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Karen Duffy

Karen Duffy, also known as "Duff," is a multi-talented, self-effacing beauty who has worked as a TV personality, MTV VJ, Revlon spokesmodel, journalist and actress. In 1998, Duffy was diagnosed with endometriosis, a condition that affects an estimated six million women in the United States. In an effort to increase awareness of endometriosis, Ms. Duffy has teamed up with the National Women's Health Resource Center. Karen Duffy's public service announcements, which began airing in March, strongly encourage women to re-examine menstrual period pain and to discuss their symptoms with their health care professionals.

Endometriosis is not the most serious health problem Duffy has faced. Duffy's inspiring and hilarious memoir, Model Patient: My Life As an Incurable Wise-Ass, is an account of her carefree days as a young adult, how she found fame and the great fun that she has had with it, and how she discovered and dealt with a disease that may have changed her body, but it didn't change her. In 1995, she was diagnosed with Sarcoidosis, a rare incurable disease that attacks the central nervous system. "I tried to write a book not for sick people, but for people with a sick sense of humor," Duff explains. The book is irreverent, witty, dishy and fun - not a typical book about illness.


I was supposed to be getting ready for an important shoot.  Instead I was on the couch - doubled over from what I thought were typical monthly cramps. You might know the feeling -- millions of women do. 

For years, I smiled for the cameras and hid how I felt.  I did what too many women do -- wrote off my period pain as just part of being a woman.  I thought I knew everything about being a female until I realized what I thought were regular monthly cramps, weren't regular at all. Finally, I took control of my monthly pain and had a serious talk with my doctor.  And what that doctor found changed my life. 

It turned out my period wasn't the problem, endometriosis was.

Just like five and a half million other women in the United States, I suffer from endometriosis, a common condition found in women during their reproductive years.  Endometriosis is without question one of the most puzzling conditions that affect women.  The cause is unclear and no cure exists, but treatments are available to help alleviate the symptoms.

If you are like most women, you have probably experienced cramps with your period at one time or another. Some women experience only mild discomfort during their period.  But for others, the pain can be unbearable.  It can interfere with your daily routine, such as time with your family or friends - cramps can even force you to miss work. 

While a certain amount of cramping associated with your period is normal, painful cramps that keep you from maintaining an active daily life may be a sign of endometriosis.   Painful cramps are what led me to my doctor, and that's how I found out that I have endometriosis.

As women, we are taught that monthly cramps are just part of your period.  What many women don't know is that pain associated with our periods may be a symptom of a more serious underlying problem - endometriosis.         

Endometriosis is painful, and can be quite serious.  If you are experiencing painful cramps, take charge of the pain and talk to your doctor today. Remember, cramps are not just part of being a woman.

So how did I beat the pain?  By finally taking control.  Reexamine your period and talk to your doctor about the monthly pain you experience.  Because it takes an average of 4.6 years before a woman is accurately diagnosed with endometriosis, get help early. Please don't wait as long as I did.

 I learned that not all cramps are the same, and that I don't have to put up with cramps just because I'm a woman.  Most importantly, I learned that painful cramps experienced for six months or more is considered chronic pelvic pain - a key symptom of endometriosis.

Thankfully, my doctor helped me find an effective treatment.   What a relief to not have to suffer every month!  If you are experiencing painful cramps, take charge of your pain and talk to your doctor today. 

To learn more about endometriosis, click here.

"Making the Cramp Connection" is a free 16-page patient education booklet designed to help women better understand cramps, chronic pelvic pain and endometriosis.  This booklet can be obtained by calling 1-866-FOR-ENDO. 

Created: 6/12/2002  -  Karen Duffy

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