Endometriosis is a condition in which cells similar to those in the endometrium – the layer of tissue that normally covers the inside of the uterus, grow outside of it. According to endometriosis.org “Endometriosis affects an estimated 1 in 10 women during their reproductive years (ie. usually between the ages of 15 to 49), which is approximately 176 million women in the world [3-4].”
But although living with this condition, Neeka Anderson-Isaacs who is an endometriosis warrior considers herself to be a multitalented, multifaceted, humble, passionate, loving and blessed woman who finds it essential as part of her existence to motivate, inspire and bless others as she firmly believes “if I can help somebody as I pass along then my living shall not be in vain.”
Having Jamaican roots, Neeka asserts that ackee and salt fish with banana, yam and (dumplings which she doesn’t eat anymore) – The national dish of the land of her birth Jamaica to be her favourite West Indian meal beacuse it is just so delicious and she loved it ever since she was a little girl.
The fashionista who possesses a very humorous and an exuberant kind of personality is the communication officer in the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment in St. Vincent and the Grenadines where she is married to her best friend Kris Isaacs. Living with endometriosis is no easy feat as Neeka credits her resilience to her mother whom she hails “I am the daughter of one of the strongest, kindest and most determined women ever – Nelissa Drummond who truly moulded me in the woman I am today and can only hope to inherit half her strength.”
In this interview she espoused that “dancing is a passion of mine and the arts on a whole, I enjoy exercising specifically running and just touching peoples lives in a positive and meaningful way; the thing that I find the most pleasure doing each day is to bring a smile to at least one persons face.” Conversely, she posits that she can be very serious and focused as she holds a vehement stance to violence against women and children, and also stands against the stigma and discrimination against people living with and affected by HIV. In addition, she volunteers and supports the work of the WPP (World Pediatric Project) and the support they give to assist the children of our region in transforming their lives and providing them with a better quality of life.
How important is it for you to create an awareness for endometriosis and what sparked your interest?
Endometriosis awareness is extremely important to me as I am living with endometriosis. Recognising how painful and disruptive it is to your life as a silent disease and knowing how expensive it is I said I have to do something to help other women who are struggling and affected by this dreadful condition. I had a surgery last year and prior to that was on treatment for approximately 6 months and just the cost for the treatment alone depleted my resources not including the fare of flights, accommodation, medical expenses etc since the surgery was not offered in SVG.
As one can imagine this entire ordeal is very expensive furthermore emotionally, physically and psychologically taxing. What’s even more worrying is that most women are not in a position to do something about it, as most women don’t even know what it is or that they have it, to be diagnosed there is a specific procedure that needs to be done to confirm and that in itself is extremely expensive. But even in a moment that most may deem dismal Neeka asked the presiding surgeon on her case – Dr. Bennett from Barbados after her surgery if she would be willing to come on board with her to support women in her similar plight. She adds “I asked if herself and her team would be willing to work out a package to assist women and they agreed that they would look into it.”
The statistic is astounding. How can women combat against such a prevalent reproductive health issue?
There is really no cure for it just treatment but diet and exercise helps so I encourage women to eat as healthy as possible, reduce sugar intake and flour especially and drink lots of water. Although the pain would still be there ones diet helps to manage it a bit to an extent.
What advice would you give to women who are or have experienced symptoms of endometriosis?
Regular health checks is instrumental in early detection and management because most of the time there are other complications as well; auto immune challenges which I face as well, fibroid, Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) among numerous other complications. Diet and exercise helps but seek surgical intervention to manage symptoms.
FAM (Fashion Art Music) for endometriosis is an awareness campaign and fundraiser to assist women struggling with endometriosis and other reproductive health issues. Do you care to comment on how this initiative actually benefits those affected?
While she may have to do surgery again she has committed herself to helping at least one woman each year or more and that is exactly what she is bringing to life. It was after her resources ran out she pondered on how she could come up with funding to do surgery then the FAM for endometriosis which is fashion, art, music for endometrios was given birth to with FAM here also representing an abbreviation for family. Therefore, it’s family coming together to support an important cause as the entire family is affected one way or the other especially financially.
I want to go further into schools to donate sanitary napkins to assist young girls. Free condoms are given (not to students of course) but we don’t give away sanitary napkins and that in itself is expensive and it is needed because women and girls have their menstrual cycle every month in most cases and for some with endometriosis the flow is heavy and requires copious change.
“I just want to help women, create an awareness and support and the change starts with me. Last year I started this to help myself and so I decided to continue it to help one woman each year and so far we have identified one young woman whose identity will not be revealed at this point but when she is ready she will come forward to share her story and hopefully get some relief. I wanted to give some value for assisting me so rather than take a sponsorship sheet and beg I came up with a creative way to add value as well as initiate an awareness and “edutainment” by showcasing local artist, designers, fashion icons, models, music and the like.
Is the jumplife.svg in anyway associated with the campaign/awareness initiative?
Jumplife is me and I am jumplife, it’s a positive, inspirational and uplifting movement that shines light on life in all its facets and jumping into it with a positive outlook. Jumplife created and presents FAM for endometriosis!
What is the desired outcome that you’re looking for?
I am looking for support and an awareness to be created around endometrios and other female health reproductive issues.
I want people to be aware, educated and sensitive to the different challenges women face… much of which they are silent about.
I want women to know that they have support and that they are not defined by this condition and for men to understand it much better as they too are important to this process and is affected by it as well being that infertility is an issue that comes with endometriosis and it affects both partners.
Where health is concerned should people care more about doing the right thing or doing things right? What’s more important: ethics or ideal results? Do the ends justify the means?
Our health is our responsibility it is important to do the right thing and do it right and to take charge and responsibility for our own health. Ethics should never be compromised so if you are doing the right thing and doing it right then there would never be need for concern as it goes hand in hand.
Is there anything else that you would love to add or share about future plans or knowledge you would like to impart to readers?
I intend to grow and help more women and girls and to bring our men along in this process. I will continue to thank all the persons who have been with me from day 1 and continues to support me namely; Calvert Jones, Lisa Cordice, Rodney Small, Ivo Carr, Jacintha Hinds, Gary Young, Michelle Samuels and my husband Kris Isaacs to name a few and everyone who has contributed love and support it is not unnoticed and I truly appreciate it. Lastly, I would love if persons can come out and support this event which is for a worthy cause.
Interviewed by Kenrife Matthias