The Angelina Jolie Effect: Why Women Should Be Proactive About Health
"Boy I know you love it. How we're smart enough to make these millions. Strong enough to bear the children. Then get back to business." — Beyoncé
At 20 years old, you're supposed to feel invincible. Nothing and no one can touch you because you have time and strength on your side.
At 20, you're supposed to be partying your way through college without any worries about where you'll be once it's over — you'll figure it out.
But, at 20, you're especially not supposed to be worrying about your uterine health and how it will affect your future. Yet, that's where I have found myself to be at this age.
Uterine health remains a taboo topic in mainstream health dialogue, as menstrual cycle facts and uterine diseases are not readily discussed in public forums.
At 15 years old, I did not even know I had developed symptoms of a uterine disease, and my symptoms were severe to the degree that they usually don't develop until women are between 30 and 40 years old.
I was living with extreme pain for two years before I realized I needed help.
Why did it take so long for me to realize this? Because no one talks about endometriosis.
Endometriosis, in simple terms, is when when the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus.
While this may not sound dangerous or harmful, endometriosis causes chronic, long-term pain in the pelvic and back region during (and not during) the menstrual cycle, infertility issues and digestive problems.
This disease is not just an "inconvenience" one week out of the month; it's a daily problem we push through so as to not allow it to control our lives.
This is easier said than done, as living with pain impedes the ability to live a comfortable daily life — not to mention, women with uterine diseases are at an increased risk of infertility.
At least 50 percent of women who suffer from endometriosis will be infertile. These are harrowing facts to hear, but especially when you're a teenager who is not in the mental place to think about a possible future without kids.
Not because you don't want them, but rather, it is not guaranteed. The uncertainty is almost as difficult as the known reality.
However, as I said, it's not a readily-discussed topic. So many people don't know or talk about this issue, but it affects a much larger portion of society than many realize.
In America alone, at least 5 million women have endometriosis, with countless more not reporting symptoms or not having access to proper medical care.
That brings me to my next point: There is no cure for endometriosis, and no way to prevent it.
There are recommended methods for how to slow the progression of it, but it's a game of genetics and factors that are out of your control. The most common treatment is hormonal birth control in order to lower the levels of estrogen.
Basically, modern gynecological techniques for treating these uterine issues is to throw sh*t at the wall and see what sticks.
My personal experience with treatment was initially being transitioned between four different medications in one year to find the one that didn't make me nauseous or bloated and helped ease my pain. I've found that finding the "right" medication is more like a compromise than a cure.
Women's health issues, like this one, are stigmatized because many see the main treatment, hormonal birth control, as immoral or unethical.
But, when it is currently the best medicine available for this ailment, why should free speech of the topic be taboo because of differing ideological opinions?
This reality is especially incredulous considering how many pills are on the market to specifically cater to erectile dysfunction.
Furthermore, the attention women's health issues do get is divisive and generally in the hands of women of notoriety.
For instance, Angeline Jolie has stirred the current with her public explanations of why she chose to not only undergo a preventative mastectomy, but also removal of her ovaries.
Jolie made this decision based on her family history and, thus, reduced her risk.
The decision she made is brave because, while modern American medicine would have advised against taking these seemingly extreme measures, the smartest thing women can do for themselves is be proactive about their health.