Over the past several years, Lena Dunham has been open about her struggles with endometriosis. Now, in an essay in the March 2018 issue of Vogue, she revealed that in recent months, she underwent a total hysterectomy to treat the condition.
Following the procedure, the writer, actor and producer says she awoke to find out that her pelvic organs were in worse shape than she originally thought.
“In addition to endometrial disease,” writes Dunham, “an odd hump-like protrusion and a septum running down the middle, I have retrograde bleeding, a.k.a. my period running in reverse so that my stomach is full of blood. My ovary has settled in on the muscles around the sacral nerves in my back that allow us to walk. Let’s please not even talk about my uterine lining. The only beautiful detail is that the organ — which is meant to be shaped like a light bulb — was shaped like a heart.”
Endometriosis is a condition in which uterine tissue implants outside the uterus, including on the fallopian tubes, ovaries, bowels, bladder or anywhere else in the pelvic region.
Previously, Dunham had been hospitalized three times in less than a year because of complications with endometriosis and had more than 10 surgical procedures to attempt to treat it. In fact, in April 2017, she wrote a post on her newsletter-turned-website, Lenny Letter, announcing she was endometriosis-free.
Unfortunately, it was clear a month later when she was rushed to the hospital during the Met Gala that her struggles with the condition were not yet over. Following years of surgeries as well as attempting alternative treatments like pelvic floor therapy, massage, pain therapy, color therapy, acupuncture and yoga, she decided to take the next step and undergo a total hysterectomy.
A total hysterectomy involves removing the uterus and cervix. Her ovaries are still intact, though — so even though she will not be able to become pregnant herself and give birth, she still may have viable eggs she could use to have her own biological children through in vitro fertilization.
But Dunham, who has lived with the chronic pain of endometriosis for years, says that rather than feeling limited, she feels as if she has more options now.
“I may have felt choiceless before, but I know I have choices now,” she writes in Vogue. “Soon I’ll start exploring whether my ovaries, which remain someplace inside me in that vast cavern of organs and scar tissue, have eggs. Adoption is a thrilling truth I’ll pursue with all my might.”
While there is not yet a cure for endometriosis, there are various treatment options; in other words, not everyone with this diagnosis will have to have a total hysterectomy. Endometriosis does affect approximately 1 in 10 menstruating people worldwide, and the symptoms are often overlooked and disregarded as simply a painful period.
We wish Dunham all the best and hope she makes a speedy recovery.