Katherine, photo by Anjelica Angwin
Endometriosis, a debilitating condition occurring in women’s reproductive organs, affects one in ten women globally. That’s 176 million women worldwide. However, the condition is widely unrecognised as its symptoms are often normalised by women and doctors who have been led to believe a ‘normal’ period should be painful and uncomfortable. This normalisation has created a delayed response in diagnosing endometriosis, which creates heightened problems for fertility and general wellbeing down the track.
So what is it?
Endo occurs when there is tissue that normally lines the uterus (also known as ‘endometrium’) instead grows on the outside. This causes inflammation, scarring, and intense pain and in a lot of cases can lead to infertility. The pain is extremely variable and can occur when a woman, trans man or non-binary individual is menstruating, or at random times during the cycle, or during sex. It is different for everybody and therefore extremely unpredictable. Once endo has been diagnosed there are many different treatments, however they work variably for different people and sometimes not at all. Treatments range from painkillers, natural therapies like acupuncture, anti-inflammatories, hormonal treatments like oral contraceptives as well as more complex remedies like surgery. Surgical treatments can either ‘burn’ away the diseased tissue or the more effective method, a laparoscopy which consists of making multiple incisions and ‘cutting’ away the tissue. In both instances recurrents are common (on average, endo has a 50% chance of coming back) and there is no long term cure. This is why awareness is so important so that women and girls can get diagnosed as early as possible!
Some statistics that may surprise you:
- On average endo is diagnosed seven years after symptoms begin
- It cannot be prevented and there is no cure
- It has no age limit- has been diagnosed in children as young as 8
- In a study across 10 countries on average endo costs every woman $12,000 per year
- A woman can lose around $7,000 per year from being unable to work and a further $3,900 from direct health care costs
- On top of this it can greatly affect activities like studying, exercising, and any other day-to-day activities as the pain is often debilitating
(Endometriosis Research Foundation Global Study of Women’s Health Consortium)
Having read and heard a bit about endometriosis during my time volunteering at Rosie, I was excited to see Melbourne based journalist and photographer Anjelica’s Endometriosis Photo Series pop up in my news feed. Despite being a debilitating disease that affects so many women, it is seldom spoken about. Anjelica and her friend Katherine have been working on the series over the past few months with the aim of getting more people talking about endo and engaging with it as a health issue. By talking to women about their experiences, paired with intimate photos taken in the subject’s personal spaces, this combined photo/ interview series beautifully depicts the realities for women living with endometriosis, whilst ensuring their voices and experiences are heard as well as seen.
With the series, they’re hoping both people living with and without endometriosis will be able to connect.
The Series (in the making)…
Alexandra, photo by Anjelica Angwin
“I was prescribed heavy painkillers and high dosages of benzodiazepines by doctors to manage my endometriosis… Now I’m about to go into a 28-day detox and rehabilitation program for drug addiction… It’s like the chicken or the egg, I don’t know which came first my endo pain or my struggles with addiction…”
Grace, photo by Anjelica Angwin
Grace, Graphic Designer
“I didn’t go to get checked for endo, I had cervical cancer last year, so I was having an ultrasound when my doctor told me I also had endometriosis… it made a lot of sense, I’ve been vomiting from period pain since I was 17…”
Katherine, photo by Anjelica Angwin
“I was constantly told by doctors you just have painful periods, go on the pill. But I’ve been on the pill and I hated it, it made me so angry and depressed. It’s like the pill is there first and only solution…”
About the Artist(s) and why they’re working on the series:
Anjelica is a journalist/photographer and Katherine is a stylist/photographer. They met through Anjelica’s last photo-interview series on housemate relationships in Melbourne. Anjelica came to her share-house and they really clicked. Since then they’ve become close friends and Katherine opened up about her experience living with endometriosis. When Anjelica found out, she felt terrible and was disturbed that she had never heard of a disease that’s affecting one in ten women. For Anjelica, it highlighted the misogynistic treatment of women’s health issues and a sexist imbalance when it comes to funding and support.
Anjelica says: “For those battling, it’s a series to help people feel a little less alone, to identify, normalise and learn from others. For those not directly affected by the disease, it’s an opportunity to deepen their understanding and create compassion for those suffering. The series is a work in progress, we’re hoping to connect with more creatives fighting endo. From every story we learn something new. Creating awareness and giving a voice to those affected feels really special. It would be amazing to have it exhibited or make a publication from it, raising money for the cause would be the next step. :)”
You can stay connected with their work by following them on Instagram here and here.
Alice is a volunteer at the Victorian Women’s Trust and studying media and communication. She is passionate about gender equality and believes it will not be achieved until the struggles of all kinds of women are heard. She is also passionate about pizza and her dog Scout.
Have you signed our Rosie Period Petition yet? We are calling on state and territory Education and Health Ministers to provide free menstrual products in school bathrooms, so that every student can navigate their school years with dignity + respect. If you agree that it’s #AboutBloodyTime you can sign the petition here: