March is Endometriosis Awareness month. This initiative has raised awareness of a disease that affects an estimated 176 million women around the globe.
Endometriosis occurs when endometrium―the inner lining of the uterus―or endometrial-like tissue grows or migrates to areas outside the uterus, like the ovaries or Fallopian tubes. Sufferers may experience extreme pain in the pelvic region along with adhesions, cysts, heavy periods, and bleeding between periods. Painful sex and infertility are common side effects.
Bethenny Frankel understands the challenges of living with endometriosis. The self-made businesswoman, TV producer, philanthropist and New York Times bestselling author has struggled with endometriosis, cysts and fibroids nearly her entire life. She shared what’s helped her through the struggle.
How did you discover you had endometriosis?
As a young woman, I had excruciating, debilitating periods. No one could understand it. I was bleeding so badly, through multiple pads and tampons. It was not manageable. Then years ago I had a laparoscopy for endometriosis. But they said, the only way to get rid of the endometriosis is to have a baby. However, the only way to have a baby is to get rid of the endometriosis. So it’s sort of a catch-22. But the laparoscopy, which involved a laser procedure, really did help.
I was able to get pregnant, which does make it better. But then years later, I had terrible, terrible bleeding, not related to my menstrual cycle. I was losing an absurd amount of blood. I had three grapefruit-sized fibroids. I got a myomectomy, which requires a six-week downtime surgery. It’s made me feel good that I was taking care of myself. The program made me feel hope that I was going to feel better.
Were there other options for you?
The other choice was to have a hysterectomy. But being in my forties and hearing that word made me panic-stricken. I’m not a doctor and don’t know anything. I didn’t know to agree to that option. That was a little traumatic. But I got through it.
Whenever I have surgery or have a challenge, I find my place of “yes” in it. I try to heal myself. I drink organic juices or sleep more. I use it to my advantage. It is basically how I treat everything. I always say in business, find a way and figure it out. That is what ‘coming from a place of yes’ means. Find the yes. For example, people who work with me say ‘this can’t happen.’ I say, if I say it can happen, it can happen. Find the place of yes. If I asked you to get this done, it means it can happen.
What would you like to say to women who might be struggling with endometriosis?
It’s not that bad. The process is bad, but the solution is way worth it. Resolving the problem is totally manageable and doable. You have to take care of it. It’s something to deal with and try not to be afraid. Go to a great doctor, get information, get an ultrasound and get on the case. Particularly if you want to have kids.
How are you doing with it now?
I’m totally fine. I’m a bleeder in general. Some women will relate to that. I wonder if it’s hormonal or relates to stress? Sometimes, in the beginning of getting my cycle, I bleed like crazy. But it goes away. I have to watch it because I’m prone to it. So women who are prone to endometriosis have to be aware.
What advice would you give to young women starting their careers?
I believe in having realistic expectations. Business is intense, incredibly competitive and hard. You have to be the most driven person that you’ve ever dreamed of knowing because there will be someone more driven. It takes drive and this determination that I don’t see in many people.
Is there something you wish you could tell your younger self?
Don’t worry so much. But I wouldn’t have listened. Youth is wasted on the young.