Embracing my Journey as an Endo Warrior

By Coreen Madanha

Photo: Assured Busangabanye | Tanadu Atelier

I have struggled with excruciating menstrual periods since I was a teenager. It’s the kind of pain that pain medications don’t even begin to soothe.

I have also spent the last eight years consulting numerous doctors because of my unexplained infertility. I did not realize that the two were related and that so many women are affected like me.

I was diagnosed with endometriosis in July 2020 after so many years of wondering what was wrong with me. Studies show that endo can be found in 50 percent of infertile women.

My initial reaction was the odd mixture of shock and relief. Because I had been struggling and praying over my failure to have a child, it was a relief to finally put a name to my pain.

My initial response quickly turned into anger.

So many questions went through my mind, and I even tried to remember some wrong I might have done to deserve this diagnosis. Then came the tears and a lot of feeling sorry for myself mixed in with a good measure of heart-wrenching emotional pain.

 After calming myself down, I grabbed my phone to google the terms that the doctor had tried to explain to me over and over again using diagrams earlier in the day. Over a series of visits, the doctor did his best to explain my options. One visit still stands out to me because I remember feeling so alone and crying nonstop for 30 minutes. It didn’t help that my husband was out of town for work.

Getting a diagnosis can be a double-edged sword. I had initially felt relieved that finally I could move forward, but it was not easy. Getting that diagnosis broke my heart. There is nothing like being told ‘officially’ that there is something wrong with you.

Feeling like you are less of a woman…

Being reminded of the fact that the one thing that other women work hard to prevent every month is the one thing you yearn for more than anything in the world. 

Photo: Assured Busangabanye | Tanadu Atelier

I look back and picture myself at 24 years, a young bride, hopelessly in love yet unaware and unprepared for the pain that I was going to endure. As the firstborn, I ordained myself as deputy parent to my siblings. I have always loved children, and I was looking forward to having a football team of children. Unfortunately, it has not been so.

It has been seven months since that diagnosis, and I’m still raw, but I am coping, and I am here to celebrate beautiful March.

It’s such beautiful month for so many reasons, one of them being that I was born in this month, and I always look forward to this time of the year so that I can reflect on the previous year, plan and pray for the one ahead😊

This year, I turn 36. I know there is nothing particularly special about that number, but it is monumental to me as I thank God for life and endometriosis! Yes, you read right. I am thankful for the disease endometriosis.

March is the beautiful month of endometriosis awareness. Hereafter, I will at times refer to endometriosis as endo.

Some might be wondering what endometriosis is.

It is an incurable gynecological condition that occurs when tissue normally found within the uterus grows in other areas of the body. This tissue thickens, and in response to hormones each month, breaks down and bleeds during menstruation, usually causing severe pain. Approximately 6 – 10 percent of women of reproductive age worldwide have endometriosis. Most women go undiagnosed.

I will not bore you with the symptoms and complications that endo brings along with it. I’ll just tell you this: it is extremely painful!

I say March is beautiful as we have an opportunity to reflect on this disease and the baggage it brings and encourage one another for those in this journey, a similar journey and those affected.

As a Christian African woman, I know full well that issues of sexuality, infertility, and female reproductive health are not well discussed. They are considered taboo topics that you cannot just bring up for discussion in families, communities or churches.

My advice is let’s talk and let’s engage about such issues in open dialogue.

Photo: Assured Busangabanye | Tanadu Atelier

That couple that has been married for several years and has no children probably spend sleepless nights thinking about how they can afford IVF.

That lady in your neighbourhood is not only suffering through physical pain but must also endure the emotional pain of yearning for a child of her own to hold.

Individuals struggling with infertility and endo usually suffer in silence with no one willing to step into that place of pain and just hold their hand.

As women going through infertility, we are in need of friends who care and in-laws who do not look down upon us and blame us for the “curse” we seem to bring to the family.

I am so grateful for the people that God has placed in my life. I feel overwhelmed with love and support. Sadly, this cannot be said for everyone who suffers from endo or infertility. Let me share with you some of the things that my family and friends have done to help: 

  • Listen to the person cry or yell. Be wise during this time and know what not to say, for example ‘just relax,’ ‘you can always do IVF,’ ‘you can always adopt,’ ‘you are so lucky not to have children,’ ‘at least it’s not cancer.’ When in doubt, just don’t say anything. I have friends who just cry along with me when I cry and that is helpful.
  • Listen to the person talk and offer your help. I have a friend who has offered to be a surrogate mom if I ever need one, and that really touched me to think someone is bothered about my situation to that extent. Four friends separately have offered us money for IVF if needed and family and friends have shared their children with us and opened their homes. Some have shared in support groups how family doesn’t want them near their kids because they are infertile. In the African culture, there is talk that a barren woman will bring umyama emulini or kusvibisa dzinza (a curse on the family). For those that open their homes, shared their pregnancy or parenting journey and share their children with us in various ways, thank you, nyiyabonga kakhulu, ndinotenda!
  • Offer to attend difficult appointments with them. It helps not be alone in a waiting room to get a result or even when getting a routine checkup. Someone to hold your hand helps relieve the pressure and fear of the unknown.
  • Offer to be an exercise buddy as some treatments may require them to be a certain weight, or be with them in whatever they like to do that makes them happy. Be their accountability partner if they will let you.
  • Listen to them explain the pain they are going through, and ask them what they need to alleviate their pain. Don’t downplay their experience with verbalizing or acting like they could be pretending. Some statements like anozviitisa, mukadzi mukuru kutorara (she is pretending; a grown woman should not be lying in bed because of period pains) or uyazensisa, wayesiyangaphi usetshona elele emzini wabantu (she is pretending; why is she married if all she wants to do is spend the day sleeping at her in-laws). These statements are not helpful to the cause. You may not say it to their face all the time, but they can tell that they don’t have your support in their struggle.
  • Research about the condition so that you can be more supportive. I have friends who at times are way ahead of me in terms of knowing the latest diet, medicines or therapy that can help ease my pain, and yet they don’t suffer from endo. My husband surprised me late last year by suggesting teas and heat patches he had seen on Instagram which have since become very helpful to my menstrual cycle. It just goes to show when I speak of my pain, he hears me, sympathizes and always looks for ways to help me.
Photo: Assured Busangabanye | Tanadu Atelier

Advice to Myself and my Sisters Suffering from Endo and Infertility

  1. God Cares and Loves You!

You may be at a point where you seriously doubt the above statement, but He surely does care and love you to bits. Let me shares a few scriptures that I love, claim, and pray over my life:

  • My all-time favourite is Luke 1:37 – “For with God nothing will be impossible” (NIV). I cling to this promise and I trust God in his time.
  • Lamentations 3:32 – “Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love” (NIV). I know the Lord is faithful won’t forsake me even in my hardest season!
  • 1 Corinthians 10:13 – “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (NIV). I know this trial isn’t the end of my story. As gold is refined, I shall be as pure as gold!
  • James 1:2-5 – “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (NIV).
  • Genesis 25:21 – “Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant” (NIV). This text reminds me that husbands are also going through the most and often need support and prayers even though they may not reach out when hurting.
  • Psalm 113:9 – “He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the LORD” (NIV).
  • Hebrews 11:11 – “And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise” (NIV).
  • Enjoy your marriage.

Life is not a rehearsal or a drama. It’s real and it’s yours to enjoy or to loathe. Enjoy your marriage and do not just endure it. Marriage is a beautiful institution that needs you to engage all your faculties to enjoy with intentionality.

Photo: Assured Busangabanye | Tanadu Atelier

Infertility does affect couples negatively as emotions are very high during this time. As women, we want to talk and weep about how we are feeling, but our husbands on the other hand may not be able to talk about the pain and hurt they go through. Learn and understand how to communicate as a couple to be open about the journey, the joys and pains of what you may be feeling, and feel free to be vulnerable without letting your childlessness rob you of your joy.

Do not stop being loving, romantic and kind to each other as that is what brought you together initially. Remember that being together and being in love is important while you wait for a child so that when the child comes, the environment is conducive for a healthy and happy home.

  • You are special. You are enough!

Deal with your mental health and guard it jealously. Treat yourself as royalty. You are special. Tell yourself that you matter and that though you may be going through a tough time, you will not let it define you.

Stop to smell the roses. Feed your mind with all the positiveness and have an overload if you must. Enjoy and strive to do those things that make you the happiest.

If you are overwhelmed, pause, take a mental step back and pray. Talk to a friend or family member, speak to a trusted Christian counsellor or pastor to get help.

Don’t let infertility or endo limit you and your drive; work on your dreams and career goals. Study, read books and travel the world. Start that business that you have always wanted to start.

  • Your health is your wealth!

As a person who is suffering from a condition, be conscious of this fact and do not treat your body as one without disease.

  • Seek help early and be patient to stick through the investigations and processes involved to ascertain what is causing you pain. We often say what we don’t know doesn’t hurt us, but for our bodies it does. As much as it is painful to be told there is a hole in your uterus, the earlier you know, the better your chance of a viable solution. Once diagnosed, seek help on what medicines you will take and stick to the treatment. Taking medication for a long time gets tiring, but keep doing what you need to because it is worth it.
  • Food is medicine to our bodies. Let’s watch what we eat and how we eat it. One of my favourite celebs Tia Mowry speaks on her journey with endometriosis, in particular her deliberate and concerted effort on diet. Making good diet decisions will yield great results.
  • Exercise and keep fit when you are sure the activity will not aggravate any pain on your body.
  • Listen to your body and take care of it with tender, loving care. You do have one and there isn’t a spare in some vault somewhere. Do not overwork your body and do not ignore symptoms and signs of unwellness you may experience.

A problem shared is half-solved they say, and I agree because writing this article has brought healing. Thank you for reading through to learn about the battle I and so many women fight every single day.

During this beautiful month of March, join me in celebrating all the beautiful endo warriors all over the world.

Photo: Assured Busangabanye | Tanadu Atelier

Written by Endo Warrior: Coreen Madanha  

as edited by Nompilo Zibanayi

36 Comments

Add Yours
  1. 1
    Kudzayi Tamayi

    Such a powerful story from an amazing woman! You are blessed Coreen! Thank you for sharing this story and helping those who suffer from endo to know it’s ok to not be ok. Our culture definitely needs to have more of these conversations and help each other. Lift each other up 🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾

  2. 2
    Chenge Katsumbe

    Thank you for sharing Coreen. As African Christians we definitely need more of such raw and honest conversations. And yes, in His time God makes all things beautiful 💖

  3. 4
    Martha Bowden

    Thank you for sharing. This is a powerful article that makes one realise that indeed women have different journeys. But Through prayer, support,a positive mindset that doesnt lose focus and faith , the journey does indeed become lighter.
    Thank you for inspiring hundreds and thousands of other girls and women out there.
    Indeed you are enough and worthy ❤
    Huggggssssss Xx

  4. 7
    Esy

    That courage & braveness in you Coreen is extremely amazing …
    May the Lord continue to bless you , thank you for sharing what you have been going through with the world. You are a brave warrior indeed,
    hugs from my family and i we love you xoxo.

  5. 8
    Wellington Matsangaise

    Not only is this eye opening thank you for the courage to share.I pray that this has assisted someone who may be going through the same situation.In everything we give God the glory and indeed true “God’s timing is always the best”.We love you and appreciate you always.Keep holding on to the Word

  6. 9
    Mashe Alice

    Umm powerful,l think we as Africans need more education on how to be involved with people who were diagnosed infertile.because some see it as a curse , people have different views and end up having stigmatized.Thank so much for sharing your story,l hope u have inspired somebody.

  7. 10
    Wadzanai Mandibvira

    Inspired after reading this. Recently had an ectopic pregnancy, had to be operated on and lost my right tube, same time found out the left one had adhesions on it which means we might not be able to conceive naturally. We have been together 4 years and the thought that we might not have kids is something I’m still struggling with. But reading of someone I know going through the same has given me strength. Thank you dear for this inspiration. Stay strong and blessed

  8. 12
    Marylin Mnemo

    Wow.. You are strong mama.. I hope your story makes waves and helps all women suffering in silence and help heal marriages facing the same issues. MayGod continue to bless you and use you. #hugsandkisses

  9. 13
    Bliss

    Thank you for speaking out and sharing your story. Hugs to you dear

    I pray and hope to be a part of those women that will make life bearable for those around me with a similar situation and those that generally need support in life’s journey.

  10. 16
    Tendaishe Gwitima

    thank you so much, this is touching I admire your positivity, courage and the way you praised God through out this difficulty. You are loved my dear. Hugs and kisses !!!!!

    • 20
      Tare Chikuhwa

      Amazing testimony Core, thanks for showing us the blessings we take for granted and never cherish as special! I salute you Endo Warrior, forsaking privacy and vulnerability to comfort others fighting many forms of infertility. Amaxzing love that you two share!
      Enjoy my forever verses
      Exo 4:11-12
      Exo 14:14
      Ps 17:8
      Job 19:25-26
      #holdontojesus

  11. 22
    Ivy Idi

    Thank you for allowing yourself to be vulnerable for the benefit of those who are going through the same and for the enlightenment to those who had no idea what Endometriosis is about.
    I love that in your article though you mentioned that it is an incurable condition, you did not forget to mention that with God nothing is impossible.
    My prayers are with you and all the women who are battling Endo and other infertility issues.
    One of my favorite comfort verses is Isaiah 60:22 ‘When the time is right, I The Lord will make it happen!’
    God bless you Coreen !

  12. 23
    Rue

    A very touching real life story Coreen. You’ll be in my prayers. May God help me to make the world a better place by showing support and kindness to everyone around me.

  13. 27
    Sylvia

    Thank you for sharing this. It touched me deeply and I know this isn’t your whole story but only a drop in the bucket. May God continue to give you, strength, joy and love. And I pray that we can truly all learn to be more supportive. May God bless you as you carry on with your journey. Thank you for being a warrior- the world needs women like you!! You are special!!

  14. 30
    Tadios Mudumo

    Coreen, I thank God, for providing you a loving and comforting hubby, and for your courage to help others through your testimony.

    I just believe that with God, abosultely nothing is impossible. I will hold on to this promise till God’s time.

    We love you lots Coreen.

  15. 31
    Mildred Pepukai

    Thank you for being brave enough to share your story. Often times we take these issues for granted. Every young girls expectation is to get married and have children but when this doesnt happen then what? Yours is a story of hope that marriage can be beautiful even without kids, that life is worth living even in the face of endo, and that womanhood is not measured by ability to reproduce. We are more, we are friends we are lovers we are aunts we are sisters we are wives and we are daughters. In all roles we find comfort love and companionship and fulfillment.

  16. 32
    Shepherd Nhondova

    Hie mainini

    You are a special lady. Your story is evident of your uniqueness. Hold dearly to your faith in God mainini. You have done great in sharing.

    As for Sekai & Shepherd, we thank God for the gift of having you in our cycle. 🌹🌹❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

    Love from Sekai & Shepherd

  17. 33
    Erina Kaunda

    thank you so much Coreen for sharing such an encouraging story. you are a strong woman who can stand for her joy and freedom, many are abused because of this condition which they did not choose and have no control over it. May God bless you and may you touch a lot of women because of your living story. Love you so much since you were a kid.

  18. 34
    Sharon Nhau

    This has been such an eye opener for me. I know of friends who are failing to conceive and are still wondering why, will definately share this with them in case it helps. I may not experience the same but i feel your pain above all your strength and focus. May God continue keeping you close to His bossom.Thank you

  19. 36
    Moses Safarawo

    Life changing message not only to ladies but also man out there. im in love with this….Lamentations 3:32 – “Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love” (NIV). I know the Lord is faithful won’t forsake me even in my hardest season!

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