My Endometriosis Story – Part 1

00:00 Introduction and Background

[00:00:00] Sandra Henderson: March is Endometriosis Awareness Month. It is a month that is near and dear to my heart because I am one of one in ten people in the world who have been diagnosed with endometriosis. If you’re a long-time listener of the podcast or if you follow me along on Instagram, you are probably familiar with a bit of my story. But, I want to reshare part of an episode that I recorded back at the beginning of this podcast.

Back in episode six, I shared a look at what my story was up until that point. Now, I will say things have changed a little bit since then. But before I dive into everything that’s happened over the last couple of years, I thought for anybody who wanted a refresher about what endometriosis is all about or anyone who isn’t familiar with my story… I thought that I would reshare this so you have a little bit of context and then next week I’m gonna be back with a little bit of an update.

Now, as you’re listening to this, if you have [00:01:00] any questions about endometriosis, I would love it if you popped over into my DMs on Instagram. You can find me at SimplySandraYvonne. I am an open book when it comes to my experience. I am more than happy to answer any questions that you have or just share any support that you might need in your own journey with this!

So friends, thank you so much for listening. I hope you enjoyed this replay episode. And I’ll be back next week with a brand new episode.

(Intro music) Welcome to Keeping it Candid. I’m your host, Sandra Henderson, an international wedding and family photographer and business coach. I help wedding photographers use systems to build out the back end of their businesses to gain control and continue to thrive no matter what life throws their way.

And on a more personal note, I’m a strong Enneagram three wing too who’s obsessed with I’m obsessed with tacos. My love for travelling combined with navigating chronic illness life are just two of the many things that drive my passion for all things systems, workflows, and beating burnout as a business owner.

Join me every week for a candid behind [00:02:00] the scenes look at what it’s really like working as a wedding photographer, where I’ll give you actionable steps to take your business to the next level. Absolutely no fluff here, friends, so go grab your favourite notebook and pen and let’s dive into this week’s episode. (music fades out)

As I begin to talk more about what I’m doing behind the scenes in my photography business here on the podcast, especially when it comes to systems and workflows, I’m going to be sharing more about what that looks like for me, from the perspective of a business owner living with a chronic illness. So for all of my listeners out there who are living with a chronic illness themselves or who maybe have someone in their close circle like a friend or a family member that they want to support, I’m gonna be diving into some topics a little bit further because things can be a little more complicated when you’re running a business and navigating chronic illness life.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to a podcast or watched a webinar and thought to myself, those tips sound great, but it’s not that easy. That won’t work for me when I have so [00:03:00] much else on my plate. And that’s why I think this aspect of the conversation is so important. Let me take things back for a minute though, and tell you a little bit more about me and my story.

3:12 Diagnosis and Understanding Endometriosis

On June 24th, 2017, I was photographing a wedding. While we were doing the bride’s getting ready photos, I was suddenly hit with period cramps so severe that I could barely stand. I was sweating and felt nauseated. And then I looked at my assistant with panic in my eyes as I silently motioned for her to take over while I got myself out of the room without anyone noticing.

I grabbed some water and some Advil. Five minutes later I pulled myself together to fight through the pain and get back to work. That was the day that I knew something was wrong. Over the next two years, I saw countless doctors. Was sent for endless tests. And tried treatment after treatment after treatment, and each time I left with no answers.

Then I finally met a doctor who, after listening to my story, said some pretty [00:04:00] life-changing words. He said “you have endometriosis. I have to go through the proper procedure to be sure, but I can say this pretty confidently”. So, I finally underwent laparoscopic surgery on Christmas Eve in 2019, and the biopsy results confirmed what my doctor had said.

I was officially diagnosed with stage 4 endometriosis. For anyone who isn’t familiar, endometriosis is an incurable disease where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows in other places throughout your body. If you could see inside me with a camera right now, you’d find that tissue in multiple places from the organs in my pelvis up to my chest.

It causes chronic pain, severe inflammation, nausea, scar tissue, organ failure, infertility, and so much more. There’s a seemingly endless list of other symptoms. In fact, I’m even snuggled up with my heating pad right now as I record this episode to help manage pain in my hips and lower back while I get through [00:05:00] the recording process.

Endometriosis affects approximately 1 in 10 women and a countless number of trans and non-binary people who are underrepresented in studies. That’s more than 176 million people worldwide. And yet, there are only about 200 specialists appropriately trained to treat this disease. The more I learned about endo, the further I was actually able to trace back my own experiences.

And it turns out that I had been managing symptoms on my own since I was 13 years old. Not long after I had my first period. But it would be another 20 years before a doctor would ever acknowledge that something was, in fact, wrong. I could do a whole episode on the absurdity of it all, but I will save that for another day.

6:20 Struggles and Challenges

When the pandemic hit in early 2020, I was three months post-op and still not feeling great. I was told that after my surgery, I would be in remission for at least a few years now that the tissues they found had been removed. [00:06:00] Instead, things started spiralling pretty quickly. Between the stress of the pandemic, lack of access to my healthcare team, and a somewhat unsuccessful surgery, by May, I was in more pain than I’ve ever felt in my life.

Over six weeks, my symptoms flared up three times for more than a week each time. I couldn’t walk more than a few feet without help. Getting up my stairs to go to bed sometimes took me more than 20 minutes. And on the rare chance I was able to muster up enough energy to actually get outside, I needed help getting up the two steps from my back patio into the house.

I was nauseated all day, every day, and I started losing as much as five pounds a week because I couldn’t keep anything down. It never really feels less surreal to talk about. I’ve never been so scared in my entire life. For four months I didn’t know what to do, where to go for help, or how I was ever going to find a way to keep living my life, let alone run this photography [00:07:00] business I’d been dreaming of since I was 17 years old and had spent my entire adult life building.

Every day, I just kept going through the motions. I didn’t know what else to do, honestly. Then one day, I decided that I had given up enough of myself, my body, and my life to this disease. Enough was enough. My business was not going to go on that list, too. I didn’t come this fucking far to stop now. I had to find a way to start actually answering the question, How am I going to do this?

7:38 Finding a Way Forward

First came getting some help from my doctors. After four months of living in my own personal hell, I was finally able to get onto a new symptom management plan. I gave up my fertility in the process due to the medications I needed to take. But I started getting other parts of my life back in the meantime.

I could walk and eat a full meal again, and I started to get some of my strength back. [00:08:00] I never went back to how I felt physically before the surgery, but I’ve had time to make peace with that. This is my new normal. I had to find a way to stop fighting against it. To embrace this new life and start building a new version of what it could look like instead.

On the personal side, rebuilding that new version is still a work in progress. I think it probably always will be, and I’m okay with that. Therapy and doing a lot of internal work will help me heal mentally and emotionally along the way. But on the business side of things, I knew that streamlining every aspect of my business was going to be my key to success.

8:56 Streamlining the Business

There were obvious places to streamline, like within my systems and workflows in HoneyBook. But as I started piecing this new puzzle together, I saw that there were so many other areas with streamlining potential. And prepping my clients ahead of time was one of them. Creating a system that keeps my clients prepped and excited for their time in front of the [00:09:00] camera became even more important when I started making these shifts in my business.

Chronic illnesses like endometriosis can be unpredictable on their best day. So that means I’m not always able to be at my computer doing all the things. There was nothing worse on those off days than not feeling well, trying to focus on my health and getting the rest that I needed. But being weighed down the entire time with guilt and anxiety because I had these sessions and weddings coming up that needed my attention.

It made already hard days feel unbearable. Setting up an email series to send out to my clients throughout our time together helped me rest easier. I loved knowing that they were being taken care of and were getting excited about what was to come, all without me having to be actually present at my computer.

HoneyBook Automations lets me schedule everything so I never miss a beat. Everything that I talked about at the beginning of this episode, like sending out galleries, answering questions, and educating my clients on what to wear, where to [00:10:00] meet, and how to reach me. Instead of pushing myself past my limit to stay on top of things, I’m able to rest when I need it.

10:26 Creating a Dream Client Experience

So when I do need to get behind my camera, I’m showing up as the best version of myself. I’m focusing my energy on capturing memories for my clients. My clients are showing up excited and ready to go because they know what to expect. That takes a lot off my plate mentally as we get started. If you’ve ever experienced chronic illness, I know you understand. Taking even one decision or one task off your to-do list on a day when you don’t feel well is everything.

But no matter what your day-to-day life looks like, chronic illness or not, I hope that today’s tips help you start creating a dream client experience that takes some of the work off your plate in the process.

(Outro music) Thank you so much for listening. You can find full show notes from today’s episode at In the meantime, let’s connect. You can find me on Instagram and TikTok, just search @SimplySandraYvonne. And if you love this podcast, I’d be so honoured if you’d go ahead and hit that subscribe button and leave a review. Until next time. (Music fades out)

About Sandra

sandra, a woman with endometriosis, is wearing a shirt with the word "warrior" and a yellow ribbon on it

Sandra Henderson is a photographer, systems strategist, and podcast host based in Ontario, Canada. She specializes in helping photographers create strategic systems for their businesses to help them get their time back so they can spend it doing the things they love most. As an entrepreneur who also navigates chronic illness life, Sandra takes a unique approach to using systems that will help businesses thrive no matter what life throws your way.

On a personal note, she loves tacos, all things Bravo, 90’s music, travelling, and spending time at home with her husband, stepson, and two cats!

sandra, a woman with endometriosis, is wearing a shirt with the word "warrior" and a yellow ribbon on it. over the photo, grey text reads "show notes" as it's the header image for the show notes of this episode of Keeping It Candid.

March 6, 2024

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