Lena Dunham just got a new tattoo, and she's showing it to the world to help spread a message: It's okay to be "sick."
Dunham had suffered from the chronic pain and heavy bleeding associated with endometriosis for years. She finally elected to undergo a total hysterectomy to relieve the symptoms after less invasive corrective measures were unsuccessful.
She has made no secret of her condition, and continues to be a vocal advocate for endometriosis awareness.
Her tattoo is a symbol of that journey and a defiance of the stigma that comes with being sick, both from society at large and the internalized feelings that come with being chronically ill.
"Sometimes the thing you're most scared of being called is the best thing you can call yourself, and to my sisters in this dizzying but starry slog- i am lasso'd to you!"
Lena is no stranger to using her body as a canvas to increase awareness. Here is a time she used her torso to send a message.
And another instance where she literally wears her heart on her sleeve.
The Mayo Clinic defines endometriosis as:
"An often painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus — the endometrium — grows outside your uterus. Endometriosis most commonly involves your ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue lining your pelvis."
Dunham has been frank and open about her treatment journey, and how the condition affected her life. In an essay for Vogue, she gave intimate details of living with endometriosis and the decision process that led to her total hysterectomy at 31 years old.
She revealed heartbreaking little details that many don't talk about, like dealing with the question that is a standard in medical care: "Is there any chance you could be pregnant?"
"I'm getting used to this—the repetition of a mandatory question about my fertility and my half-rehearsed answer, something playful so she won't feel too awkward about having reminded a very young woman of what she will never have."
The decision to have a hysterectomy wasn't made lightly; Lena had a less invasive corrective surgery in 2018 and doctors thought she was endometriosis-free.
During the 2018 MET Gala in New York City, she was rushed to the hospital for complications from the surgery. Doctors then discovered more endometriosis. It was then that Dunham and her medical team decided that a total hysterectomy was the best option.
On the 9 month anniversary of her surgery, Dunham shared a photo to celebrate the freedom that it gave her, but also remember the cost:
"My body is mostly healed and every day I find a new bruise on my heart, but today I offer myself gratitude: from the most pained place, I somehow knew to choose myself.
"The purest glint of who we are and know we can be is always available to us, calm and true at our center."
It is surprising that there is so little discussion about endometriosis in general; the condition is estimated to affect 1 in 10 women!
Misdiagnosis of endometriosis is also common, and a huge issue. A study of women in Norway found that there was a delay of between 3 and 11 years between the onset of endometriosis symptoms and when a diagnosis was finally made.
Countries where effective diagnosis is reached earlier can be explained by early clinical intervention, but also by the patients' knowledge of the conditions and its symptoms. The authors write "Knowledge of women about the disease and its most prevalent symptoms seems to be important."
Don't just leave it up to the medical professionals; arm yourself with knowledge.
For a condition that affects so many, it is relatively unknown. Efforts from public figures like Dunham toward public awareness are sorely needed.
You can learn more about the condition here. Chances are high that someone very important to you will be glad of your understanding.