According to the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), more than 11-percent of American women between the ages of 15 and 44 live with endometriosis. Endometriosis, or “endo,” occurs when the endometrium tissue (inner lining of the uterus) grows outside of the uterus. Common symptoms include chronic pain during ovulation, menstruation, and sexual intercourse. It can also cause infertility and fatigue. For women living with endo, these symptoms can dramatically influence their mental, physical, and emotional well-being.
While endometriosis affects 11-percent of women in the US, diagnosis from a physician can be difficult. The average time from initial symptoms to diagnosis is seven years. Many in the endo community believe this is due to an overall lack of information and awareness. That’s why every March, women and advocates from around the world come together to honor Endometriosis Awareness Month. They dedicate their time to increase awareness and highlight the impact of endometriosis symptoms throughout the month.
This Endometriosis Awareness Month, we spoke with Kristina Risola of Florida Medical Cannabis Clinic to gain more insight into her journey with medical cannabis. Kristina is a masters-level rehabilitation counselor and a certified health and wellness coach. She has over 10 years of experience working with individuals with various chronic conditions and disabilities. She, herself, lives with several chronic conditions. It’s the combination of her professional and personal experience that led her to take back her life through diet, exercise, and holistic treatments like cannabis.
Kristina shared her journey to increase awareness for endometriosis and medical cannabis.
It’s starting to sink in that I just might not have to plan my entire life around my endometriosis pain. I’ve turned down countless events, experiences, and opportunities over the years. To be free from that…there are no words.
Q: When were you diagnosed with endometriosis?
A: I was diagnosed in December of 2015, but I was experiencing debilitating symptoms surrounding my menstrual cycle since I first got my period. It’s a highly-invasive diagnosis that can only be reached through surgery. And there are only so many doctors who are trained on how to actually go in and remove the endometriosis so that it doesn’t cause any problems. Even after surgery, there are still lasting effects, many of which are not covered by insurance. Access to treatment just isn’t available.
Two years after my surgery, I was involved in a car accident where I was hit head-on by a drunk, drugged, and suicidal driver. When I was at home dealing with those injuries, a physician that I had worked with before reached out to me about becoming a legal patient and I decided to get my Florida medical cannabis license.
Q: What lead you to medical cannabis?
A: I knew I needed to find some sort of long-term pain management, and opiates were not an option. Cannabis was my best choice. Before I began using cannabis treatments, I had to plan my life around my periods. I knew I wouldn’t be leaving my house, and I wouldn’t be seeing clients. Since becoming a legal patient, I’m able to manage my pain and take back control of my life.
Q: What has been your experience with cannabis?
A: I’ve used cannabis for its therapeutic purposes since I was 18-years-old. I realized cannabis treatments were going to allow me to live my life. I was able to go to graduate school and get started in my career—things I couldn’t have done with the other drugs, medicines, and treatments that I was using.
That’s when my life really changed.
Q: What medical cannabis products do you use?
A: The Soothe Transdermal Patches have literally given me my life back. The steady, consistent dosing is a life changer. I go from being curled up in a ball in my bathroom‚—unable to move, throwing up, and feeling violently ill—to being able to function and see patients so that I can help change their lives for the better. Because I was already using cannabis, adding CBD to the mix was very important. THC was working phenomenally for me, but my pain would fluctuate.
When I started taking the Soothe Tincture Oil on a daily basis, my day-to-day symptoms became much more consistent and controllable. It provides stability and really helps me find relief.
Q: What drew you to our products?
A: Initially, I was very much stuck on strain-specific products and I wasn’t buying into the wellness ratios. Once I began to learn more and see the day-to-day applicability for the patients I work with, I realized how much more approachable your products are. I encourage my patients to start low and slow so that they can learn what will work best for them.
Q: What advice would you give to other women with endometriosis?
A: Advocate for yourself and learn as much as you can. Because endo is so hard to diagnose, and there aren’t many treatment options available, the more you can learn about your condition the better your quality of life will be. It’s easy to get frustrated when you’re dealing with pain, and because we don’t always feel heard, it’s tempting to go to a healthcare provider and get a little aggressive. However, we have to learn to advocate for ourselves so that we can get the treatment that we deserve.
Q: How has medical cannabis changed your life?
A: I’ve been able to center and ground myself. I’ve found myself through medical cannabis! It’s starting to sink in that I just might not have to plan my entire life around my endometriosis pain. I’ve turned down countless events, experiences, and opportunities over the years. To be free from that…there are no words.
Kristina is optimistic that more treatment options and research will soon be available to her and the millions of women living with endometriosis. She encourages more women to share their experiences to inspire researchers to advance endometriosis treatment. She’s hopeful that, soon, women everywhere will stop living with pain and take control of their lives again.
Disclaimer: Endometriosis is not a qualifying condition in Florida. This patient may have other underlying conditions that qualified them to use medical cannabis.