MILWAUKEE — March marks Endometriosis Awareness Month and with nearly 10 percent of women across the country battling some form of the chronic illness, one woman who says she is making it her mission to make sure every single person has the opportunity to receive the care and treatment they deserve.
“It's altering my lifestyle. I can't go to work. I can't get out of bed. I could barely walk. I can barely move,” said Genika Reed.
Pain with no name and no relief.
That’s how Genika Reed describes her nearly two-year battle with endometriosis before getting her diagnosis.
The condition happens when cells that are very similar to the tissue found in the uterus grows in places it doesn’t belong.
Originally labeling it as chronic constipation, Genika says her doctors gave her medication to treat it, but she told them it wasn’t enough.
“I feel like it's something else. And she ignored my symptoms, she ignored me. She just pretty much said, ‘I don't know what else to do,’ and from that point, I felt defeated. I felt like no one was listening to me,” said Reed.
This frustration, Genika says, inspired her to seek out resources on how to treat and manage her symptoms herself.
In her search, she came across the Endometriosis Association International Headquarters, based in Milwaukee.
“I saw that other women were experiencing the same symptoms, the same pain. Finally, I'm not alone,” said Reed.
Genika is absolutely not alone.
The World Health Organization says an estimated 1 in 10 women in the world is diagnosed with endometriosis during their reproductive years, which falls between the ages of 15 through their mid-40s.
Researchers say one of the populations seeing the biggest growth in diagnosis: women of color.
Genika says this pushed her to join the Endometriosis Association’s board and start an initiative designed to empower and inform Brown and Black women when it comes to their health.
“My ultimate goal is to reach out to, not necessarily low-income environments, but people that have more young women, especially young black women in their communities, especially with the low-income schools to go there and talk to them, to educate them, or what endometriosis is and advocate for their health,” said Reed.
Genika says she’s still figuring out how to live with the illness.
She decided to get a full hysterectomy that left her with some complications.
Still, she says she hopes her work will give others the strength to ask for what they need and hopefully lead to a cure.
“Anybody out there that can fight hard for cancer, any heart diseases out there; if we can fight as hard for that, we can fight just as hard for endometriosis and I believe that one day, we will find a cure,” said Reed.