10 Questions with a Bajan Endowarrior: Heidi Bowen

We’re continuing to recognize Endometriosis Awareness Month 2019 in Barbados. We are aware they are several persons with this condition on island and so let’s get to know a few local endowarriors with our blog series: “Ten Questions with A Bajan Endo Warrior”.

Today, the 15th of March 2019, we continue our 10 Question Series with Heidi: wife, mother, daughter, friend, entrepreneur and a bajan endowarrior.

(Disclaimer: The discussion which follows is that of a personal experience and does not constitute provision of any medical or professional advice. The experience outlined in not indicative of a typical experience. If you have any questions about your health, always seek the advice of a medical or relevant professional.)

Q1. Who is Heidi? Describe her to us if you don’t mind.

My childhood was idyllic and happy, we travelled a lot and so I was able to experience various cultures and languages. Actually, when I think about it the only activity I was not involved in was Horseback Riding. Cause I was not about to be thrown offa any horse!

I tried everything other than that once and had several opportunities that made it impossible to be bored. I love reading mainly because my parents were voracious readers and made it so that I had to read several books a month apart from my required reading from school.

My family means everything to me. My immediate family has endured and enjoyed all of my trials and successes, that’s how we are, we share, a lot.
I have always been a bubbly, friendly, outgoing person so my friends from 11 years old are still my mainests. Meeting new people is also one of the reasons I have several Whatsapp contacts and social media friends, if I meet you and we click, we will be chatting. I am a very passionate person and I put my everything into any project I find value in.

My daughter Aniyah is my greatest source of motivation, it helps that she is a very spirited toddler and doesn’t let me rest on my laurels . Also, my husband Anderson is my second biggest motivator, he has seen me at my absolute lowest and has always been supportive. We met after my diagnosis and I told him I may not be the one since I was possibly incapable of making him a father, and he said he didn’t care, he loved and wanted me regardless so I knew homeboy was a keeper. He has done so much to keep us happy and well adjusted, and I am forever grateful to God that He brought us together.

Anderson & Heidi

Heidi is a foodie so selecting one favourite food is… problematic. I LOVE TASTY FOOD. One of our ventures Heidi’s House of Souse has morphed into HR’s Fridee Food and we are determined to bring back Fridee Night Limes. Good food, drinks and bomb convo on a Friday night after a long work week is what we guarantee. St. Philip is THE best parish on the island and we are experts on breezing and liming.

I am an island girl, the sea is my second home. If I have a headache, cold, flu, if I’m stressed about an issue or have any type of body pains or aches ( I should be in the sea Daily lol! ), the sea restores me.

The day before I gave birth I was determined to go to my favourite beach for one last dip since I knew after baby came my visits would be less. I made it to the sea. Waddled all the way in to the amusement of onlookers at 6:30 p.m. Dah water was freezing but worth it.

Q2. It seems like you are extremely charismatic and fun-loving! LOL. We know you are an Endo Warrior (hence the interview). Do you mind telling us when were you diagnosed with Endometriosis? Do you know the stage?

At the age of 18 I was diagnosed after a laparoscopy I believe it was categorized as stage 3.

Q3. That’s younger than most we’ve heard of. What were your initial thoughts/reactions when you heard about this condition?

My GP had told me to take Baralgin and exercise more. So as you can appreciate I was a mixed bag of emotions. On one hand I knew from the time my period started that something was wrong, so having a diagnosis was amazing. On the other hand my OBGYN who I consider my angel, and one of the reasons I am a mother today was very frank and let me know that infertility was a definite possibility, but assured me that they would do all they could to help me have a baby when I was ready.

The OBGYN told me and my mother, man appoints but God ordains and I trusted in that.

After my first surgery, when I was 18 I felt like my body had betrayed me, my ovaries were messed up and I always dreamed of being a mother, why would anybody want a woman who couldn’t provide a biological child. And who would want to live with a moody, cranky, ball of pain forever?

It is safe to say that I was upset, but I became very hopeful after surgery. One half of an ovary was removed as well as an 11cm cyst. When that kind of load is taken off you, you tend to move and think a little differently.

Positivity was within my reach and I wanted it, desperately. Twelve years later (and with my second laparoscopy under my belt) in January 2015, my husband and I said we wanted to try for a baby. The OBGYN advised us and kept it real but was determined to help us be parents.

And they did it .

The Bowens

Q4. That was a whirlwind of a journey. We’re happy you were able to conceive successfully! How has your family been supporting you on this journey?

I am in pain daily, I complain about it, I talk about it , I moan about it. I do not hide it. But I keep it moving, and this is because of my mother’s influence. Mummy had no clue during my teens that I had endometriosis, but she kept encouraging me to push past the pain. Every month Mummy forced me to get up and go to school, even if I had had a bad night with cold sweats, vomiting and even a fainting spell or two or three. My aunt, uncle and grandparents were also integral, with their remedies and prayers. My Dad was a little more difficult, he was old fashioned and thought that my pain was just a mental thing.

After my 1st surgery when my Dad understood that there was a real problem, he read all the literature on endo he could and made sure I attended every doctor’s appointment.

Anderson does not let me slack off. If he sees me eating foods that aren’t on my plan or if he realises that i’m not on my game he calls me out and we have a frank discussion.

He is also the one who gives me abdominal, foot and back massages as often as I want. He also makes me work when I’m having one of my painful episodes and just want to lie down in the dark. I need to be productive and not succumb to the pain otherwise depression sets in.

I am never not busy.

Q5. Okay, so the entire immediate family is on board! Great! Is there any other support mechanism out there that has helped you on your journey ?
God, My faith and church family. First Baptist Church big up yaself!!!

So many brothers and sisters prayed with me through recovery and conception, labour and delivery. Most if not all of them know about my struggle with endometriosis and they are sympathetic and know a bit about the condition.

In many ways, their faith bolstered mine at times when I was very emotional and low.

Q6. It’s wonderful you have such a large external support system. What else have you been doing to manage, specifically to maintain your health?

About 6 months ago I decided to change my eating habits and adopt a healthier approach. I eat fruit sometimes now which is weird but necessary. I have always been a veggie girl, and meat causes my endo to flare so I try to keep that minimal. Exercise is my nemesis, but I do try to do it a few times a week and I pray often and take a few minutes every day to nap, read or just breathe. A mental recharge helps me to control the pain and keep away depression.

Q7. As noted before, you started this journey, knowing and dealing with endo, quite early on. In your opinion, what do you think should be done in Barbados to better support women with Endometriosis and/or PCOS?

When I was in the corporate world my immediate supervisors didn’t understand when I explained my condition. Until I had a major flare up prior to my cycle. And then my cycle came and I had to be lifted to the sick bay.

We, the endo warriors have to speak up about our condition, educate people and inform them about the challenges we face and let them know that sometimes we need help. Perhaps some workplaces can offer a work from home initiative for their employees so that absenteeism would not be an issue. In the information age, a constant presence in the office is not always necessary. If that is not feasible, may I humbly suggest that the employers offer shorter work days or flexible entry.

If a lady has a predictable cycle, she may be able to go to work in the morning or evening after having a rest. There are means and ways, management just has to be open minded and the staff must be honest and fair.

Q8. What advice would you have for any young girl who may have painful periods?

Find a gynaecologist- FAST!

GPs are fantastic, and relevant however, a Gynie especially one who is seasoned and sympathetic will leave no stone unturned in trying to determine the cause of the pain.

Do not be afraid of the unknown, be afraid of experiencing that pain and worse for years instead of maybe weeks or months.

Reproductive health matters, but it begins with being proactive.

Q9. Thank you so much Heidi! We’re sure your story and message will help someone reading it. Now it’s your turn! Tell us about any of your current business ventures? Where do you see them in the next 5-10 years?

Moden Makeup is our three tier company we provide beauty education, makeup, hair and bridal services. Our blog is http://www.modenmakeup.com which is run by my sis Lucinda Robinson- an amazing source for all things Beauty in Barbados. Check it out!

Our salon should be up and running by 2021, we also have two side ventures, HRs Fridee Food, we joined the $1 & Loaded Fries families and EZ Deals, where we will be offering Stainless Steel Utensils in super cute packaging for adults & children.

That way if you go out to eat and prefer your own cutlery, it’s in your bag or backpack ready to go! (YAY- Sustainable Living!)

Q10. We’ve come to the end of the interview. One last thing. Can you give us a quote that you live your life by?

The benefits go with the burdens. I believe in balance, life is unstable without it, so when things are grey I comfort myself by saying Heidi girl, it won’t always be this way, hope springs eternal!

Are you or do you know any Bajan Endo Warriors who’d like to share more about their journey? Send us an email at endoassociationofbdos@gmail.com!