Content creator and DIY expert turned filmmaker Meg Allan Cole spent years visiting doctors in the hopes of discovering what was causing her debilitating pain. In her new documentary short film, Blood & Guts: Exposing Endo, which is available to watch at EndoMission.org, she reveals that it wasn’t until she was experiencing difficulties having a child that she finally received an endometriosis diagnosis.
“My worth is put on my ability to be a mother and not my quality of life,” she states in one of the film’s many candid clips.
A desire to convert her pain into purpose inspired Cole to turn the camera on herself – and a slew of experts and advocates – to educate viewers about the real-life symptoms of endometriosis while also revealing the destructive gaslighting many patients endure on their journey to a correct diagnosis.
“I felt compelled to expose such a dark world that was ill-equipped to be able to handle such a debilitating illness that affects so many people. I felt compelled to shine some light and open the door to look into something that most people don’t even know exists, which is the world of the 10 percent of people born with ovaries who have endometriosis – some are women, some are non-binary, trans – and we are dealing with debilitating pain. It’s a whole body illness that affects everything from the tip of your head to the tip of your toes and affects our work, our families, our family planning and our reproductive rights,” Cole said by phone of her mission with Blood & Guts: Exposing Endo. “I felt like it was really important for me – who is someone who is walking around with a camera already filming things for my job – to turn that camera onto what I was walking into.”
Mayoclinic.org describes endometriosis in part as “an often painful disorder in which tissue similar to the tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus — the endometrium — grows outside your uterus.”
Throughout the film, Cole examines the ways the medical system fails patients with this disorder. She poses questions about why doctors appointments are on average only seven minutes long, why the extreme step of a hysterectomy is considered a cure, and why more doctors aren’t educated on the symptoms and treatments for endometriosis. Over and over again, Cole and other contributors methodically expose medical misogyny, racism, bigotry, gaslighting and other bad practices that act as barriers for endometriosis patients seeking care.
“Say you even have a really great, well-intending doctor, they only have seven minutes with you and, according to their textbooks, they have a completely incorrect treatment for what you have. So you need to bypass those doctors and go to the only doctors that actually know about endometriosis, and those are endometriosis specialists,” said Cole noting, that specialist visits are frequently not covered by insurance, posing yet another barrier for patients.
Blood & Guts: Exposing Endo educates viewers about what to expect with endometriosis while also empowering anyone who is experiencing symptoms to advocate for themselves. To do this, Cole consults with Dr. Iris Orbuch and Dr. Gaby Moawad – both specialists in endometriosis – to share their expertise on symptoms and treatments as well as advice and accounts from One Part Plant author Jessica Murnane, Kyla Canzater (co-founder of the Black Women’s Health Coalition), social worker/advocate Casey Berna and Cori Smith, an advocate for the trans community and nonbinary people diagnosed with endometriosis. Combined with clips of Cole’s own experiences, these testimonials paint a portrait of the hurdles endometriosis patients face.
“The cast and contributors to Blood and Guts are some of the absolute best human beings. They are some of the best advocates and biggest experts on this illness,” said Cole.
In conjunction with the release of the film, Cole launched EndoMission.org. The site is home to a variety of resources with information about medical care and pain management, along with recommendations for books, podcasts, articles and more tools that patients can turn to for advice on living with endometriosis.
“We can’t magically fix the illness of endometriosis, but we can lessen the suffering by creating community and connection,” Cole said of the site. “I wanted to make sure that if somebody was in a position – like I have been many times – where you’re isolated, you’re scared, you’re in debilitating pain, and it feels like no one understands what you’re going through, I wanted there to be one landing place where there are experts saying, ‘Hey, these are places you can go to to find a doctor that works for you. These are home remedies that you can use to manage your pain. These are some books and podcasts that you can listen to and read when you are felling crummy so you know you’re not alone.’”
Cole is excited for Blood and Guts and EndoMission.org to be out in the world. She hopes this serves as a catalyst for even more projects – and more conversations – about endometriosis. She encourages anyone who is newly diagnosed, or is experiencing symptoms, to trust themselves and their feelings while also taking action steps that will help throughout the journey.
“Have a little journal or a diary. Find out the one or two people in your life who you know you can tell anything to and will believe you and will galvanize you and have your back. And look to some of these endometriosis support groups and start talking to patients about their symptoms, about what they’re experiencing and about which doctors have been the ones they feel are safe to go to. There are resources on EndoMission.org that you can follow through with so you can know where to go medically, where to go to get more information.”
She added, “I would also encourage people to try hard to not be scared of the diagnosis and the information. The enemy itself is endometriosis and a broken medical system. We want the information. All facts are friendly. Once we know what we have, we can then be equipped with the tools and information we need to deal with it. We can then be validated and ask for the support that we need and we can then – as I say in the film – do our best to live the best life we can in the reality that we’re actually living.”