virtually this year. It’s on from 6 to 10 March 2021. Check out the entire programme here. For more info about endometriosis, see endometriosis.org/.