Over 400 guests descended on Cipriani 42nd Street in NYC on March 19th in celebration of The Endometriosis Foundation of America’s 9th Annual Blossom Ball 2018. The evening highlighted the struggles women with endometriosis face today, and honored the courage and achievements of Grammy-nominated singer Halsey and World Endometriosis Society CEO Lone Hummelshoj. The two women were recognized for helping shed light on the reproductive disease, which affects an estimated 200 million women worldwide.
The night centered on the theme of women coming together to raise their voices to demand an end to the stigma surrounding endometriosis.
“We are in the midst of the global feminist movement that called out the whisper network and brought issues into the open,” said Dr. Tamer Seckin, co-founder of EndoFound and an endometriosis excision specialist. “You know this [event] was almost one or two tables when we started. This is the change we started. We have spent until now close to $750,000 on research to support endometriosis in different universities from Stanford to Massachusetts, from John Hopkins to the University of Texas.”
The evening was filled with poignant patient testimonials which silenced the room. Girls creator and star, Lena Dunham detailed the trauma of her first period, and her first experience with the disease, at the age of 12. “I was at a state fair,” she recalled, “and suddenly I experienced the most searing pain, and I literally just fell to the ground.” Dunham recently made headlines for revealing she had undergone a hysterectomy in an effort to address her lifelong endometriosis pain. “When I tell people that I had a hysterectomy for endometriosis, I say to them it's a painful choice, but if I wanted to be a mother, which I do, there was no way I was going to be able to be a parent with the level of pain that endometriosis was causing and that hysterectomy in many ways freed me.”
The Resistance Revival Chorus, a group of 25-60 singers who recently performed at the Grammy Awards with singer Kesha, then performed their rousing spiritual, “Woke Up This Morning (With My Mind Stayed On Freedom)”.
Blossom Ball Co-Chair, Dr. Sandra Gelbard, took to the podium to highlight the disparity between the number of women with endometriosis and the lack of knowledge across the medical field.
“Endometriosis is without a doubt the most under-recognized women’s health crisis of our time,” said Gelbard. “As an internist in private practice for the past 12 years, it’s amazing that I only first heard about endometriosis just a few years ago. They never taught me about it in medical school, they never mentioned it in all my years of training, and yet today it’s become an integral part of my practice as I help more and more women manage this disease.”
Fellow Co-Chair Subrata De, a journalist and television news executive, then took the mic and revealed she is a patient of Seckin and Gelbard.
“It’s because of doctors like Sandra Gelbard, Dr. Karli Goldstein and of course, the formidable, Dr. Tamer Seckin, that I can stand here tonight, healthy and with renewed hope that my body is my own again. And it’s because of role models like Halsey, that those of us in the endo community have begun emerging from the shadows."
Halsey, resplendent in a J. Mendel gown, took to the stage to accept the Blossom Award in a ten-minute unscripted heartfelt speech that brought many in the audience, including her partner, rapper G-Eazy, to tears.
“If you’re struggling with endometriosis or any chronic illness for that matter, you need to know it’s not something that makes you weak, it’s about what you have overcome. And every battle that you’re in helps you win the war at the end of the day. Keep talking to your friends, keep supporting your loved ones, to the women in your life, make sure that they don’t feel ashamed to talk about their reproductive rights, to talk about their reproductive experiences, because the only way for this—for us to gain control of this—is to speak about it."
Past recipients of The Blossom Award, which is presented to courageous women in the endometriosis community, have included Susan Sarandon and Lena Dunham.