It’s amazing how unstoppable the force is when women come together to support each other. New York-based photographer, Georgie Wileman suffered from endometriosis for many years. Now 30, she’s already been through five excision surgeries and has quite a number of gorgeous scars to show for them.
“But you are not alone in this, and you are not alone in this world. As sisters, we will stand, and we will hold your hand.”
Georgie started the ‘This is Endometriosis’ campaign on Instagram, an awareness movement to enlighten people on endometriosis, its symptoms, and treatments . Women from all around the world who have had surgery as a treatment course, proudly share their surgical scars with the hashtag #thisisendometriosis .
Endometriosis affects 1 out of every 10 women between the ages of 15 to 49 (reproductive years)  in the world. It’s a condition that occurs when the tissue (endometrium) lining the inner uterine wall begins to grow in other locations of the reproductive system . The tissue may begin to grow outside the uterine wall, along the pelvis, in the ovaries or in the fallopian tubes. Normally, menstruation occurs when the endometrial tissues break down. With this condition, the breakdown will not just occur in the uterus but also in the ovaries and the fallopian tubes, and the discharge will have no outlet.
The cause of endometriosis is not yet known. A theory has it that it is caused by retrograde menstruation, a condition whereby endometrial tissues from menstruation are deposited by a flow-back in other locations . Symptoms include painful periods, pain in the entire pelvic region, pain during sexual intercourse, infertility, painful bowel movement and urination, and excessive bleeding during menstruation.
A hand to hold, a shoulder to lean on
Surgery is one of the most effective treatment courses for endometriosis. Others include hormonal therapy and NSAID medication, and self-care through the use of heating pads.Endometriosis has no permanent cure, but women have testified to a remission of symptoms after a treatment course, especially laparoscopic surgery. This involves the use of a viewing instrument called a laparoscope to remove endometrial tissues, in mild to moderate cases . Laparoscopy is the most common remedy for endometriosis. Medical procedures may include cauterization, electrocoagulation, and endometrial ablation (which involves the removal of the endometrium).
In an interview with Today, Georgie narrated her grueling experience with endometriosis . She was first diagnosed with the condition at the age of 13, and she’s struggled her entire life.
“When I got sick when I was 13, I just didn’t get better. I struggled to live a normal life,” she said. “When you have been sick for so long and everyone tells you that it is nothing … you start to distrust yourself.”
Georgie has had five surgeries. The first took place when she was 26. She went through a laparoscopic ablation of endometrial tissues, whereby the endometrium is removed . This procedure is usually an alternative to hysterectomy.
“Endometriosis is often thought of as only painful periods,” Georgie said. “It is a very serious disease that needs to be taken seriously.”
Georgie created a stunning portrait of herself, proudly showing off her scars uniquely . On her belly, she wrote the date each scar was acquired and connected them together with a marker. The portrait was displayed National Portrait Gallery in London as part of the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize. She decided to share this picture on social media with the rest of the world. Her awareness campaign was aimed at enlightening women on the intricacies of endometriosis. It’s not just heavy periods and painful intercourse. There’s a lot more trauma to it than people, including medical personnel, care to imagine. She wanted women who have fought the same fight to share their experiences and stories so that others could learn about the symptoms and treatment courses, especially surgery.
Since 2018, the #thisisendometriosis hashtag has garnered 1,609 posts of women sharing deep stories and beautiful scars. Georgie hopes the platform would be a hand for women around the world to hold onto and get through their journey.
Strength in fragility
Speaking with Today, 33-year-old Hilary Wright talks about the massive suffering she went through and the experimental surgery which finally brought her relief. She started experiencing severe pain in 2014, and she had to deal with it outside her periods as well. All the remedies she’d been given by her doctors weren’t working. They didn’t even figure out what she was going through.
“I was having pain all the time, not just on my menstrual cycle, which is not a fun way to live,” she explained. “Something wasn’t right and I had to figure out what it was.”
Her aunt, who is also a nurse, listened to her symptoms and troubles. The woman was certain that Hilary was dealing with endometriosis. Hilary had a hard time getting any of the doctors to agree with the diagnosis, and an even harder time finding one who would operate on her.
In 2015, as skeptical as he was about the procedure’s necessity, one of her doctors operated on her.
“We went into that surgery almost as if it was going to be an exploratory surgery,” she explained. “And he found the endometriosis and the scaring, and he removed that through excision surgery.”
Hilary’s gorgeous photo is on the campaign page, and many women have received inspiration from her bravery.
Endometriosis is a lot more than people perceive it to be. Most women don’t bother to go the doctors when they begin to have severe symptoms. Popping truckloads of NSAIDS isn’t the best course to go down. A lot of women have spiraled into narcotics abuse because of this condition. The severity of the pain takes a lot away from a woman. There’ll be pain all the time, periods become a hell to live through, sex becomes a painful chore, and in some cases, there’ll be trouble getting pregnant .
Here are more touching stories and gorgeous photos from the campaign page:
Every woman out there should visit #thisisendometriosis on Instagram to get firsthand information on this condition. It’s advisable to book an appointment with your doctor at the first sign of these symptoms.
- @georgiewileman, Instagram
- @thisisendometriosis, Instagram
- Facts about endometriosis, endometriosis.org
- Endometriosis Health Center,
- Endometriosis, Mayoclinic
- Laparoscopic Surgery for Endometriosis, HealthlinkBC
- ‘This is endometriosis’ campaign hopes to educate women and create a community, Today.com
- What Is Laparoscopic Surgery for Endometriosis?,
- Endometriosis and fertility,