Twelve years ago, on a December night, I arrived at the emergency room suffering from severe abdominal pain. Prior to that night, I had suffered in silence for nearly 10 years with issues that affected my overall health and limited my ability to perform certain activities. From adolescence to adulthood, I experienced severe pain during my menstrual cycle. I felt like my body was working against me and that I had no control. The pain was unimaginable, and I felt like no one really understood what I was going through. Previous doctors dismissed the pain as bad menstrual cramps and told me to take pain relievers.
Arriving at the emergency room that night changed my life for the better. I was referred to a gynecologist that specialized in treating my illness, and he was truly a God send. I learned that I had an ovarian cyst and after weeks of waiting for the cyst to dissolve, the doctor scheduled me for a laparoscopy to remove the cyst. While I was in surgery, it was discovered that my condition was much more serious than expected. The simple laparoscopy turned into a more invasive procedure known as a laparotomy. My suffering finally had a name. Its name was endometriosis.
March is National Endometriosis Awareness Month, and during this time of year I reflect on my journey, and I educate individuals about this debilitating disease. According to the Endometriosis Association, endometriosis is a painful disease that affects approximately 6.3 million women and girls in the United States. It is a disease where the endometrial tissue that lines the uterus is found outside of the uterus. Some of the places these implants can be found are on the ovaries and fallopian tubes. These implants can cause severe pain during a woman’s menstrual cycle, and they can cause infertility. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, 30% to 50% of infertile women have endometriosis. It is a very common medical problem that affects many women and girls, and many do not even know they have endometriosis until they try to conceive; therefore, awareness of the disease is crucial. Some of the symptoms of endometriosis include back pain, heavy bleeding during menstruation, urinary and bowel problems, painful sex, and fatigue. Many women go undiagnosed for approximately 7 years before ever knowing they have the disease.
The disease affected me physically, mentally, and emotionally. I soon discovered that running was beneficial to combating the symptoms of the disease, and it was also beneficial to my soul. This epiphany led me on a journey to running for my health. Running then became my medicine. Of course, I did not always have that mindset.
As a child, I didn’t see myself as a runner nor had a desire to run. I considered myself more of an academician than an athlete. I was that girl that knew the atomic number, symbol, and name of all the elements on the periodic table. Now if you would have asked me what the acronym PR stood for; I would have been clueless. The few times I did run were because I was required to in order to complete an assignment. That included running from base to base as a softball player and running during PE. Who remembers those physical fitness tests from middle school that included the one-mile run? Oh, the memories! I had family and friends who ran cross country and track but participating in that activity never crossed my mind. I think I let my fear of not being good enough keep me from trying.
Well on August 17, 2010, that all changed. I embarked on a journey that would eventually change how I looked at running. Days earlier, my dear friend and sorority sister, Anita, asked me to join her on a run. I was hesitant at first because waking up at the crack of dawn to go running in a park was not my idea of a good time. Well after much convincing, she finally got me out to the park on that August day. I don’t remember much of that day, but I am pretty sure I was out of breath and doing more walking than running. In spite of my distaste for the activity, I kept going back. After each running session, I began to like this newfound hobby. I then decided to train for my first 5K later that year. The race I chose to complete was the Turkey Burner which was a race held in Montgomery, Alabama. After I completed the Turkey Burner, I developed a taste for more. I joined Black Girls RUN! Montgomery, and I was training and racing all of the time.
Now 9 years, 30 races, and 17 medals later, running is a passion of mine. Running is my addiction, but it is also my medicine. When I run, my physical and mental health improves. With every drop of sweat, I imagine the toxins exiting my body. My body is being repaired and rejuvenated with each step. I also use this time to meditate and renew my mind, and I gain more clarity about my life. My mind, body, and soul are nourished, and it is a beautiful experience. Endometriosis may have intended to cause harm, but God used running to cause healing.
Join BGR! Nation for our March Virtual Run to bring awareness to Endometriosis! Registration is open now!