This is not really an endo fact, #29.

Rather, it’s a quotation from Padma Lakshmi, co-founder of the Endometriosis Foundation of America, as quoted in this Huffington Post article:

We just alerted them to the signs and symptoms of endometriosis, looking for whether a girl misses school every month for three or four days. If she’s coming in because she’s soiled her pants repeatedly. You do that when you first get your period, but after a while you should know unless you’re having excessive bleeding. All the symptoms. Nurses are really our first line of defense.

A nurse holding a young child - poster
[I know. Endometriosis =/= tuberculosis.]

And PE teachers. And sometimes even English teachers.

Like a lot of secondary school teachers, I keep a stash of menstrual pads in a drawer in my classroom, so students in need don’t have to make a side trip to the nurse just to get one. Unlike some, I keep a stash of what my students call the “good pads” — thinner, winged, with some kind of dry-keeping top layer. I’m not the biggest fan of disposable products, but even I’ll admit these are worlds better than the mini-mattresses handed out by the school nurse.

At the very back of the stash is the super secret stash, the two (only ever two at a time) ThermaCare HeatWraps for students who need them instead of or in addition to ibuprofen from the nurse. (As someone who is not the school nurse, I do not hand out medication to my students.)

Because of this, I’m in a unique position to notice what’s going on with some of my students. Not that I’m keeping meticulous, inappropriate records of who uses how many pads when, but over time, I do start to notice. Who’s getting pads more than occasionally. Who’s getting one even though she’s said she “thought [she] brought enough.” Whose periods seem to be a source of stress and misery rather than normalcy or inconvenience. Who’s wrapped around the heating patch like it’s a life preserver.

It doesn’t happen often — maybe four or five times over the course of eight years — but every once in a while, I print out information (usually the kind I can fold into a pamphlet) on endo and hand it to a student. “You don’t have to read this,” I say, “but if you do and if it sounds like you, you might want to tell a parent or a doctor.” I know two students who’ve told their parents. While I don’t know that either student has a current diagnosis and/or symptom relief, both report that their parents are supportive and ary trying to help them out.

Whatever it is, I hope it takes them less than twelve or fourteen years to find out.

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6 comments on “This is not really an endo fact, #29.
  1. You are a very awesome teacher. That is all.

  2. Siobhan says:

    I remember having to leave school because I was throwing up and/or passing out from the pain. I would have appreciated anybody who noticed that what I was going through was not normal.

    • Tori says:

      Yeah, there was never anybody like that for me when I was in high school. In fact, I have distinct memories of both my PE teacher and my guidance counselor (we didn’t have a school nurse) telling to basically suck it up and deal.

  3. Anna says:

    I had to leave school several times due to incapacitating cramps. I always brought my own ibuprofen with me, and had no idea I could have gotten pads from a teacher. Whoa!

    • Tori says:

      Probably, whether you actually could have or not depends on the resources and policies of the individual school. Our school nurse gives each teacher an “emergency kit” at the beginning of each school year that has things like band-aids, menstrual pads, Q-tips (though I’ve never figured out the “emergency” use for those, though). Most teachers make announcements of this sort in their “first days of school” procedures and stuff, so it tends to be generally known among students that these things are available. But at my high school — and at least one high school where I taught — there was no school nurse and also no readily available known source of pads. As a teacher, I tended still to have them to hand out — largely because when I was a student, I was the one pretty much constantly bugging my friends for one more emergency pad.

  4. crazyinpink says:

    I wish I had had a teacher like you in school!
    I used to get death stares from constantly shifting around trying to get comfortable.

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