Today, the government has finally taken a huge step towards treating an illness that affects some 1 in 10 Australian women, and has apologised for not doing something sooner.
The Turnbull Government will create the first National Action Plan for Endometriosis, providing much needed support for women who face this often misunderstood medical condition.
Labor MP Gai Brodtmann and Liberal MP Nicolle Flint this afternoon launched the nonpartisan Parliamentary Friends of Endometriosis Awareness, inviting sufferers of endometriosis and relevant organisations to present recommendations for the systemic change that is needed to improve the lives of women with endometriosis and to share their stories.
“The time is long overdue to bring this condition out of the dark… On behalf of all of those in Parliament and all of those who have been responsible for our medical system, I apologise,” said Health Minister Greg Hunt.
“This condition should have been acknowledged at an earlier time in a more powerful way and will never be forgotten again.”
Endometriosis, or endo for short, is a condition where the lining of the uterus (called the endometrium) grows in other places it shouldn’t, like the fallopian tubes, ovaries or along the pelvis. When this lining breaks down once a month, it has nowhere to go – resulting in debilitating pain. In severe cases, it can lead to infertility.
As anyone with the condition will gladly tell you, it’s the fucking pits.
Today’s step is pretty bloody huge, because for years, the condition hasn’t been treated with the gravitas or attention it so deserves, until this arvo.
The newly-formed peak body is made up of researchers, clinicians, patients and awareness groups including EndoActive, Endometriosis Australia, the Pelvic Pain Foundation of Australia, QENDO and the University of Queensland.
They’ll be advocating for endometriosis to be the tenth National Health Priority Area, as well as for public awareness, research, school education and clinical standards; all things that, once you hear the horror stories, are clearly needed.
The Minister and Shadow Minister for Health and Members of Parliament were visibly affected by the harrowing accounts that were read out today as the coalition was announced.
One of those stories was from a young woman called Bec, who recalled how seriously endo affected her life.
“When I had to go to sick bay they’d think I was just putting it on. There was never any mention that my symptoms weren’t normal – they told me I should just put up with it. I didn’t finish school. I dropped out because of endo.”
Another woman, Laura, said:
“One night Mum and Dad took me to the hospital and told them I had endometriosis. The doctor said ‘How do you spell that?’ and I remember lying there thinking, “What am I doing here? He doesn’t even know how to spell it.”
Sylvia Freedman of EndoActive explained just how much this huge parliamentary step means to so many people in a heartfelt statement.
“To spend years living in chronic pain with no diagnosis, being labeled drug seekers, losing jobs, enduring repeated surgeries and not being believed, suddenly here we are in Parliament House. Our voices are finally being heard.”
And it couldn’t be a minute too soon.