God's grace extends through His Word, faithfulness, promises, and comfort, but it also flows from the people, medication, counselors, doctors, and provisions He's blessed us with.
The number of women who've reached out since my initial endometriosis diagnosis is overwhelming. Society has done such a disservice to women's reproductive health that it's appalling. Email after email, message after message, I've seen women, young and old, afflicted by suffering that's been too easily dismissed. Too easily coined, "just period pain." But I'm here to defy that position.
If we as Christian women of the gospel want to see the Body of Christ unified in and around the world, it begins by talking about and sharing these sufferings, not ignoring or minimizing them, telling women that "Everyone has painful periods," or that endometriosis, for instance, isn't biblical, accurate, or true. While 1 in 10 women do have endometriosis and many cases go undiagnosed, women need to know their pain is valid. They also need to know it isn't normal.
My endometriosis diagnosis is valid. Your endometriosis diagnosis, even if it's undiagnosed and just suspected, is valid, too. Pain is pain. And women deserve to have their medical issues taken seriously. But the pain we feel isn't normal. It's the characteristics of a debilitating, life-altering, painful, and often permanent condition.
What Is Endometriosis?
For those who don't know, Endometriosis is a condition where the tissue that typically grows inside your uterus, the endometrium, grows outside of it. Even more shocking is that while it's primarily found in women's reproductive areas (vaginal canal, fallopian tubes, ovaries), it can also grow on abdominal walls, the throat, and back. It can also be found in men.
Every month, a woman sheds the uterine lining, assuming she isn't pregnant. But with endometriosis, this endometrial-like tissue also sheds everywhere it's present. It then has no way to exit the body, and over time, this irritation leads to scars, cysts, and adhesions.
It should be noted that many women have endometriosis and don't know it. The four stages of endometriosis (1-4), then, do not signify pain or symptoms; they define the volume or coverage that the tissue covers. According to Dr. Jillian Stalling of the Fertility and Midwifery Care Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana, (and my personal surgeon for Endometriosis), someone could have Stage 1, and minimal adhesions, but excruciating pain. On the other hand, a woman desiring to be a mom could have no symptoms, but come to find that she has Stage 4, and that's what's causing the infertility.
Most people assume that women with Endometriosis just have painful periods. If that were even half of it, maybe we'd have a cure by now. But it isn't.
Not only is Endometriosis an extremely painful condition during one's menstrual cycle, but it can also cause debilitating pain all of the time. From constipation, gas, bloating, and GI upset to depression, anxiety, back pain, pain with sex, excessive bleeding, headaches, fatigue, and thyroid issues, the list goes on and on.
Endometriosis also isn't something that can typically be seen by an ultrasound (internal or external), x-ray, or other imaging machine. When I first started suffering, for example, a colonoscopy, endoscopy, ultrasound, SIBO test, Gluten test, and dozens of tubes of bloodwork didn't reveal Endometriosis. But I knew my pain wasn't normal. And I knew I was going to do everything I could to figure out while I felt and still feel this way.
How Was I Diagnosed?
For five years, I saw a slew of doctors who prescribed me medication after medication and claimed my periods were "normal." What started as severe constipation and abdominal pain quickly morphed into periods that caused blackout sessions on the toilet and cramps so severe I couldn't move without 5-800mg of ibuprofen the first three days of my period.
The number of OBGYNs who wouldn't see me because I wasn't "sexually active" at the time was horrific. Greater was the number offering me birth control to fix my acne and cramps.
After prayer and reaching out to numerous friends, family, and resources, I finally found a kind, compassionate, godly, and caring medical staff that could care for my needs. I had to travel some to find them, but it has been well worth the time and investment.
Because my health journey has been complex, I currently see a team of doctors that work together for holistic healing. I am still in the process of finding a gastroenterologist that is competent, but I've successfully found a primary care doctor, OBGYN, nutritionist, allergist, dermatologist, FEMM specialist, and endometriosis specialist. I also have found much encouragement in church family and friends, a fantastic mental health counselor, and mental health nurse that love and support me along the journey. I praise God for the people He's brought into my life to help me heal and navigate this long road.
Finding the right fit for you will depend on your symptoms, severity, and conditions. But don't settle. And if you're looking for specific recommendations in the area, I'm also happy to provide my insight.
This is just my story. Stomach pain, thyroid issues, and painful periods have been in my cards since I was young. But you have your own story, and it, too, deserves validation and care. It will take time. It may also take dozens of trial-and-error experiences, blood work, tests, scans, ultrasounds, diets, preparations, and noting of limits. You and your health are worth the work it takes.
As Emily Bostard, FEMM specialist notes, "Reproductive health affects the health of the entire body." If it affects the health of the entire body, isn't it worth more time, money, and investigation than it's currently been given?
The worst news that I have to tell you about Endometriosis is that much like cancer, it's not a one-size-fits-all surgery that eradicates its existence once and for all. Even after excision (which is preferred over ablation), the tissue can grow back (sometimes within 2-7 years). While excision might be more complex and painful to perform and may require longer operating times, it cuts out the tissue at its root rather than just burning off the tissue that can be seen. (Ablation is just burning surface-level tissue.)
Despite this fact, I would 100% recommend both diagnostic laparoscopic (the only 100% way to diagnose Endometriosis) and robotic laparoscopic excision surgery. While I've only had the first one completed, I know that the goal of removing this tissue is so I can live my life again with less pain. It's also to help save my reproductive organs so that I hopefully won't need a hysterectomy at an early age (which also runs in my family). Those are goals and dreams I want for you, too.
While I still don't have all the answers I'd like to have, and my road to full recovery may be full of pain, unknowns, and fear, I know that I'm making progress. Slow progress, but these few steps over the last five years have been steps I've needed to take for a lifetime.
It's my prayer that the Lord will use this team to fully restore my body, mind, and soul. I'm asking all the same and more for you today. God's grace extends through His Word, faithfulness, promises, and comfort, but it also flows from the people, medication, counselors, doctors, and provisions He's blessed us with. He says you are worth it. And you are.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Dragana991
Amber Ginter is a teacher, author, blogger, and mental health activist who resides in the beautiful mountains and cornfields of Ohio. She loves Jesus, granola, singing, reading, dancing, running, her husband Ben, and participating in all things active. She’s currently enrolled in the Author Conservatory Program and plans to pitch her book: Mental Health and the Modern Day Church for Young Adults, soon. Visit her website at amberginter.com.
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.
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