How My Endometriosis Journey Inspired Me to Start a Business
Over nine years ago, I would never have dreamed of starting a business let alone devoting many years of my life to a cause that hardly anyone knows about. Nevertheless, that’s exactly what happened.
An estimated 179 million women struggle silently with endometriosis, a disease that affects women and young girls during their reproductive years. It can leave many infertile and some sadly on the verge of suicide from the debilitating stabbing pain. It is called endometriosis and I know all too well about it.
Like so many women in this world who are struggling daily with chronic pelvic pain, I share a deep understanding and empathy for what they are going through due to my own grueling, 13-year battle with endometriosis.
At the tender age of 5, I was thrust into the world of pain due to a freak accident where I experienced trauma to my pelvic floor/crotch from a playground slide accident at the local playground. Upon my harsh landing, the rubber heel of my Keds shoe struck deep into my pelvic floor, causing instant bleeding and excruciating pain. My first thought was that I just urinated all over my overalls and my mother was going to kill me – until I saw blood quickly saturating my clothes. This event would become the beginning of a long, painful journey with chronic pelvic pain.
After struggling with ongoing, debilitating menstrual cramps and heavy dysmenorrheal, I was finally diagnosed with endometriosis at the age of 27 through a routine laparoscopy. I began to learn about my options, if any, to manage the disease and try to live a so-called “normal” life. I was given monthly injections of Lupron, which is compared to chemical menopause, for six months to shrink the endometrial tissue. Just into my third month of treatment, my body began to exhibit the harsh side effects. I lost weight despite my already petite frame and struggled with severe insomnia, night sweats and depression – not to mention the toll it took on my marriage as a newlywed. The six-month treatment allowed my endometriosis to shrink and ultimately, I was symptom-free for over one year.
The thought of living with endometriosis was again a true reality when I discovered that it returned. I experienced two miscarriages in my late 20s and early 30s; my delicate body could not handle carrying a child. Sadly, during this time in my life, my marriage would end due to the constant mood swings and bouts of pain that caused my emotions to go up and down, the ongoing doctor visits, the financial strain…the list goes on and on.
Finally, at the age of 40, I hit a wall. My body could no longer get out of bed to go to work. The ongoing heavy bleeding brought on severe anemia to the point where just getting out of bed was a huge task. I looked weak and pale and my employer was beginning to show concern over my excessive tardiness. I finally decided to succumb to surgery and undergo a supra-cervical hysterectomy.
The day of my hysterectomy, I was by far the happiest patient in the recovery room. Even though I was in pain from the surgery, I already felt better. Once my body healed, I was happy, vital and full of energy like never before. My endometriosis was removed and there was no sign of it returning, which is unusual for most women. I managed to keep my right ovary so I was producing my normal cycle and had my hormones.
I feel blessed to be one of the lucky ones as I have heard horrible stories of the continuous pain women endure after having such a surgery. The only downside that I have from the surgery is adhesions. Overall, I could not be happier compared to the daily stabbing pains and blood loss I had from endometriosis.
Throughout the course of my career, I have struggled to maintain a good attendance record due to having this disease. I learned that employers are not as understanding as I had hoped, nor will co-workers understand how you can “look” healthy but otherwise be quite ill. Slowly but surely, I learned to form a protective barrier around myself in order to avoid the negative remarks being said. Over time, it does break you down and takes its toll on your morale and overall outlook on life, people and the world in general.
Nearly two years after my hysterectomy I discovered that adhesions had formed during my surgery. At first they did not seem to bother me, but over time I felt like a puppet on a string. The pain was different; however, it sadly brought on more sick days at my workplace.
I began to understand that the life I thought I intended to live was not the life I could actually do. With little to no support from my employer, I decided to make a change and start my own business to help other women who are going through the same situation.
In retrospect, I believe living with endometriosis enabled me to utilize certain skills I did not yet know existed. I would soon discover the common thread I shared with so many people and from that, a business idea would be born.
During my last three or four years working for my employer, I designed a special heating/cooling pad that hugged my stomach and pelvic area, providing me long-lasting heat. I was thrilled at how well it performed and used it daily to relieve my pain. I owe the EndoFEMM® Pad’s design for prolonging my inevitable hysterectomy for an additional three years. My dependency on pain medications lessened, my body could relax and I slept more soundly.
After a successful Product Focus Study with the prestigious Endometriosis Research Center where they determined through their findings that the EndoFEMM® Pad was a viable product to reduce pelvic pain, a business was started. I officially had my first website in November 2006 and began to sell the EndoFEMM® Pad almost immediately.
As the President and owner, I have singlehandedly spread the word about my pelvic therapy pads through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other network portals. In addition, through hard work and sheer determination, more and more doctors and physical therapists are learning about my products and their effectiveness in relieving pain. I cannot exclude my wonderful and devoted customers who continue to provide their support to help spread the word to family, friends, doctors and physical therapists.
Upon starting my 10th year in business, I was excited to be approached by an amazing man who saw my potential and wanted to be part of the team to grow my business. The need to expand is growing after Endometriosis Awareness Month in March and through more awareness and yes, hard work!
Approximately 15 percent of women experience chronic pelvic pain during their reproductive years, but many more may experience acute pelvic pain at any point in their lives, no matter their age. My customers range from 12 to 80 years old! I am just one woman among thousands who understands the daily struggle of living with pelvic pain and is trying to make a difference. My drive comes from the women I speak to every week who inspire me to keep going. It is my hope to someday “pay it forward” as well.
This post originally appeared on Perfect Mind Perfect Body.
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