After years of enduring a heavy and intense menstrual cycle, toxic shock syndrome and endometriosis, she decided to take a closer look at the sanitary products she was using and discovered that the chemicals used in those products were wreaking havoc on her body.
Janelda Cowan started her menstrual cycle shortly after she turned 10. From its onset, her period took over her life and she found herself unable to do many of the activities she once enjoyed.
“I was very active in sports, but my period really took a toll on my self-esteem and my energy levels,” Cowan told The Weight She Carries. “It really changed my life because I went from being a student who never missed school, to one who was missing school a lot. I had very extreme periods that would last anywhere from 10 – 14 days.”
Cowan started to wear tampons to help control her flow and eliminate some of the embarrassment she faced due to having her cycle at such a young age. She also tried to continue playing sports.
When she was 12, she suffered from toxic shock syndrome.
Cowan’s mother initially thought she just had a really bad flu and took her to the doctor, who treated her with antibiotics to bring down her fever.
“At that time, they didn’t know what it was,” Cowan said.
Three years later, she experienced the same symptoms. Again, Cowan’s mother suspected the flu, but when Cowan told her about the rash in her pubic area, her mother knew there was something seriously wrong.
“I had a high fever, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, and then I had a rash and the area in my perineal was flaming hot. I felt like I was sitting in a pool of extremely hot water,” she said.
Cowan’s mother rushed her to the doctor where it was confirmed that she had toxic shock syndrome (TSS).
TSS is a condition that occurs suddenly and can be fatal. The condition is caused when a bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus (staph) overgrows within a woman’s body and releases poisonous substances into the body. Toxic shock syndrome affects menstruating women, particularly those who use super-absorbent tampons.
People became aware of TSS in the late 1970s and early 1980s following the deaths of a number of young women who were using a brand of super-absorbent tampons. That particular brand was eventually taken off the market.
“I remember the doctor telling my mom that I could never use tampons because they create such a toxic environment for your body, so it will put your body in a toxic shock,” she said.
Cowan continued to have trouble with her cycle each month, and at 21, found out that she had endometriosis. Since then, she has had five surgeries and lost at least two pregnancies along the way.
“I was married for 23 years and we lost two children that we know of. The doctor said we very well could have conceived more times, but my endometrium was so scared up that it couldn’t hold the embryo. So, there is no telling how many times I was actually pregnant.” – Janelda Cowan
In 2016, Cowan heard about an alternative to conventional sanitary products manufactured by a company called Nspire.
Founded by Demond Crump, along with partners Spencer Iverson, Joel Medina and Demond Coleman, Nspire offers a wide range of high-quality health products for men and women.
Guided by the mission “Our women should be made aware and protected”, the dynamic team set out to be agents of change and created a line of sanitary products designed to improve overall health and change the way women experience menstruation.
Cowan was intrigued. The more she researched, the more she realized the dangers associated with sanitary products on store shelves.
Dioxin is used in conventional pads and is considered to be a carcinogen, according to an article on CNN.
Cowan, who is a registered nurse, said she discovered that traditional feminine hygiene products are made of recycled material, and most women are not aware of this because tampon and sanitary pad manufacturers are not required to disclose ingredients used in their products because they are not considered a food or a drug, she added.
“Even in my younger years, I know there was something wrong with the pads because I had no other health issues besides my menstrual cycle,” Cowan said. “The Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. does not required companies to list the ingredients used in sanitary napkins because it is not a food or a drug that you administer in your body.”
Cowan decided to try the new products. The Cherish Pad, which is the company’s signature product, won her over.
“These pads are so comfortable. I’ve been using these new pads for the past eight months and they have changed everything for me,” Cowan said. “My cycle has been cut down from 10 -14 days to 4 days. I’m just so elated about that.”
Impressed by the company, Cowan decided to become a distributor in December 2016, and is passionate about the Now We No Campaign which aims to educate women about some of the dangers associated with many feminine hygiene products on store shelves.
“The ‘Now We No’ campaign is an awareness mission that highlights the potentially tragic effects brought about by the misuse of tampons and the overuse of poorly produced sanitary napkins,” Crump, who is also the Director of Training and field Development, wrote in a statement provided to The Weight She Carries. “In this case, what you don’t know may harm you. Fortunately, we don’t believe in highlighting the problem without presenting a potential solution – Cherish Premium Sanitary Napkins.”
Nspire’s website states that the Cherish pad has a negative ion strip in the center of the pad that decreases odor, bacterial growth and stabilizes pH levels. Cowan explained that she no longer has any kind of pain or discomfort in the days leading up to her period, or during her period.
She decided to share her story because she believes there are other women out there who struggle each month with their periods, and she wants them to know that there are other alternatives out there that may be better for their health.
“We’ve been suffering in silence all this time. We’ve been embarrassed about our menstrual cycle and I really don’t think God intended it to be that way. Our cycle is for us to bring forth life, not for us to be closed off and away from society. I want women to know that it’s OK to talk about our menstrual cycles openly. If you have a testimony to tell, share it! If you find a better option, tell as many people as you can.” – Janelda Cowan
The “Now We No” campaign has been a major success, garnering interest from former swimsuit model turned business mogul, Kathy Ireland, and Essence Magazine Senior Editor, Charreah Jackson, just to name a few.
Between May 23rd and Dec. 31, 2017, the partners acquired $4,600,000 in revenue and are projected to do $50,000,000 in 2018.
The success of the campaign has birthed the Now We No Foundation, which aims to provide support to families impacted financially by women’s health issues stemming from the use of tampons and sanitary napkins.
To find out more about the Cherish pad visit Cowan’s website at: www.CherishTheFeeling.com
Read more about Nspire and the products it offers at https://nspirenetwork.com/janeldacowan
Vimbai E. is a writer, journalist, ghostwriter and the founder of The Weight She Carries. With hundreds of articles publishing online, in print and for broadcast, her love of language and storytelling shines through every piece of writing that bears her name.