Saturday, January 22, 2011

Last week, I had an incredible opportunity to stand up and tell my Endometriosis story. 

I was approached in December by Intuitive Surgical, the makers of the da Vinci robotic surgical equipment, to speak at their sales conference. With my permission, my doctor had shared the details of my severe case and successful robotic laparoscopy. Heather from Intuitive Surgical contacted me and explained their commitment to patients and women's health. Impressed with their mission, I agreed to speak to the 700 attendees.

The conference was scheduled for Florida in January, a delightful bonus of the trip. I grinned as I gazed out the window at the accumulated piles of snow. My husband and I planned our unexpected vacation. We'd travel to Florida on Wednesday, I'd speak on Friday and return home on Sunday evening.

As soon as the holiday rush passed, I focused on my speech. How would I fit my complicated story into the ten-minute alloted time frame? I fussed over each word and practiced in front of my family and friends. My aunt encouraged me to revisit the entire story. I recalled my three unsuccessful laparoscopies and their resulting heartbreak. I relived the agonizing pain and misery my Endo has caused over the last decade. My aunt helped me edit my speech until it popped. My story came alive on the page.

I awoke Wednesday morning to a world covered in white. Heavy flakes fell from the sky in a frenzied parade.

Despite the travel drama that ensued, we made it to Florida by Thursday morning. We arrived at the resort and met with my new friend Heather. I practiced on the stage of the enormous banquet room and prepared to deliver my speech.

Early Friday morning, I shared the brief synopsis of my Endo story with the colossal crowd of strangers--the mistreatment from my previous doctors, the years of searching for answers, the debilitating pain that ripped my life away.

I recalled to them the life-changing moment when my friend (and fellow Endo Sister) referred me to her doctor. I immediately scheduled an appointment. At my first visit, I explained the long, ugly details of my situation. He said I sounded like the perfect candidate for a da Vinci robotic laparoscopy. He was confident he could aggressively remove my endo and stop my pain.

My doctor and the da Vinci robot saved my life.

Surgery is not a cure and my battle with Endo will continue. But my surgery was a miracle. My doctor never could have achieved the amazing outcome without the precision of the da Vinci robot. He removed all of my Endo lesions and fibroids, freed my tangled organs including my bowel, bladder and kidney. He took out my cystic ovary and twisted fallopian tube, which was dangerously growing into my kidney. Attached and intertwined, my organs had been nearly indistinguishable from each other. He accomplished this feat without any damage to my organs. My prayers were answered.

I faced the crowd and expressed my gratitude for their work. I searched for years to find relief from my pain. My debilitating pain had tortured and nearly sucked the life from me. Meanwhile, I unknowingly lived five minutes from my doctor's office and ten minutes from the hospital with the da Vinci robot. I hope and pray my story will help other suffering women and illuminate the possibilities of da Vinci robot for Endometriosis patients in need of surgery.

The crowd rose to their feet in a wave of sincere support and gratitude. I averted my eyes to the floor. Then I looked up to capture this powerful moment in my memory--the sea of smiling faces, the roar of their applause, the recognition of my struggle and the hope for the future of Endometriosis sufferers.

I descended the stage stairs and savored the moment. I'll always remember the kindness and support that radiated from the captivated audience. Many people gathered to introduce themselves, shake my hand and thank me for sharing my inspiring story.

After the conference, my husband and I started our mellow vacation. We soaked up the sunshine and relaxed away the remainder of our trip. We heard Florida was the only state without snowfall that week. I couldn't believe our luck and thanked God for blessing me with this unbelievable opportunity.

The next morning, I opened my eyes and basked in the breathtaking view of the sun peeking over the ocean. A new beginning, a new chapter in my life had begun. The vast horizon represented the untold possibilities of the future--bright, glorious, promising.

I am still glowing from the cathartic experience. I have several ideas to support Endo patients and I'm working on a plan to enact them in my local community. I'll keep you updated on my progress. I believe in our collective power as Endo Sisters. We can stand together to demand better options and research for a cure. This is just the beginning.

Thanks to Heather and Intuitive Surgical for this amazing chance to spread the word about Endometriosis! I sincerely appreciate your work, kindness and hospitality.