Hello all and Happy New Year! Now that the holidays are over I’m ready to jump back in to blogging and we’re kicking off 2015 with an interview! I am very happy and honored to introduce my dear friend and colleague, Brenda Ritz!
I met Brenda at work when I was in the big middle of my first endo flare since my first surgery. I was diagnosed with IBS, and it was Brenda who shrewdly pointed out that endo could be the culprit of my new symptoms. She shared her story with me and gave me invaluable advice as I weighed different treatment options, plus it was great to have someone at work who truly understood what was going on with me. We were in different departments, and in my department I was the ONLY girl, so obviously endometriosis was NOT something the guys knew or wanted to know about. So, in a way, Brenda was my endo mentor as I went through college.
I am SO excited that she’s agreed to share her wisdom with all of you as well! So without further ado, here’s Brenda!
First, give us a little introduction of yourself.
My name is Brenda Ritz and I grew up in Denton, Texas and never left. I am 49 years old, married and child free. I am the oldest of four, thus I have a huge family.
How old were you when you were first diagnosed with Endometriosis? Did you get incorrect diagnoses before that point?
I was thirty three years old when I was first correctly diagnosed. I am sure that I have had endo since I was at least 17 years old. I was incorrectly diagnosed for almost 17 years. Diagnoses ranged from irritable bowel syndrome, stress, allergies, etc.
How did treatment options differ when you were first diagnosed compared to now?
Treatment options did not change much from when I was first diagnosed to now. However, my second surgery was performed using the DaVinci robot. I have friends who have had the same type of surgery but were cut open like a C section because their docs do not perform laparoscopies. I feel fortunate to have found a doctor who specializes in endo.
How did you decide to go with a hysterectomy?
I was THAT miserable. I was exhausted all of the time and one week out of each month I could not function at all. I was in extreme pain and I was ready to take EVERYTHING out. My doctor gave me several options, and one of those was “to live with it.” I did not see that as an option.
What was recovery like?
Recovery was excruciating, but I still felt BETTER than I had in years. I remember coming out of the recovering room immediately after the surgery, feeling so much better and thinking “This is how I used to feel.” I was fortunate to have a job that allowed me the full six week recovery period at home. It made a big difference in that I was able to focus on recovering without the added stress of work.
Did it ultimately help?
Yes, surgery helped a lot. However, I have since gone back for another surgery because some of the endo grew again and then there was all of the scar tissue from the surgery that grew and wrapped around my organs. That surgery also helped, but as you probably know, endo and its symptoms will never be completely gone.
Did having endo ever affect your school life? Work? Relationships?
I have tried really hard not to let it affect school, work and relationships. Ultimately however, it has affected my life in that I am not as active as I once was.
What was your major and why did you choose it?
My major was Communication Studies, which I initially chose based on classes offerings. When I was reading through all of the descriptions of majors, I really liked the titles of the courses. Once I entered the program I not only loved the courses, but I loved all of the faculty in that department as well.
What are you doing now?
I work in videoconferencing technology at a university.
What is your favorite comfort when you’re sick or just feeling down?
Books. I like to read and if I am not feeling well, I want to just relax on the couch and escape into another world. I also browse Facebook to find positive and or funny posts to lift my spirits.
What do you like to do for fun?
For fun I love to get together with friends and family, walk around the neighborhood, go to the theatre, movies, and of course, read.
How has faith affected your view/experience of being ill?
My faith is the reason that I am able to get through the myriad symptoms and surgeries. I know that “this too shall pass” and my church family is a constant inspiration.
What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment?
Completing my undergraduate and graduate degrees without incurring debt.
Obviously, you don’t LOOK sick. How do you look? How do others see you? How do you see yourself?
Some days I look better than other days. Others (most likely) see me as being perfectly fine and healthy. They can’t see the issues with which I deal on a daily basis. There is still pain, discomfort, and having to know where the restroom is whenever I enter a new building, not to mention the exhaustion that comes with having endo. I see myself as someone who has learned to deal with all of the issues and obstacles of having an invisible illness. I don’t see myself as the young(er) healthier woman that I once was. I wake up in the morning with a long list of things that I want to accomplish each day, but usually I am only to get a few of those things checked off. The mind is willing but the body is weak. 🙂
A big thanks again to Brenda for sharing her story!