© ENDOMETRIOSIS is a devastating, painful gynaecological disease that affects women all over the world, with research showing that in every 10 women, one has the condition.
Endometriosis occurs when the tissue that is similar to the lining of the uterus grows in other places throughout a woman’s body, presenting intense debilitating symptoms with pelvic pain being the most common symptom, affecting 75 percent of women with the disease.
While the disease is well documented in developed high-income countries, in third world nations it is foreign, perceived to be a “whites” illness, and due to lack of knowledge and data concerning it, thousands of women are left in excruciating pain, clueless and hopeless.
Tinevimbo Terry-Anne Matambanadzo is one woman who bears witness that endometriosis is a real disease that can affect anyone regardless of skin colour or creed.
She has lived with the disease for the past 10 years and her story is that of hope, resilience and finding the purpose in one’s personal pain.
Popularly known as Tine Mataz, the Turning Pain into Power author, is an endometriosis warrior and women health rights advocate who has dedicated her life to be the voice and an advocate for women living with the disease.
Just like the title of her book, she believes pain can be turned into power and she is the epitome of that.
Her passion for women reproductive health saw her founding the Zimbabwe Endometriosis Support Network and the As I am Foundation to raise awareness and support other sisters who live in pain.
“They say there is strength in numbers, and I believe that through my organisations, women can give each other strength to fight for another day,” Tine told the Daily News on Sunday.
“As Zimbabwe Endometriosis Support Network, not only are we creating awareness, initiating dialogue and creating a safe place for women to share their pain, get guidance and support through their endo journeys, but we are also giving back.
“We help disadvantaged women and girls with donated sanitary wear to help them to bleed with pride.
“Sometimes our sisters can’t afford (sanitary) pads and medication and that’s a nightmare when you have constant bleeding and constant pain.”
She added that endometriosis is an expensive disease and often leaves women unable to work or support themselves.
“No cure for endometriosis has been discovered so far and those living with the disease opt for alternative treatments like acupuncturists, massage therapists, nutritionists, and pain relief medications to handle the pain.
“The symptoms can make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for women to navigate everyday life, and for women in low-income, impoverished countries, these symptoms make an already strenuous life that much more exhausting.”
Research has shown that a lot of ladies suffering from endometriosis find holding down their jobs quite a challenge because it would take a very empathetic boss to let one deal with the chronic pains, lengthy recovery periods after surgery, and constant appointments with the doctors.
Through her As I am Foundation, a community based non-profit organisation that assists underprivileged people to become financially emancipated and empowered by making vocational skills like (craft making, beauty therapy courses, jewellery making and agriculture) available to them, Tine is trying to bridge that financial gap that makes it even more difficult for women living with endometriosis.
“I talk to women almost every day encouraging them to hold on and keep fighting because I believe God made everything for a purpose. Endometriosis significantly impacts women not only physically, but also emotionally,” she said.
Born to a famous radio personality Tich Mataz, Tine’s beautiful life took a twist at the age of 16 when she started having side pains (pelvic), and with time, she also started having panic attacks and her cycle started to change.
“I used to journal my menstrual flows, but when I realised that the days were now longer and it was now occurring more frequently, I went to our family doctor and he said it could be stress because I was writing my examinations, but it never went away,” Tine said.
“I was naturally a big girl, but then l started to lose weight. I could not understand the changes, l became very depressed, and I could not enjoy my life anymore. The pain was just bigger than me.
“When I consulted a doctor, I was told I had kidney stones.”
After spending years in search for answers on what was happening to her, she finally got a breakthrough in 2015 when a doctor in South Africa diagnosed her with endometriosis.
Unfortunately for her it had already spread to her bladder and uterus. She had stage four endometriosis, which was very severe.
“I went through surgeries as the doctors were trying to find out what was wrong with me until the last operation where the doctors told me that I was right about my suspicions that I had endometriosis,” she said.
“I started taking contraception and medication for endometriosis and was told I would be fine. I kept taking the medication, but nothing changed. I was then told that endometriosis has no cure.
“Endometriosis is one of the most excruciating illnesses, yet many people have never heard of it. I took the initiative to write a book in order to assist my sisters to understand what the disease is all about.”
Tine added that her life has been a bit rough characterised with 24/7 pains, morphine and tramadol to ease the pain, yet she smiles all the way and tries to live her life happily through assisting others.
“It has been a difficult journey as I am in pain 24/7, but I am here and thriving. I recall sometimes I would stay up until 3am after taking morphine and tramadol and still failing to sleep due to the pain,” she said.
“I urge all women and girls not to ignore pelvic pain when it starts, early diagnosis is key. It can start with just severe pain with your period then it can begin to fester and pain becoming your life.”
Through her organisations, Tine helped 780 young women in 2019 and thousands of girls in the past years.
She gives emotional support, and counselling to women affected by the disease.
Growing up, she always wanted to be a medical doctor, but she is very satisfied and comfortable with where she ended up doing.
She is a trained psychologist and happy that she is a doctor in a social sciences way.