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National Endometriosis Month: Justice's Story + Raising Awareness

Less than a week before her death, my daughter, Justice, and I were driving down an eastern Montana highway having a heart-to-heart talk. Justice was never uncomfortable with discussing death and her final wishes. So on this day, while digging deep into conversation, Justice reminded me that if anything should ever happen to her, she wanted her body to be donated or to organ research.

Justice and I had these conversations numerous times, but I listened with deep understanding and, at that moment, promised her that I would.

Justice passed away, suddenly, in June 2020, from a car accident. She was 18 years old, full of life, joy, and hope. Although, through the heartache of losing Justice, I kept my promise I had made days before, and we donated her beautiful body to research.

You see, Justice—like three generations of women in our family—had spent the last four years leading up to her death in constant pain from a condition called endometriosis. Endometriosis is a painful disease where tissue grows outside the uterus (on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and pelvis).

So Justice and I did what my mom and I had done many years prior. We went from doctor to doctor. Justice took the available medicine, had the surgeries, and toward the end, a hysterectomy was the best answer to give her relief and the possibilities of a healthier life.

During the last four years of life, Justice said these words repeatedly.

"Mom, I don't feel good."

"Mom, I just threw up. I can't make it to school."

"Mom, call the doctor. I am so sick."

"Mom, I think I need to go to the emergency room. My pain is so bad! There is something wrong with me."

Instead of Justice going through high school like a typical teenage girl, she struggled with the pain, missed more school than most, and had a dark cloud following her around. It was likely she would need a partial hysterectomy by the age of 20.

The preparation process alone would take significant time, money, and strength, both physical and emotional, before ever having the surgery. Since Justice wanted to have children, this was her only option.

To paint the picture of how difficult this would be, I'll walk you through the process. First, Justice would have to take fertility medicine to produce viable eggs. During this time, she would receive extensive counseling to ensure she was comfortable with her decision to have a partial hysterectomy. Second, her eggs would be extracted–a very invasive and painful process–and frozen. Third, she would undergo the major surgery involved in removing her ovaries. Finally, when she was ready to have children, she would have one of her fertilized eggs artificially inseminated into her uterus. This proposed option was the closest Justice ever got to a cure.

As a survivor myself, I knew all-too-well what she was going through because the only cure I ever found for endometriosis was a partial hysterectomy. Removing my uterus was the best money I ever spent. It was like taking poison from my body, instant relief. But to think of my daughter going through that, and at such a young age, was heartbreaking.

And at the time of my first surgery, doctors truly believed a cure would be developed by now.

It's been 25 years. There is still no cure.

March is Endometriosis Awareness Month, and like Justice, more than 6 1/2 million women suffer from this disorder. Through research, I hope Justice's body can help find a cure. I believe Justice's death is part of a greater purpose to help women everywhere who have endometriosis. I hope Justice's story will encourage other women to share their stories and fight for a better, healthier life.

Now is the time to invest in research. Now is the time to end this suffering for women. Now is the time to become aware. Do it for Justice.

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