Angela Glazer, Ph.D., will be one of five speakers at the conference who address the psychological aspect of coping with endometriosis
Recently, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traveled north to Lambeau Field in Green Bay, a spot they first visited in 1977. Lambeau is a historic location in the NFL, a place to celebrate tradition, one that sent the visitors into reflection over nearly three decades of Buccaneer football. Of course, reflection aside, the ultimate goal was victory over the Packers, which was achieved.
This weekend, two members of the Buccaneer family will head back up to Wisconsin, to nearby Milwaukee, for another celebration of 25 years of intense work and hard-fought victories. Angela Glazer, Ph.D., and her husband, Executive Vice President Joel Glazer, will attend the 25th Anniversary Conference of the Endometriosis Association.
The conference, to be held on October 7 and 8, will bring together women who suffer from endometriosis, a painful disease that occurs when the type of tissue that lines the uterus, endometrium, is found elsewhere in the body. Those in attendance will reflect on the first 25 years of the Endometriosis Association's efforts to raise awareness about and promote research on the illness. It will be an opportunity for women with the disease, and their families and friends, to share their experiences, hear from experts and focus on overcoming their struggles.
Of course, the ultimate goal is victory over endometriosis. A cure.
"There are presenters from all around the country coming – doctors, psychologists, experts on this disease and related diseases, environmental medicine doctors," said Angela Glazer. "It's going to be a weekend of education, of updates on the latest research, of sharing information on what we can do. There will be the latest information on what the medical options are and how to cope with this condition psychologically.
"It's a big deal. It's exciting. This is a great celebration – the 25th anniversary of the organization. It's is a celebration of how far we've come. There's just so much being done now that wasn't done 25 years ago."
Glazer will be one of the presenters at the conference, speaking to the psychological side of coping with the disease, which affects more than 5.5 million women and girls in the United States and Canada. Glazer is a licensed psychologist who has done specific research on endometriosis and coping with chronic illnesses. She has also lived with "endo" since the age of 11.
"My presentation is entitled, 'Sense of Self and Self-Worth,'" she explained. "I'll be talking about coping with endometriosis and how it affects a women. I'm hoping I can help women with endometriosis become more empowered and not be dragged down by it. My research is applicable to any illness. It's all about feeling empowered and maintaining and regaining a sense of self-worth. Empowerment is reinforced by living with intentionality through one's awareness of themselves."
Her words, and those of the many other medical and psychological experts on hand, will reach thousands of people at the gathering, expected to be the "biggest and best conference ever on the big picture of endo." The illness demands this enormous expenditure of time and expertise for two main reasons: It affects so many people and it is so unpredictable.
Endometriosis is sometimes treatable but, so far, not curable. It's cause is unknown, though theories range from tissue backup through the fallopian tubes to distribution through the lymph node system to the retaining of remnants of embryonic tissue. Some research suggests that it may be passed on genetically in certain families. There is even evidence that it can be triggered by exposure to dioxin.
The average endometriosis sufferer is unaware she has the illness for seven years, and is often misdiagnosed in the interim. Glazer first experienced endometriosis symptoms at age 11 and wasn't properly diagnosed until she was 24. Other women experience few symptoms but learn of their affliction when they try to conceive and begin experiencing problems. Approximately 50 percent of women with endometriosis who give birth get better after childbirth, while 50 percent stay the same or get worse. Up to 85 percent get better after a hysterectomy.
Furthermore, the appearance and severity of endometriosis symptoms range widely from one woman to the next. The misplaced tissue develops into lesions in other parts of the body – such as on the ovaries or the ligaments that support the uterus – and then responds to the menstrual cycle in the same way that the uterine lining does, leading to internal bleeding, inflammation and many other symptoms. Endometriosis sufferers can experience severe pain, a weakened immune system, infertility and fatigue. Complicating matters is the lack of any apparent correlation between the size and number of the lesions and the amount of pain.
"There are some people who only go inside themselves and never ask for help," said Glazer. "Then there are others who want to go out and talk to people, but they never look inside for answers. What I'm presenting here is the idea of balance; it's the intersection between the two that best promotes healing. The loss and recovery of self and self-worth is an ongoing renewal process. It is ultimately a grieving process leading to quiet acceptance and recovery of wholeness.
"There will be four other researchers also speaking to the psychological side of this issue. There is a connection between the mind and the body when it comes to coping with an illness, and we all want to help by lending our expertise and experience.
In addition to Dr. Glazer's invitation to speak at the 25th Anniversary Conference, she is excited to learn about the latest developments and gain an even greater knowledge base. Though she considers herself on the "other side" of the illness now, she is still interested in the medical advancements that have been made, and she knows how much can be gained simply through the process of women sharing their experiences with each other.
"Although I am not 100 percent, I am worlds better than I was as a result of a hysterectomy," she said. "I'm excited to learn more about this complex disease. I've lived with it for about 25 years. I'm there to learn and also to share what I've learned about coping with endometriosis.
"I'm there to say not only have I had it, but it's okay. It's okay to talk about it. It doesn't make you less of a person. In fact, as you deal with it, it makes you stronger."
Glazer also wants to honor the Endometriosis Association, which has accomplished so much over the past two-and-a-half decades. Co-founded by Mary Lou Ballweg in 1980, the Association has long been dedicated to providing support to women, girls and families affected by the illness, and educating, promoting and conducting research related to endometriosis.
"This is a weekend to celebrate the association and what they do," said Glazer. "And they do so very much. There are so many women who suffer from having endometriosis, but there are so many who have thankfully been helped by the Endometriosis Association."
Glazer has made her own significant contributions towards raising awareness about endometriosis, primarily through the distribution of the Endometriosis Wristbands Outreach Kit. The blue wristbands, in the "Livestrong" fashion, bear the words, "Endometriosis, LiveLife, ThinkPositive." The wristbands are accompanied by a card bearing details on the disease, contact information for the Association and words of hope. Glazer's wristbands were recently included in a USA Today article covering the different awareness bracelets that are currently tied into the sports world.
The card with the wristband begins with a simple sentence that links well with the message Glazer will be both delivering and absorbing in two weeks at the biggest endometriosis-related event ever:
"To get through the journey is the journey."
For further details on the 25th Anniversary Conference of the Endometriosis Association, or to learn more about the illness and its symptoms, please visit Endometriosisassn.org.