Alek's story — a young woman's journey with endometriosis
There is no pretence about wellness over here at Glow.
We believe in being transparent about our own journeys ( the ups and the downs ) with our wellbeing. This vulnerabilty has created a safe space for women to write to us and share their own stories.
Every time a story lands in our inbox, we feel humbled to be part of a community of women that have hope, courage and choose to show up in life with bravery in spite of illness. We want to start sharing these stories in order to keep the ripple effect of encouragement going and today we are kicking of with our first Wholehearted Narrative.
Alek's story inspired us to 'make the circle bigger' and continue to invite women of all walks of wellness to walk with us.
Continue to read her story below
Tell us A little more about you and the essence of your wellness journey so far?
I am Aleksandra, a 33 year old woman on a journey towards wellness through taking responsibility for my own health by adopting an inside out approach. You are what you eat and mindfulness is the essence of my journey.
Where or how did you find the courage to make big changes to your lifestyle?
My journey started towards the end of 2016. My sister in law ( Katia Furtak ) who is completing her diploma in therapeutic reflexology asked me to be a patient of hers for her practical work - I became one of her case studies. At the start of our sessions ( I received 10 in total ) she noticed that my abdominal and reproductive area reflexes were sensitive, which indicated that there were most likely congestions in these areas. During these sessions she also advised me on what to eat/not to eat with a particular focus on avoiding sugar and processed/refined food. After our 3rd or 4th session I realised that these areas continued to be sensitive and that if I wanted to reap the benefits of this treatment I needed to take responsibility for my health. It was not long that I started seeing and feeling the difference. I started losing weight – this was however not my intention – and after about 3-4 months my menstrual pain lessened significantly. During this time I also started doing more of my own research and continued to engage with my sister in law on topics that she was learning about at the academy.
Being diagnosed with endometriosis I was unaware of the link between what I was eating and my condition. After undergoing a laparoscopy in 2009 I tried two different brands of the pill and neither of them agreed with my body – I experienced symptoms I never had before such as mood swings and extreme lower back pain during my menstrual cycle. As a result I stopped taking the pill. To date, I hardly have any menstrual pain. Once I started feeling and seeing the improvements I felt so motivated and it was my bodies way of telling me that I am on the right path. I felt like I could function whilst on my menstrual cycle – no more extreme pain and painkillers (although I tried to avoid these as much as possible). I have not looked back since! Truthfully it is not always easy but my courage to continue comes from choosing between the memory of then and now.
What are the most significant changes you made and how have they impacted your health and wellbeing?
The most significant changes I have made are removing sugar and processed food from my diet (I use the term ‘diet’ loosely here – it is not a diet per se, rather my daily nutrition). I have removed fruit juices, sweetened products such as flavoured yoghurt, rusks, chocolates, jam, honey, prepared sauces, artificial products etc. from my diet. I also avoid fruits that are high in sugar such as bananas and mangoes and I try eat low carb rather than no carb. My philosophy is that I want to be able to identify what is on my plate. Snacking for me now consists of nuts and I satisfy my sweet cravings by eating a block of 85% dark chocolate. These changes have resulted in a clearer skin, I am in general less bloated and hardly experience any menstrual pain.
What would you say is the best thing you’ve learned so far on this journey?
Listening to my body and being more mindful about what it is telling me. Pausing and being conscious of how I feel after eating certain food. In this manner I am also learning which food to avoid and how much is enough. This has enabled me to realise that I have too many times been unkind to my body. Reflecting on my journey and recognising how I feel after eating certain food has helped me to make better food choices. Also reading the symptoms. A pimple will pop up now and then on my face when I know that I have been eating badly.
How do you encourage and uplift someone suffering with endometriosis?
It is not an easy condition – I know - but there is hope. There was nothing worse for me than the pain and having to manage it via painkillers as I refused to go back onto the pill or have more operations. I was just masking the symptoms for a very long time. Admittedly (not that being young is an excuse – I was in my early 20’s) I was complacent and hoped that it would just go away. Our well-being is a very individualised approach and what works for me might not necessarily work for everyone so I urge you to do more of your own research, ask questions, take responsibility, seek alternatives, explore all your options.
How important is a support system to you and who is your support system? ie. doctors, family, friends
We are only human and can at times be weak so there is nothing more important than a support system. My husband had no choice but to follow my lifestyle choices - I need to thank him for not resisting too much J It makes it easier when you are not alone. My sister in law is my knowledge base and my go to for health advise. Given that I still experienced a bit of bloating whilst on my menstrual cycle and that I am not a health expert I decided to go back to my homeopath to also assist me with this journey.
You mentioned that you have started changing your beauty products as well, how do you find this process — what are your challenges and what excites you about it?
The food aspect is only one part of the journey for me. This has now evolved to a more holistic approach. Given that we are surrounded by toxins (slowly) changing my beauty products was just such an easy decision and felt like the natural next step. In this way I am also supporting local entrepreneurs - I have recently started using Skin Creamery products which are just fantastic. The challenging but also exciting part of the process is making more thoughtful decisions – doing more research about the ingredients, like where they are sourced as well as the brands themselves. In other words, making kind decisions.
What is your advice to women who are at a fork in the road with their skin and trying a topical approach versus one that starts from the inside out?
Have the courage to explore and reflect on whether what you are currently doing has worked/is working for you. Change is not easy – I realise now that trying different skin care products was a lot easier than making the needed changes to my lifestyle. It was however rewarding seeing my clearer skin and knowing that working from the inside out seemed to be the most effective approach.
Wholehearted Narratives is an 'open door' to all women out there - to come in and sit down as we honestly share the health stories of generous-hearted women from our community. These real life stories aim to encourage you and walk with you through their transparency.