Fans of Lena Dunham have come to expect a celebrity who is always candid about her personal life. Dunham’s time writing and starring in HBO’s Girls often featured storylines from the artist’s real life, with her social media and weekly Lenny Letter giving fans another window into Dunham’s personal sphere. So, when news broke this week that Dunham had undergone a hysterectomy to combat her years of pain caused by endometriosis, many fans weren’t surprised.
What is surprising is how much many of us have learned about the disease thanks to Dunham.
I, for one, had little knowledge of what endometriosis was, what caused it, and what the effects were on those dealing with the disorder before Dunham began speaking about her own diagnosis. Dunham has not only helped shed light on a medical condition many women don’t know about, but likely helped those who were suffering finally put a name to their pain.
Caused by the endometrium, a tissue that typically lines your uterus, growing outside of your uterus, the disorder has the word ‘painful’ in the first line of its description on the Mayo Clinic website. For anyone reading this and clutching their stomach, we’re right there with you. Add this as another reason why women are strong as hell.
In a new article appearing in the March 2018 issue of Vogue Magazine, Dunham reveals that after years of living in pain and undergoing surgeries mounting up to double digits (she’s undergone three surgeries alone in the past year), Dunham opted to have a total hysterectomy, which includes removing the uterus and cervix.
Admitting that the decision to proceed with the surgery was difficult, Dunham gave a chilling recount of what surgeons found during her procedure. “In addition to endometrial disease, 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,” wrote Dunham. “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.”
For anyone who previously thought endometriosis was a woman simply complaining about getting her period, Dunham’s description should be enough to squash that idea.
At only 31, Dunham said part of her concern over surgery was her ability to have biological children, but says she no longer feels like she’s without choices. “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.”
Dunham’s reveal definitely gave us flashbacks to Angelina Jolie and her preventative double mastectomy back in 2013. While both women’s decisions may not be right for everyone in their situation, having it discussed publicly will hopefully not only be educational, but also help those in similar situations feel less alone.