BELTON, Texas — Anita Hancock is a mom of three out of Belton.
For the last few years, she has been living with chronic pain throughout her body.
After visiting dozens of doctors who were unable to help, she finally found a specialist who confirmed what she already knew. She was dealing with a common disease among women called Endometriosis.
"It's a sense of relief but still a battle because there's still those hurdles," Hancock told 25 News. "Though you have that specialist who validated that there's something going on in your body, they can't take care of all of those things."
Hancock said she didn't feel she was being heard by most of her doctors. Even after she had the diagnoses, she said they still wouldn't treat her or acknowledge the disease at all.
"These doctors they make you feel like it's in your head," she said of her experience. "I've had them throw depression medicine at me and say you're exasperating the pain that you're feeling."
Endometriosis is when a woman's uterus inner-lining tissue grows on the outside. It can bring a wide range of symptoms and severity, which can make it hard to diagnose.
"The reason some people get diagnosed after so long is because the presentation can be so varied and the severity can be so varied," said Dr. Jocelyn Wilson, family physician at Baylor Scott & White. "Like oh I have a bit of stomach pain, oh I'm struggling with infertility, oh I have another issue. I think that's why so many women struggle with what's wrong."
Some women have constant pain all over their bodies which can get worse during their cycles and even cause infertility, but symptoms can also be as subtle as just nausea, acne, or asthma.
"Every woman's story with it can be varied, but it's very common, benign and the symptoms can be anywhere from mild to severe," Dr. Wilson said.
The Endometriosis Association labeled March as Endometriosis Awareness Month back in 1993 to inform the public more about the disease.
"Because society conditions us to not take this seriously, sometimes women and girls don't and they actually are jeopardizing their own future," said Mary Lou Ballweg, president and executive director of the Endometriosis Association. "I'm not blaming them. Just saying we have to find a to counter this social conditioning."
Ballweg started the association after her own battle with the disease. She said the whole purpose is to raise awareness.
"3/4 of the women in our research registry were told by physicians they're symptoms are psychological," she said. "It's such a strange thing since there are many, many symptoms."
She said especially young women can be impacted when their pain or symptoms are not being taken seriously.
"The younger they are, the more susceptible they are to a loss of self-confidence, a loss in the belief to be able to read their own body, a loss of willingness to share their symptoms," Ballweg said.
Hancock said her mental health was also compromised after not being taken seriously. Now she encourages other women to stand up for themselves.
"Keep fighting, do research and find a doctor that's going to listen," Hancock said for women currently dealing with this.
For more information on the disease, you can visit the Endometriosis Association homepage.