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'Below the Belt' Is a Must-Watch Documentary About Endometriosis

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Editor's Note

The film reviewed in this article contains details about miscarriages and chronic pain that may be triggering.

EndoWhat? has been working on “Below the Belt” for 10 years to show the truth, struggles, and reality of what women with endometriosis go through — from struggling to get diagnosed, taken seriously, and how challenging it is to get the gold standard treatment, which is excision surgery from a vetted specialist.

When I saw the opportunity to purchase an advanced screening ticket for North America to watch this documentary at home, I took it. I prepared myself to watch “Below the Belt” in comfy clothes while handling a pretty rough period with multiple painful flares before it arrived. I grabbed the only food that sounded good because my nausea was impacting my appetite again and hit play with a box of tissues nearby.

There was a beautiful opening message from Shannon Cohn, founder of EndoWhat, to set the stage, along with providing a trigger warning about miscarriages. I greatly appreciated that and hearing why making this film was so important to her.

From there, the film starts by following four women in different stages of life and their endometriosis journeys. Each one faces similar yet unique struggles, but I found myself connecting and relating to each woman easily and naturally, as did many other viewers who posted their reflections after watching this.

It didn’t take long for the tears to start — to see what each of them went through, to see them fight for their right to have a functional life, to strive for a higher quality of life that we all deserve despite any chronic illness, along with horrendous statistics and survey findings that prove most doctors simply do not have the knowledge or skills needed to help endometriosis patients.

Many of us watching “Below the Belt” will directly relate to their pain, the anguish, the frustration, the awful med cycles some are put on, the impact these meds put on our bodies, the multiple surgeries, and the mental toll it all takes as we simply fight to live some kind of version of life that many of never envisioned.

When faced with this disease, we often lose part of ourselves, but how can we not when we aren’t believed because of all of our tests/scans/blood work/etc. come back as “normal”? We trust our health care team to help us feel better and to believe us when we say something is wrong, not place blame when they lack knowledge or easy answers.

Outside of this reality, they highlighted the importance of excision surgery being the best treatment option and how not every doctor possesses the ability to remove endometriosis tissue. That alone creates a huge problem given how many people are impacted by endometriosis, and they continue to suffer by medical schools skimming over this disease and not updating their training with best-proven practices that others have fought so far for — including Dr. Redwine, Nancy Peterson, Dr. Sinervo, and getting more help to share awareness including Hillary Clinton, who is a co-executive producer of this film.

These advocates give me hope and make me feel so fortunate because while their numbers are low, they are helping us generate awareness about endometriosis, sharing factual information about its symptoms and treatment options, and some are even training new doctors to understand endometriosis for what it really is — a debilitating disease that is greatly misunderstood.

I don’t want to give any direct spoilers from “Below the Belt” because EndoWhat currently offers virtual screenings and local screenings to select locations, but I believe anyone who suspects they have endo, has endo, knows someone with it, is a woman, or has a woman in their life, needs to see this film. I would love to see this shown in schools to young girls as age doesn’t dictate disease, along with any student pursuing a career as an OB-GYN or within an office that concentrates in that area.

If you want to watch “Below the Belt,” check out these links to see when you can have your chance and more details:

Advance Virtual Screening Tickets for North America
— It is $25 for a screening ticket and the next viewing window of 48 hours will be over the weekend of October 1-2, 2022. The panel discussion will only be available live on October 1st at 8:30 p.m. PT/11:30 p.m. ET.

Advance Virtual Screening Tickets for the United Kingdom and Europe — It is $25 for a screening ticket and the screening date is set for November 12, 2022. You will have access to the panel discussion streaming.

Here’s what others had to say after watching the advanced screening of “Below the Belt”:

  • “It’s such an accurate description of what so many of us go through. I want to watch it on repeat.” –Emma
  • “Everyone needs to watch this film. If it wasn’t for the bravery of other endo warriors sharing their stories, I would’ve never had my eyes opened to the circle of ineptitude and misleading information we are all forced to accept. It has to stop. Thank you for hopefully opening more eyes and more hearts with this very important film.” –Lupe
  • “I’ve never felt so heard.” –Sara (AKA me EndoSara)
  • “I’ve never felt this seen or validated in the 20 years since I’ve had endo.” –Sarah
  • “Thank you for reminding me that my symptoms are valid and everything I’m feeling is real.” –@advocatingforendo
  • “What an incredibly moving tapestry of stories from all corners of the world, from so many diverse voices unified in their struggle. What a tour de force.” –Kristina
  • “Yesterday, my mom watched ‘Below the Belt’ with me. After four surgeries, this was the first time she got it.” —-Ash
  • “Phenomenally done. Emotional, raw, informative, and all too familiar.” –Jessica

If you want to hear other stories from women with endometriosis, I recommend navigating through our endometriosis support group, or social media and inputting “endometriosis” in the search filter. Keep in mind, not everyone remembers to place trigger warnings, so check associated hashtags before reading or watching as a safeguard.

Watch “Below the Belt” Panel Discussion from August 27, 2022

EndoWhat recently opened up the recording to their live panel discussion after their first advanced screening in the United States. It is free and available to watch at this link. 
They talk about the film, answer live questions, expand further about the film, and hear from key people who were part of this project.

For any Nancy’s Nook fans — you’ll be thrilled to know that Nancy Peterson herself is included in this panel!

We Still Have Work to Do — Can You Help?

Awareness of this disease matters, women are often accused of having pain and symptoms “all in their head” because there is a lack of education around endometriosis and how the endo stage has nothing to do with how disruptive it can be to someone’s quality of life or daily functions. This film presents a raw view of what it’s like to be someone with endo, which will make this so impactful.
The fact that our health care system closes its eyes to such a brutal condition feels criminal and directly violates patient rights to receive quality care – we need excision surgeries to become the norm. Not ignoring it, not relying on oral contraceptives, not encouraging trying to have a baby, and all those other endo myths we’ve heard and have been debunked.

EndoWhat has graciously opened up the ability to send a free toolkit to healthcare providers, which you can find here.  Lastly, I encourage each and every one of you to share your stories and struggles with endometriosis if you’re comfortable doing so. You never know what your story can mean to someone else who may be struggling, and educating others about this disease is critical to keep this momentum moving.

Whether you share your words or experience through The Mighty or personal social media handles, please know that you always deserve to feel heard and are not alone.

Learn more about “Below the Belt” on the film’s website.

Image via EndoWhat?

Originally published: September 26, 2022
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