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South Carolina native Samantha Bowick was diagnosed with endometriosis eight years ago. Since then, she has undergone six surgeries, including a hysterectomy to manage the pain. After spending years in agony and struggling to receive an accurate diagnosis, Bowick turned to advocacy. Her book, Living with Endometriosis: The Complete Guide to Risk Factors, Symptoms, and Treatment Options, provides women with information and tools to mitigate their symptoms. Bowick remains an active advocate for the endometriosis community and brings a unique perspective to the Chronic Disease Coalition’s Ambassador Program. We sat down with Bowick and asked her to share her experience. Q: When did you first begin experiencing chronic disease symptoms, and how did you feel after receiving your initial diagnosis? A: I had always had painful periods, ever since I started having them. After I turned 19, I noticed my periods were more painful and heavier. I was exhausted all the time even when I hadn’t done much physical activity, and I was having pelvic pain when I wasn’t on my period. Birth control didn’t alleviate any of my symptoms, which led me to have laparoscopic surgery. I was diagnosed with endometriosis in 2010 immediately following the surgery. My first reaction was relief. I was relieved to have a diagnosis and a name for what I was going through, but that was short-lived. There is no cure for endometriosis, and my condition has led to additional chronic illnesses. Q: Why did you first become involved in advocacy work? A: I first became involved to help deal with having a hysterectomy. I noticed so many women feel the same way, which has led me to be an advocate for endometriosis and other chronic illnesses. It is my goal to help others who suffer with chronic illnesses, because I know how difficult it can be physically, mentally and emotionally. Q: What inspires you? A: Helping other endometriosis patients inspires me. I want them to know they are not alone and it’s not normal to be in pain. Q: What is one piece of advice you would offer to others who are battling a chronic disease? A: It’s OK and it may be necessary to get a second, third or fourth opinion to receive a diagnosis and the answers you are looking for, especially if you feel your doctor isn’t helping or listening to you. It shouldn’t be this way, but sometimes it is necessary to stand up for yourself and seek additional opinions. I know it can be difficult, but try not to get discouraged when finding the answers you need. Q: What is one lesson you have learned from living with chronic conditions? A: Listen to your body, even when people don’t believe what you. You know yourself and you deserve to live a pain-free life. I have also learned that treatment is not a one-size-fits-all solution – what may help one person, may not work for another.