How a Weekly Planner May Help You Find Expert Care and Improve Your Life
by Melissa Velasco, RN
Editor’s Note: The Endometriosis Foundation of Houston has invited guest bloggers to share their work, expert opinions and thoughts with our endo community. This post is an invitation to join a Kickstarter already in progress by EFHou Advisory Board Member Melissa Velasco, RN. The Kickstarter is for the Eighty-Six the Endo Weekly Planner.
I was diagnosed with endometriosis in 2017. At the time, I didn’t really know what it meant to have endometriosis. My superficial research, aka Dr. Google, told me that my endometriosis was caused by retrograde menstruation – a theory I now know is inaccurate. Endometriosis is a chronic, systemic, and inflammatory condition in which cells similar to those of the uterine lining are found outside of the uterus. It’s so important to be clear that these cells are histologically different than the cells in the uterus. All this to say, my understanding of my own disease was inaccurate due to misinformation online and within the medical community. Once I realized this, I developed a newfound passion to correct the misinformation provided by healthcare professionals and to help patients find expert care.
I am a nurse. I am an endometriosis patient. I am a chronic pain warrior. I’ve been suffering from endometriosis symptoms since I was about 12 years old. And yet, somehow, I went through nursing school and five years of professional nursing without realizing that my pain was abnormal.
When I realized everything that I had researched was wrong, I started to seek out accurate information. Of course, this was after I had my diagnostic surgery – a laparoscopic ablation of endometriosis. With this surgery, my pain became incredibly severe. It wasn’t just during my periods and it wasn’t just painful pelvic cramping anymore. After my surgery, I could feel that it was a whole-body disease. (NOTE: Laparoscopic excision of endometriosis by a skilled expert is the gold standard treatment for endometriosis.)
I could not eat most meals without going into a flare of abdominal, joint, and pelvic pain. I could not work without feeling extreme dizziness, nausea, or lightheadedness from the moderate physical activity needed to do my job. I felt like I was letting down my husband, my colleagues, my family, and myself, as I was introduced to a whole new list of symptoms that I would never wish on my worst enemy.
To help me get through the emotional toll that was caused by my severe symptoms, I sought out the support of my family, friends, and the online endometriosis community. But, as many endometriosis warriors know, this disease requires that you do so much more. It requires that you become your own best advocate. Ultimately, I knew that I was the only person who was going to make change happen. Of course, I can’t do surgery on myself, but I knew I could make some lifestyle changes that would potentially decrease my symptoms and improve my quality of life. And I knew that I could fight to be seen and treated by the right specialist.
To start, I began documenting every single symptom, trigger, and emotion. I was finding links between stress, sleep, food ingredients, hydration, and physical activity. I am a very visual person, and I am obsessed with planners, so it was only a matter of time before I began looking for a planner that would help accomplish my goals.
I searched for it everywhere.
I found endometriosis journals, chronic illness planners, endometriosis workbooks, and so much more. But none of them were what I needed. I needed a planner that would allow me to track my daily pain, encourage me to stay hydrated, remind me to take my medications, and empower me to stick to a non-inflammatory diet. But most of all, I needed a planner to help me see trends in my symptoms. I wanted to see if the changes I was making were helpful.
Eventually, I resorted to the bullet journal. It seemed perfect! It would allow me to be creative, while also giving me the flexibility to create templates that worked for me. I made diagrams, dot grids, and charts to help me consolidate a full month’s worth of symptoms. It was especially helpful during my physician's appointments because it reminded me of all the symptoms that I had experienced. Basically, I went into appointments armed with the information that would help my physicians understand the severity of my symptoms.
While using the bullet journal I felt my quality of life improving, because it had become a tool that encouraged me to take care of myself. It had given me that constant reminder that if I focused on all aspects of self-care, I would have decreased pain and symptoms. It wasn’t full proof, but I definitely noticed a change in my symptoms.
Yet, at one point my pain became so severe that even bullet journaling was too difficult to maintain. I had no energy most days and I quickly forgot about the things that helped me feel better. Then one day, I realized that it had been months since I used a planner or journal of any kind, so I restarted the habit and began to see changes again. Then, suddenly, it clicked!
If I was able to create something that improved my own quality of life, wouldn’t that also be helpful to other endometriosis patients? How amazing would it be if I could provide the resources and education to find expert care, while also providing a tool to help endo warriors take charge of their life with chronic illness? What if my planner could help decrease the long delay to diagnosis just by providing accurate educational resources?
And so, I created the Eighty-Six the Endo Weekly Planner. I am still in the early stages of my business, so the planner is currently only available for pre-order, but shipping and sales are set for mid-November! The planner is undated, as endometriosis symptoms can hit at any time, and it includes:
Emergency Medical Information page- just in case!
Medical History & Medications pages- to help you remember the important things.
Monthly Spreads- because they are a must.
Monthly Charting Systems to aid your Healthcare Providers- the GOLD of this planner!
Monthly Income and Bills Tracker- because the brain fog is real.
Weekly Meal Plans and Grocery Lists- to help you stay on track.
Vertical Weekly Spreads- because they are the best!
Daily trackers for meds, hydration, and meals- to keep you accountable and empowered!
And so much more!
I have full faith in the Eighty-Six the Endo Weekly Planner and its ability to bring value to endometriosis patients as they try to thrive in all aspects of life (personal, family, career, school, etc.). If you are interested in pre-ordering yours today, check out my Kickstarter.
And if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by messaging me on Instagram.
Melissa Velasco is a Registered Nurse with over seven years in Oncology care. In the past two years, Melissa has dedicated her spare time to learning, educating, and advocating for proper endometriosis care. This dedication stems from her 15-year battle with this disease that she only learned about three years ago. Since receiving her endometriosis diagnosis in late 2017, she has started her blog (eightysixtheendo.com), volunteered for the American End of Endo Project, and become a member of the Board of Advisors for the Endometriosis Foundation of Houston.