Last months, I chaired an international congress on Endometriosis and Minimally Invasive Gynaecology (EMIG) in Iran. We had 23 speakers from all over Europe and 850 delegates, mostly local gynaecologists. At the opening ceremony, we were blown away by this emotional and well-made short clip that depicts an endometriosis sufferer –played by a professional actress. Without mentioning the word Endometriosis, the director showed the audience of specialists how deep an understanding he had of the impact of the disease.
I knew “a clip” was being made for the opening ceremony but the local organising committee wanted to surprise me and didn’t tell me exactly what was in the clip. We all stood up to the Iranian national anthem and then this clip was shown. Imagine watching this on the big screen in a huge auditorium. Pitch black background with a black and white theme showing a young woman in a white headscarf. The subtitles are not perfect and don’t do the Farsi monologue justice but you get the idea.
She told us how this damn disease had turned her dreams into nightmares. It was heart-breaking. But then, unexpectedly, she turned her head and looked us directly in the eye and said, “It’s good that you are here- you are the hands of god on earth”. I don’t know about the “hands of god” bit but the clip had a deep impact on me. I think it had a similar effect on most of my colleagues too. It just reminded us all what we are up against. As surgeons, we sometimes forget that we should treat the person, not the disease.
I have always said that endometriosis is worse than cancer in many ways. Everyone understands cancer. Your boss, your friends, your family, they know what that means. The feel it, they see it. Endometriosis, on the other hand, is little understood. Even many gynaecologists don’t understand the disease or haven’t had much experience in treating the disease, let alone the general public. Sex is painful and not enjoyable, relationships are affected and the impact on the mental wellbeing can be huge.
We all have the responsibility to spread the word and raise awareness about this damned disease. Remember the woman in the clip!