This Photographer's Series on Endometriosis Shows How Many Scars the Disease Can Leave Behind
Georgie Wileman has known the pain and suffering that comes with an endometriosis diagnosis since she was 13 years old. Now, as a professional photographer, she decided to shine some light on the disease. Endometriosis is a painful condition resulting in the growth of tissue similar to endometrial tissue outside the uterus It can cause extreme pelvic discomfort and typically requires multiple surgeries. After posting a photo of her scars in honor of Endometriosis Awareness Month in the beginning of March, she invited others to share photos of their battle marks, and her project — titled "This Is Endometriosis" — quickly began to pick up speed.
"I always knew I needed to document what was happening to me," she told POPSUGAR. "Work like this on endometriosis hadn't been shown, and it needed to be. It is so important to see yourself reflected, and for this disease, there wasn't a place to see that. I have been sick since I was 13; in and out of hospital beds and wheelchairs due to pain. Being a photographer, I have always seen a sad beauty in the world that surrounded me. I saw it all in pictures, and I needed to take them."
"Work like this on endometriosis hadn't been shown, and it needed to be. It is so important to see yourself reflected, and for this disease, there wasn't a place to see that."
Obviously, spreading awareness is the main goal for Georgie, especially when it comes to the invasive and painful procedures individuals with endometriosis have to go through.
"The most important message I hope to spread with this series is the difference between the surgeries performed for endometriosis. We have been dating our scars with the years they were opened, and connecting them with a line, marking out years of mistreatment and pain," explained Georgie. "Currently, the standard operation for endometriosis is to burn off the lesions of disease, a procedure that doesn't fully remove the endometriosis, and only causes further scarring."
She added that: "Excision surgery with an endometriosis specialist is currently the best treatment we have, yet it is not available on most insurance plans in the US, or healthcare services around the world. Leaving only those privileged enough to afford it, or go into debt for it, to have a chance at a better quality of life."
Scroll through to get a peek at snippets of Georgie's powerful series.
"I have to admit, it took a lot for me to post these photos. Each one of these scars represents years of pain, sorrow, deep hurt, chaos, confusion, insecurity, fear, and doubt. They are constant physical reminders of my journey — the good and the bad. I sometimes think my brain has done a good job trying to protect itself by blocking out the emotional trauma these scars represent.
"But here they are, and I'm sharing them with you because even though I've had excision surgery with one of the best surgeons in the world, that 10-15 percent chance of this disease coming back haunts me. And some days, it paralyzes me. Any twinge my body feels sends me back to a really dark place. My heart hurts for those who haven't been as lucky as I am to have figured out a way to have excision surgery since it isn't covered by most insurance plans. My heart hurts for those who have so many more scars than me, and will continue to add new ones until things change."
"This photo shows the scars from my excision surgeries with the years in which they occurred. In these surgeries I've had endometrial tissue removed, cysts removed, scar tissue that covered and bound my organs together removed, and more. Endometriosis is so misunderstood that treatments for pain that have been recommended to me have been: wait it out, mountains of pain pills (read: opioid epidemic), birth control, surgery, hysterectomy, and my all-time favorite, 'You could try to have a kid and see if it will get better.' (Having a child is not and should never be suggested as a treatment to pain.)"
"Today I bare my scars. My endometriosis journey is shared. It started in 2016. I was diagnosed and treated with ablation surgery. Unfortunately this treatment is not effective; in fact, it made no difference to my symptoms, and the surgeon even missed areas of endometriosis due to lack of knowledge."
"I found a specialist who I still see to this day. He operated on me in 2017. He used excision surgery to treat me. Ten months of relief came with this. It was incredible. A possible third surgery this year, but I'm confident, because of him. Excision surgery is the best treatment. It MUST be emphasized!"
"Sometimes I can't walk. Sometimes I can't leave the house. Sometimes I can't go to work. And sometimes I feel like a failure to my son. But this is my life . . . and I'm fighting it!"
"When women say that I do not know what suffering is — could you still say that to me now? In total I have had over 10 surgeries due to endometriosis, and not a single one of them was excision. I had adenomyosis, and still have interstitial cystitis.
"At my worst, I bled for 1 year and 9 months STRAIGHT, HEAVY, NO STOP. (That cost thousands of dollars in tampons alone). I've had more periods than most do in 4 lifetimes combined. Do not tell me, that men do not know what suffering from endometriosis is like. I've been there. I am there."
"My endometriosis journey officially began in July of 2014, the day I went to the emergency room for what I thought to be appendicitis. Appendicitis quickly turned into a cyst on my ovary, which after careful review became a suspected tumor. When blood work was ordered and came back with cancer markers reaching triple what were considered normal, I was sent to an oncologist a day later, and that is the first time someone finally said it with actual faith; The words 'I believe you have endometriosis.'
"I had heard that many times, but he said it with such conviction that I couldn't help but feel relieved that someone was FINALLY taking this pain I constantly felt seriously, and that I would finally receive a diagnosis that proved the pain I felt was real. Justification for all of the hospital visits. Proof that it wasn't all just in my head. He scheduled me for surgery a week later, preparing me for multiple possible outcomes. The most likely outcome, he said, would be the discovery of endometriosis. This would be treated by excision, ablation, and the extraction of whatever was inside my ovary with the hopes of saving the ovary itself if possible."
"With this series I want to try and show the reality that so many women with endometriosis live through, in the hope of raising some much-needed awareness. We need to be heard, we need to be seen."
"We are dating and connecting our scars from endometriosis related surgeries, to show years of mistreatment and the failings of our healthcare systems," Georgie wrote in her Instagram caption. "Excision surgery is currently the best treatment for this disease, an operation that isn't covered on most insurance plans or healthcare services around the world. This isn't good enough."