People

Lena Dunham on what having an ovary removed taught her about strength

Posted by
Kayleigh Dray
Published
Lena Dunham on what having an ovary removed taught her about strength

“Our stories don’t have to look one way, our pain is our gain and, oh s**t scars and mesh panties are the f**king jam,” writes Lena Dunham.

Earlier this year, Lena Dunham underwent a total hysterectomy after “years of complex surgeries measuring in the double digits” and countless unsuccessful attempts to manage her symptoms using “pelvic floor therapy, massage therapy, pain therapy, colour therapy [and] acupuncture.”

Now, the Girls star has confirmed that she has had her left ovary – which was “encased in scar tissue and fibrosis – removed after it began pressing down on her nerves and making it difficult for her to “walk, pee or vamp”.

“Over the last month it got worse and worse until I was simply a burrito-shaped like a human,” she wrote on Instagram, alongside a photo of herself lying in a hospital bed.

Reflecting on her health journey so far, Dunham went on to acknowledge all of the hurtful comments and ‘advice’ she has received from people over the past few months.

“A lot of people commented on my last post about being too sick to finish promoting my show by saying they thought my hysterectomy would have fixed it (so did I),” she noted. “That I should get acupuncture and take supplements (I do). That I should see a therapist because it’s clearly psychological (year 25, y’all. These are the fruits!).

“But a big lesson I’ve learned in all this is that health, like most things, isn’t linear – things improve and things falter and you start living off only cranberry juice from a sippy cup/sleeping on a glorified heating pad but you’re also happier than you’ve been in years.” 

Dunham continued: “I feel blessed creatively and tickled by my new and improved bellybutton and so, so, so lucky to have health insurance as well as money for care that is off my plan. But I’m simultaneously shocked by what my body is and isn’t doing for me and red with rage that access to medical care is a privilege and not a right in this country and that women have to work extra hard just to prove what we already know about our own bodies and what we need to be well. It’s humiliating.

“My health not being a given has paid spiritual dividends I could never have predicted and it’s opened me up in wild ways and it’s given me a mission: to advocate for those of us who live at the cross section of physical and physic pain, to remind women that our stories don’t have to look one way, our pain is our gain and, oh s**t, scars and mesh panties are the f**king jam. Join me, won’t you?”

Of the accompanying image, Dunham added: “My mother took this picture after I spent 9 hours in the post op recovery area with v low blood pressure that nurses were diligently monitoring. I was so out of it that I thought I looked sensually moody a la Charlotte Rampling (turns out it was more of a constipation vibe.)”

Dunham has always been willing to talk about how she suffers from endometriosis in order to raise awareness about the chronic and debilitating women’s health condition. In the months leading up to her hysterectomy, though, there had been a number of flare-ups. Indeed, one health scare saw her rushed to hospital, inspiring Dunham to record an episode of her Women of the Hour podcast directly from the emergency room to better show the impact the painful condition can have.

“I’ve been hurting more and more,” she said at the time. “I started antibiotics, didn’t do anything, and the pain in my back and my pelvis has become overwhelming and so I’m here to figure out if I have an ovarian cyst or some other kind of ovarian issue that’s causing the continuous pain that is draining me of my life force.”

Endometriosis is “the name given to the condition where cells like the ones in the lining of the womb (uterus) are found elsewhere in the body,” explains Endometriosis UK.

“Each month these cells react in the same way to those in the womb, building up and then breaking down and bleeding. Unlike the cells in the womb that leave the body as a period, this blood has no way to escape.”

The condition can cause painful and/or heavy periods, as well as fatigue, bowel issues, bladder problems, depression and infertility.

Around 1.5 million women in the UK are currently living with the condition. Endometriosis can affect all women and girls of a childbearing age, and can have a significant impact on their life in a number or ways.

However, with the right endometriosis treatment, many of these issues can be addressed, and the symptoms made more manageable.

Image: Getty

Topics

Share this article

Author

Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

Recommended by Kayleigh Dray

  • People

    Lena Dunham has penned a powerful essay about her hysterectomy

    The Girls star made the difficult decision to have her uterus and cervix removed in a bid to end her endometriosis pain

    Posted by
    Kayleigh Dray
    Published
  • People

    This is how Lena Dunham feels nine months after her hysterectomy

    “This body is stronger than I’ve ever given it credit for.”

    Posted by
    Susan Devaney
    Published
  • Long Reads

    "I've waited 10 years for an endometriosis diagnosis. Why?"

    When will doctors finally take women's health seriously?

    Posted by
    Mattie Lacey-Davidson
    Published
  • People

    Halsey absolutely refuses to let male managers make her feel ashamed of her endometriosis

    “This is a reality for me and you need to suck it up and deal”

    Posted by
    Kayleigh Dray
    Published
  • People

    Lena Dunham talks about painful endometriosis battle in podcast

    “I felt like I’d done something terribly wrong just by wanting to feel better”

    Posted by
    Kayleigh Dray
    Published

Other people read

More from People

More from Kayleigh Dray