Q&A featuring Cassandra Klatzkow
When you meet 31-year-old Cassandra Klatzkow for the first time, you can’t help but feel a little star struck, despite not originally knowing her. Her presence is striking. Her crystal-blue bedroom eyes, angelic full-lips, cascading dark-brown hair, unapologetically curvaceous body and wicked sense of style invoke within you both child-like intimidation and deep fascination.
But then you sit down next to her, begin talking to her about normal things like work, kids or dating. You see the way she becomes equally excited and gentle as she handles her best friends’ babies, and you realise that despite originally believing that she’s the reincarnation of Roman goddess Venus, she’s just a normal woman, like the rest of us, making the best of her personal journey through life.
It originally came as a surprise to me when I found out that she’s been combatting endometriosis for more than 20 years. Her deep involvement within the Stockholm community despite dealing with the physical and mental struggles of endometriosis makes you believe otherwise. However, she maintains an active lifestyle working as a brand ambassador, influencer, marketing coordinator at Kulturhuset, body activist for Elise, blogger, member of the Tensta Gospel Choir, and a backing vocals artist for different artists like Min $tora $org.
“I do a lot…Too much maybe,” she admitted.
Despite her busy schedule, we sat down together to talk about her personal experiences with endometriosis, like when she was first diagnosed, how she copes with the pain to persevere both personally and professionally, how she both expects and receives support and what her advice is for others dealing with the condition.
1. When did you first start showing symptoms for endometriosis?
I never thought that I was sick. I got my first period when I was nine years old. Pretty soon after that I started having problems with a lot of pain in my body, especially my back and stomach. I had a lot of headaches and I was always nauseous. But people around me kept telling me that I complained too much, so I thought that maybe I was just being a big cry baby.
2. What helped you personally recognise the connection between your symptoms and having endometriosis?
I never did. One night when I was home with my ex-boyfriend, I suddenly got major stomach aches. I fell on to the floor and screamed. I have never felt pain like that before. After hours of vomiting and fever and pain that wouldn’t go away, I went to the ER.
After a lot of examinations and guessing, a gynaecologist saw that I had a cyst that had broken and caused the pain I felt. He gave me a date and a time for an operation and said that he thinks that I have endometriosis. He gave me a paper with some information about it and said that I can go home. That was the first time I ever heard about endo.
3. How long after showing symptoms were you properly diagnosed?
After the operation. About a month later, the doctors found endometriosis on my organs and gave me the diagnose. I originally received birth control pills for the pain.
4. Did you initially have a good experience with your healthcare provider?
It took me three years after I was diagnosed to understand why I needed a treatment. A woman working with Endometriosföreningen recommended me a doctor and after some waiting I finally got a time with her and she has helped me a lot. Before I met her I never felt that I was taken seriously.
5. What was your initial reaction to your diagnosis?
When I was diagnosed they asked me if I wanted to participate in a study about how surgery on the uterus effected fertility. I said yes. I got a lot of questions about if and when I want to be a mother. They told me that I shouldn’t wait too long. I was then 23 years old, and I got very depressed around that time. I was so sad with the thought that I never would become a parent. That was the biggest sadness for me with the diagnosis, but now I know that almost everyone with endometriosis become parents with or without fertility treatment.
6. What kind of treatment methods were you originally offered?
First they gave me birth control pills, but they made me really depressed. It took me two years of trying 11 different hormonal treatments before I tried an IUD (hormonspiral). I’ve had it in for three years now and I don’t have any periods anymore and less pain problems.
7. Would you consider your current treatment method reliable? Is it more medical or holistic focused?
I think it works for me but I’m scared of course that it will spread. When I read about endometriosis studies from other countries I understand that they treat it different, like in England and USA, than they do here. I eat painkillers and try to work out regularly. When I switch to gluten-free options and cut off sugar, I feel that I have less pain problems.
8. Do you think you’re treated with the respect and understanding you deserve in regards to endometriosis?
People close to me really do support me and respect me emotionally, but I think that’s because I’ve been open and honest about my situation.
9. Is there additional support you wish you received?
I also have fibromyalgia, so I often have a lot of pain in my body. On bad days I really need help at home. I’m not that great at asking people for help, so I would love it if friends and family asked, “Can I come over with food? Do you need anything else?” It’s so hard to ask for that.
10. What do you wish people were more aware of in regards to endometriosis?
I wish people understood that you don’t have to look sick to really be sick.
11. Do you have any advice for girls and women who are experiencing endometriosis?
Join forums and facebook groups about endometriosis. These helped me so much when I first got diagnosed. Don’t be afraid to talk with your friends and family and tell them everything about how you feel and what it’s like to have endometriosis. It will help them understand you and what you’re going through better.