Women's sexual and reproductive health is still a surprisingly mysterious topic to most medical professionals, which makes it difficult for sufferers of endometriosis to understand their bodies or get a clear diagnosis. Endometriosis is a condition causing the tissue that normally lines the uterus to grow outside of the uterus.
Symptoms may include heavy and irregular periods; the development of ovarian cysts; pain with menstruation, sex, or exercise; and a host of other less-than-pleasant experiences. Estimates say that endometriosis may affect as many as one in 10 UK women. But because of the taboo that still exists in our culture surrounding periods, plus an absence of medical training in the field of women's sexual health, many women with endometriosis suffer in silence.
This is the very reason Thessy Kouzoukas took to Instagram last week to share proof of what endometriosis really looks like. Kouzoukas, who works as the creative director and co-owner of Australian clothing label Sabo Skirt, posted the following two photos, which illustrate the effects of her endometriosis on her body. Read on to see the photos and learn more about the realities of endometriosis.
Kouzoukas captioned this photo with, "This is quite shocking to people. This is me. This is endometriosis. I never intended to share these photos hence why I'm naked, but my god I can't believe the amount of DM's I've received from girls who have endo too and feel alone. The left is my stomach 3 weeks after a ruptured cyst (5 weeks ago). The right is me now, on a drug called "synarel" that has stopped all my hormones and sent me into menopause at the age of 27.
My upcoming trip to Greece along with this drug is in hopes to get me prepped and in the best condition both physically and mentally for an operation I'm receiving in late August. Endo is no joke. I'll be operated on for 7+ hours and hospitalised for a week.
Please, spread the word about endo. And If you know anyone with bad period pain PLEASE tell them to get checked for this. And to my girls with endo.. you're not alone."
The photo on the left was taken three weeks after a cyst ruptured in Kouzoukas's body. The righthand photo was taken two weeks later, after being put on a medication "that has stopped all my hormones and sent me into menopause at the age of 27." In August, Kouzoukas underwent a seven-hour-long operation to relieve complications from the condition. "Endo is no joke," she wrote on Instagram.
On the picture above she wrote, "The top photo was my cyst which measured 13cm long and sat inside my left ovary. This was taken the day before surgery and the cyst was caused by my endometriosis. The bottom is now! Even though I lost my left ovary I'm still super positive and many women have fallen pregnant with just one ovary. As much as it sucks I'm not in Greece with Yiot (miss her so much) I am so happy to be feeling 100% better only a week after surgery. Count your blessings.. I'm definitely counting mine!!"
Earlier this year, in an essay for Huffington Post, Kouzoukas spoke even more intimately about her battle with endometriosis, describing a history of extremely painful periods that were never taken seriously, a common story among endometriosis patients.
"When I first got my period as a young teenager, I got labelled 'lazy' when I couldn't participate in certain sports at school, or 'drama queen' when I would take days off school because I was doubled over in the shower trying desperately to find relief from abdominal pain," she said. "Why didn't they tell us that debilitating pain isn't normal?"
Following the essay being published online, Kouzoukas received hundreds of comments from followers shocked to learn about the condition, as well as from fellow endo sufferers thanking her for spreading awareness. Kouzoukas is one of the few public figures to speak so openly about endometriosis, as is Lena Dunham, who has attributed her weight fluctuations (the subject of an alarming amount of public debate) to the disease. You read Dunham's endometriosis story in her Lenny letter.
Illustrations by Christy Grace
"Please, spread the word about endo," Kouzoukas wrote on Instagram. "And If you know anyone with bad period pain PLEASE tell them to get checked for this. And to my girls with endo. You're not alone."
Want to learn more about women's sexual and reproductive health? Don't miss our story on the sex condition that many women experience but no one talks about.