By Holly Sanneman
American End of Endo Project just had its 3rd Birthday.
Last year was an exciting birthday… this one, not so much.
The quarantine we’ve all been in came just five months after the wildfires that roared across Northern California and came dangerously close to AEEP headquarters.
The smoke cleaned up and hope restored, we worked hard to try to get things back on track. Just after we became aware that we would no longer have the use of our office space, the corona virus popped up its ugly head, putting many of us into a new and profound state of fear and duress. Many of us lost jobs or are experiencing other dramatic changes. Everything was thrown out of orbit. Endo warriors’ beloved Worldwide Endo March, the event of the year that fires up and inspires so many of us around the globe, was unable to happen. Between 3-4 fundraisers and events for AEEP were unable to occur. We were disappointed to miss a promising season of teaching about endometriosis in high schools. To top it all off, I have a vindictive ovary (band name?) that seems like it wants to kill me for the last seven months. But don’t worry, my blood and imaging came back normal so I’m fine *thick scathing sarcasm*.
The wind has been largely absent from my sails. I’ve been wrapped up homeschooling my kids, staring at my chickens, staring at the wall, and crying. This is NOT how I usually exist and this is certainly not how I would have hoped AEEP would have her third birthday.
But something else happened recently that refuses to get dampened by any other negativity: AEEP’s first actual baby was born.
When the first steps were being taken to start Endo Project, I met a woman at a mutual friend’s birthday party. After I declined treats made of wheat and dairy and someone asked why, I said that I was following an antiinflammatory diet to help my body out a little since I have endometriosis.
This woman, also at the table of 6 or so, was suddenly very interested. She told me later that she had endo but that she had never heard of anyone else who had it since it is talked about so little. As many people with endo do, she was experiencing infertility as well as pain and other issues. We talked and talked, I gave her some encouragement, the name of a meaningful book, and my endo doc’s name.
Over the next several months I helped where I could with insurance, answered questions, introduced her to other helpful people, and encouraged her as much as I could. She went on quite the roller coaster, but eventually got the help she so desperately needed.
Her pain is very greatly reduced now for the first time in forever and, this spring, her beautiful BABY was born. This baby is a wonderful miracle and is more proof to me that I need to keep hanging on.
Some missions of some organizations lead to almost instant gratification as they make a difference in the world. Feeding people and animals instantly feels good. When you build homes you quickly get to see evidence of your labor. So many great missions address problems and the resolution is made evident in a timely fashion and it feels good to everyone involved.
The work we do with AEEP is long and can be frustrating, (especially when natural disasters and plagues are as frequent as they are). You can work with someone and plant “seeds” for a year or more and not see the fruit of your labor. It requires perseverance because the investment of time and care for people with endometriosis is neither quick nor easy.
But when I see the group of individuals AEEP has helped get their lives back, it is DEEPLY moving. They’re ALIVE. The pain did not win. They feel like themselves again or, at the very least, have a family of supporters who care about them. The ripple effect of their freedom from pain echos into the world. Why is it all such an investment?
Because it is worth it.
When I see the sweet little spring baby, I see a special kind of victory.
Not everyone with endo has infertility issues and not everyone with infertility has endo. Not everyone who takes the same steps as this woman will have increased fertility. There are no promises here.
But when I see pictures of this tiny little life and the smiles on the parents’ faces, I do feel largely responsible. That’s the stuff that blocks any inclination to throw in the towel when my ovary is punching me in the masked throat and I’m trying to figure out what to even do next.
Getting through this Plague Season is a lot like getting through an endo flare. You feel like total garbage, you cannot get anything done, you feel frustrated and hopeless, and so forth. The thing I am having to remind myself is to give myself grace in these times.
It is okay if all you can do is keep breathing. It’s okay if all you do is stay alive. The earth exists in seasons, too. Sometimes we work hard and plant seeds, sometimes we bask in the sun and enjoy the fruits of our labor, and sometimes the world outside is frozen and asleep. Showing ourselves grace in every season is crucial.
This is not how I would have pictured AEEP’s third birthday, but the fact is that she is THREE. She is alive.
For three years she’s been loving on people with endometriosis and pelvic pain and she has been transforming lives, slowly but with deep and resounding impact.
The very fact that AEEP lives to see another day makes it a very happy birthday.