“Relax, lady; I’m handing you a leaflet, not the disease.”
Social meetings can be awkward. So when you’re about to meet a few-hundred-strong crowd of total strangers, it’s only natural to feel apprehensive.
And yet on the 28th March 2015, many brave souls across the world, dressed in fifty shades of yellow and pink, some with funky braids and ribbons in their hair, some with pink knickers over their trousers, and some in armoury, but all with a smile on their face, did just that. They did it to raise awareness of a disease that is silent. A disease that people don’t want to hear about. A disease that makes even those suffering from it often feel too embarrassed to break that silence and speak out.
This was of course the EndoMarch 2015, a walk to raise awareness of Endometriosis.
The disease- as one lady put it, “Er, Endome qu’est-ce que c’est?” – typically evokes just that kind of reaction. Ignorance. (There’s also a second type of a reaction, which is a scared shadow of recognition, particularly on the faces of men, followed by an uncomfortable pull away and I’m sure matched by a quick internal prayer that not too much detail is revealed.)
But there was a great effort on the part of many women, men and occasionally dogs, to change those perceptions, to raise awareness and make it less awkward to talk about.
And so, in a slightly awkward atmosphere, we started marching, slowly but surely, across central London, wearing the name of our disease on our T-Shirts – although this open flaunting of my diagnosis felt more confessional than liberating – and handing out leaflets.
Soon we started talking and supporting each other. Sharing experiences of surgery and pain with strangers is scary, but then it also felt positive.
“So I really am not alone.”
The response we got from passer byes varied. Ultimately, I was, we all were, just human beings. Just human beings trying to tell other human beings about something that happened to them. True, we got plenty of dismissive cold shoulders, just because we were holding leaflets in our hand. People are bombarded by unwanted spam. It’s hard not to feel a bit frustrated.
“You’ve got ovaries, lady? And a uterus? You might want to read this leaflet then! Trust me.”
Young lads were more eager to receive our leaflets, although I fear they were rather hoping for a money-off coupon to some cool bar, full of single girls on the look-out for the love of their lives, or at least up for a few drinks. But life is not fair. We, endometriosis sufferers, know that, don’t we?
And so we kept walking. And long before the end of the walk, we realised that everybody was perfectly normal, and that walking in a group handing out leaflets about ovaries and bleeding bits of tissue in the female tummy is not really all that bad, as long as the person next to you keeps smiling and telling you it’s all fine, and you’re doing a great job.
It was a walk well worth catching a train to London for, even if it was just to be reassured that I’m not alone, make up the crowd, and send a message to others, who couldn’t be there, that they are not alone too.