A Conversation On Female Pain With Endometriosis Entrepreneurs Lauren and Catherine Lee
Since the day of their first period, pain is a constant presence in the life of many women. Yet, female pain is routinely dismissed, a practice that has shocking consequences: women suffering from heart-attacks are half as likely as men to receive treatment.1
Lauren and Catherine Lee are twin sisters affected by endometriosis and the brains behind a natural supplement aimed at alleviating bad period pain. I wanted to chat with them about their own experience with pain, how it has affected their life, and most importantly, how they deal with it. This is what they said.
How much does pain affect your daily life?
Lauren: Even with Stage IV endometriosis, I've always felt really lucky because I've only ever had pain the week of my period. Since I had excision surgery with an endo specialist in 2014, my pain has been much more manageable.
Catherine: I have Stage II endo. Before having excision surgery, I would have intense cramps right before and during my period. The worst is when I would have a bowel movement while on my period. I thought I would pass out from the pain. Since surgery, I still get painful periods, but nothing to the extent I used to.
Since my first horrific first period, doctors told me that my pain was normal. What experience have you had?
Lauren: I’ve had absolutely the same experience. I've always had painful periods and my doctors just told me it was normal, to take painkillers, and go on birth control.
Catherine: I was always told painful periods were normal, so as my periods continued to worsen, I just figured it was part of life. It still blows my mind that so many women can suffer and live with a massive amount of pain and it's just accepted.
What’s your opinion on how female pain is treated?
Lauren: It’s completely disregarded especially when it comes to reproductive pain, periods, and menopause. Culturally, it's accepted that women should experience pain. I've found that the only time that doctors talk to me about my reproductive health is if it's about fertility.
Catherine: Female pain isn't taken seriously. And pain for women of color is taken even less seriously. It angers me to no end that so much more money has been spent trying to help with erectile dysfunction than women's reproductive health.
What should more endometriosis patients know about pain?
Lauren: Horrific pain, even once you've been diagnosed with endometriosis, is not normal. Do not let doctors ever disregard your concerns.
For a period of about six months, I had an endometrioma which I didn't know about, on my left ovary. It was rupturing every other period and the first time it happened, the pain was so intense I literally heard something pop. I didn't even think about going to the ER (which I should have) because I just thought, "They said endometriosis was painful, so this is the level of pain I have to live with.”
I spent two weeks in hospital because once the endometrioma fully ruptured, 500ml of fluid entered my pelvis and my pelvis was so large I looked six months pregnant. I also had an incredibly high fever for about four days and the doctors thought I had sepsis. It was a really scary and incredibly painful time.
Catherine: Always trust your intuition and push to be heard.
Seeing Lauren and Catherine Lee doing something meaningful and real about period pain is inspiring. I don't know if there will be a time when female pain is treated with the seriousness it deserves, but I hope that the younger generations have it easier. Periods can cause discomfort, but if they are preventing someone from living their life, effective care and support should be readily available.
Have you heard about the new tampon technology currently being tested to detect endometriosis?