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 [1]. Women from all around the world who have had surgery as a treatment course, proudly share their surgical scars with the hashtag #thisisendometriosis [2].

Endometriosis affects 1 out of every 10 women between the ages of 15 to 49 (reproductive years) [3] 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 [4]. 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 [5]. 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 [6]. Laparoscopy is the most common remedy for endometriosis. Medical procedures may include cauterization, electrocoagulation, and endometrial ablation (which involves the removal of the endometrium).

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style=" margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;"> So pleased to be able to share this image with you from my new self portrait series 'Endometriosis'. This photograph, titled '2014-2017' mapping the scars of my five surgeries, is currently on view at the @nationalportraitgallery as part of the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize exhibition. With this series I want to try and show the reality that so many women with Endometriosis live through, in the hope of raising some much needed awareness. We need to be heard, we need to be seen. Link in bio for full project 🖤#thisisendometriosis

style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;">A post shared by Georgie Wileman Studio (@georgiewileman) on

In an interview with Today, Georgie narrated her grueling experience with endometriosis [7]. 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 [8]. 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 [9]. 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

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style=" margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;"> #THISISENDOMETRIOSIS 💛 – My journey with endometriosis has been long and complicated so when @georgiewileman (see the full campaign at her page) asked me to be apart of this campaign I had to do it. This photo shows the scars from my excision surgeries with the years in which they occurred. In these surgeries I’ve had endometrial tissue removed, cysts removed, scar tissue that covered and bound my organs together removed, and more. Endometriosis is so misunderstood that treatments for pain that have been recommended to me have been: wait it out, mountains of pain pills (read: opioid epidemic), birth control, surgery, hysterectomy, and my all time favorite “you could try to have a kid and see if it will get better.” (Having a child is not and should never be suggested as a treatment to pain.) – Endometriosis only emphasizes our broken healthcare system by providing yet another space in which women have to fight to be heard and believed by their doctor, most doctors are completely unqualified to be performing excision surgery (as was my first surgeon), and almost all who specialize in endometriosis aren’t covered by insurance. This alone creates the 7-10 year average time that it takes to get a diagnosis. I was so privileged that I had both the emotional and financial support to fight long enough to receive a diagnosis and treatment. So many are not that lucky. I also want to be clear that sharing this is not easy or fun for me, but the silence is only holding us all hostage to this disease and this healthcare system. We all have to speak out, to support one another, and to keep fighting to find a cure as well as a substantial and meaningful treatment for endometriosis. – March is #endometriosisawerness month – so I hope that if this is also your journey, or if you know someone experiencing this, you can begin to talk openly and honestly about your/their struggles. If you want to talk to me- I’m here, I’ll listen, I’ll support, and I will continue to speak out to raise awareness in the hopes that I can help even one person understand this better. 💛

style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;">A post shared by Hillary Wright (@hillarywright) on

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 [10].

Here are more touching stories and gorgeous photos from the campaign page:

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style=" margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;"> Today marks the beginning of #endometriosisawarenessmonth. Endometriosis is a painful condition in which tissue mimicking the lining of the womb attaches to different parts of the body . My friend, amazingly talented photographer & fellow endo sister @georgiewileman is running the #thisisendometriosis campaign. Inspired by her own breathtaking image which was exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery as part of the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize, scroll along to see what Georgie invites #endosisters to do, please join us if you’d like to- even if you have endo and no visible scars (take a pic with a hot water bottle for eg). Dating our surgery scars and connecting them together, Georgie wanted to visually highlight the true extent of endometriosis. You can also see IV drip scars on my pic. Let’s shout loud enough to be heard . My endo story began aged 14, when I was rushed to hospital in agony after watching the Hollyoaks omnibus. Back and forth to A&E departments, it took me 9 years to get a diagnosis. I’ve had 11 endo-related operations, countless procedures and have spent 21 years in pain. I also developed adenomyosis, which is essentially endo in the womb muscle wall, meaning by 2015 I was bed bound and living on a massive cocktail of painkillers. A hysterectomy heartbreakingly followed, and that trauma as well as everything else, still causes nightmares . The impact endometriosis has on every single part of life is catastrophic. Relationships suffer, people ask why you aren’t better yet and pain sucks away each ounce of energy you have left. I was managed out of most jobs I did because of multiple sick days and lack of understanding. I felt jealous of people healthy enough to hold down a working role. Yet over years of building experience and clearing a path, I now have a freelance career as a self employed writer. Endo battles instilled a steely determination in me . Thank you Georgie for raising awareness- changes need to be made, diagnosis times cut and a cure found. G also educated me about an innovative treatment, deep excision surgery . Check out Georgie’s endo photography series, depicting the disease more accurately than anything I’ve ever seen 🖤

style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;">A post shared by Helen Wilson-Beevers (@helenwilsonbeevers) on

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style=" margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;"> #thisisendometriosis — a constellation of 14 scars representing 8 surgeries including two partial hysterectomies (2 partials = a total); 4 endometriosis specialists across four states; and countless days missed working, socializing, and just plain living life . #thisisendometriosis — a confusing disease that leads to misdiagnosis, misinformation, misguided advice and countless surgeries. There is no cure, only management and no two cases are alike, which makes prognosis so incredibly frustrating and wayward. And despite those numbers above, I'm one of the lucky ones — My family and friends have always believed my pain; I have medical insurance; and I've been seen by some of the country's best endo surgeons who accept insurance and are active in research (don't get me started on specialists who are out-of-network, charging 80% of their bill, promising answers to a disease that has very little answers) . I join thousands of women and men (1 in 10) in sharing our scars in hopes that it brings more awareness, more research dollars and more understanding to painful pelvic conditions. Thank you to @georgiewileman for creating #thisisendometriosis, a powerful campaign that I believe best reflects my reality living with this disease . Going through the process of connecting my scars and listing the dates with @maredc was sad, yet cathartic. It also reminded me that I have the most incredible support system in my family, friends, my wife and my pups. . . #endometriosisawareness #endometriosisawarenessmonth #calltoaction #acog #endometriosis #endo #pelvicpain #womenshealth #healthcare

style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;">A post shared by Shauna (@slporteus) on

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.

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