AS Endometriosis Awareness Month continues, more women have come forward to share their stories of fighting the debilitating disease. Cheryl Holdsworth McKenzie, a high school English teacher, shares with All Woman how she has used diet to control the condition, and how she infuses awareness of endometriosis in her lessons and interaction with students.
Holdsworth McKenzie shared that as a teen she always suffered excruciating pain before, during and after her periods, coupled with vomiting, which would result in her being absent from school for a span of time each month. She said it got so bad that at times she felt like overdosing on medication.
Her condition was diagnosed at the age of 23. It was such a startling revelation and so new to her that she began to do research to try and understand what she was dealing with.
“I had bought a book called ‘Listen to Your Body’. The book told me [that] it’s most common in white women, and I thought I had no one to discuss this with. My great-grandmother is white, so I thought OK, I got it from her side. I was placed on medication that stopped my period for 10 months and I thought after that I’d be fine, but it came back and got worse over the years,” she said.
She said from her reading, she realised that she identified with most of the symptoms of the condition such as period pains, digestive issues, lower back pain, feeling emotional, backaches, tension in the bowels, nausea, craving for sugar, sore breasts, headaches and migraines.
She added that during her eight-year tenure as a teacher, there were times when she had to leave her car at school overnight because she couldn’t drive home, and further pointed out that in her first term at the school she was absent nine times because of the condition.
“I thought, when will it end? Why me? In 2012 I had to do a biopsy as I was taking so many tablets I started to develop stomach ulcers, and doctors were worried that it was very serious. So I didn’t want to be on medication. I was even scheduled to do a hysterectomy, but the doctor said it was possible for the endo to come back. I said why take out my parts if it may come back? I had just met my husband and he talked me out of it because he was doing some research himself,” she said.
As a result, Holdsworth McKenzie decided to try the natural approach, which meant eliminating gluten, soy, meat, alcohol and dairy from her diet.
She said: “Now I don’t take a sick day. My diet is now as close to nature as possible. I am eating things like aloe vera, noni, tuna plant, a lot of fruits. Sometimes I eat a whole dish of mango or apples as a meal, lots of salads. My husband and I did a raw vegan preparation class together. He’s very supportive. Once I eat this way I am pain-free. The only time I get pain is when I veer off my diet.”
Additionally, she said her husband also attends every endo march, every forum, and is also part of ‘Mendo Men’, a Facebook group for men whose wives or girlfriends have endometriosis.
Holdsworth McKenzie further stated that on the first Monday in March each year, her lessons are built around endometriosis to make young girls and boys aware of the condition.
“I talk to them about my experience, other people’s experiences, show video clips, and a few students will say they know about it. The majority don’t. They are then required to do a summary based on what they heard, read or saw. Additionally, I ensure that the boys understand this because they have girlfriends, they are going to have wives, and may have daughters. It attacks one in every 10 women, which means they interact with these females,” she said.
Besides that, she is also involved in Girls Code, a club for girls at Campion where she educates students about the approaches they should take towards their health, and shares how dieting has changed her life. She said that although endometriosis is not the cause of every debilitating pain, awareness will help with early detection of whatever the issue may be.