have you heard of endometriosis? i'm probably sure you have. you may think it's a gynecological condition that gives women extra pain once a month. that's what i always thought, too. well it kind of is that, but it's so much more. it's really a symptom in and of itself. it's a symptom of having a body that is wrought with inflammation and imbalance, so it usually comes with multiple secondary symptoms and is often even comorbid with anxiety disorders (here) and autoimmune diseases (here). i definitely have the anxiety, and this disease doesn't help!
my diagnosis of stage iv endometriosis came at age nearly 32 after a few years of unsuccessfully trying to conceive. do you know what stage iv means? that means my organs were fused together by lesions, my ovary was twisted and contorted, my fallopian tube in tow. the surgery to correct this mess lasted 8 HOURS. 8 HOURS people. 8 HOURS of having a tube stuck down my throat, preciously close to my vocal cords and the nerves that if damaged could render my voice useless permanently. you can imagine what the recovery was like. i couldn’t phonate for weeks and spent that time convincing myself i’d suffered vocal paralysis from an endotracheal intubation mishap. thankfully the voice started slowly to stabilize, but singing- ha! yeah right. you see, i went in to that surgery expecting a laparoscopy and a 2-3 day recovery. i woke up with a six-inch incision where my singing muscles are and a healthy dose of disbelief. when you wake up from something like that your brain bombards you with questions and is seriously confused. i mean, for about 15 years my insides were slowly destroying themselves and i had no idea…. how is that even possible? i’ve had plenty of time to reflect on that and other questions- the way people search their every memory looking for clues that their quiet, polite neighbor was actually a psychopath. and you know what? i think i did always know something was wrong. to the point that i was known to my family, lovingly of course, as the hypochondriac. looking back, so many things make sense: the time i had to be taken by ambulance from the park when i nearly passed out from sudden abdominal pain, the crippling fatigue- to the point where i'd literally fall asleep while teaching, the crazy mood swings that turned me from jekyll to hyde. for years i’d been plagued not just with the immobilizing monthly pain that is so characteristic of the disease, but with chronic malaise- and minor things that most people would just ignore. but when your body is your instrument, and your instrument is malfunctioning, ignorance isn’t a satisfactory option. debilitating fatigue, daily pain near the muscles that manage the singing breath, reflux, allergies, and chronic colds/coughs put a real damper on developing your voice as an instrument. you don’t have the luxury of using it as often as others do. when your body is dealing with inflammation, your voice suffers as well. and my voice suffered for years- from being chronically hoarse and limited in its endurance. all of those things i experienced all those years did take their toll. now i know they are common symptoms of endometriosis, or rather, they are par for the course when you have a disease with a strong immunodeficiency component. my body doesn’t handle inflammation well, and it is extra sensitive to inflammatory triggers. (like i-couldn’t-sing-for-a-day-because-i’d-eaten-popcorn-the-previous-night sensitive. BLAST) so i have to work extra hard to be in good enough shape to sing every day in my practice and my performances. i still deal with reflux, daily pain, and i still notice when my voice and my body is (quite often) inflamed. to me endo is the enemy. it threatens to deprive me of my longest-held dreams: to be a master singer and to be a mother. but giving up is not in my dna. i'm fighting it in every way i can: surgery, diet, hormonal therapy, supplements. i'm claiming my dreams, holding them tightly despite the nagging feeling they are slipping away. and i'm trying to trust in God, hard as it is. (i'm not super great at that....) this condition has shaped so much of my life and my self as a person this far. but it's not the end of the story, and i intend to write the ending myself.