By Liza Zoellick.
Tara began to have issues when she was just 11-years old, which included extreme abdominal pain. She underwent exploratory surgery which resulted in the removal of her left ovary and fallopian tube, due to a very large cyst that cut off blood supply to that same ovary. This was not endometriosis, but the beginning of a long journey with pelvic pain. Since then, she has had 11 surgeries, 5 of which were pelvic related.
As an adult, for four, long years, she experienced pain in her pelvic area. Sharp, stabbing, burning pain in the pelvic area which made it impossible to enjoy sexual intimacy with her then, boyfriend, Jason (who is now her husband). The pain she experienced was not only agonizing but directly impacted her quality of life, as chronic pain can easily do.
The doctor list is too long to recount; doctors who failed to diagnose her condition and, sadly, would have her undergoing several unsuccessful operations. The medical advice she received was so dismal that at one point the OB/GYN recommended that she drink some wine and take some Advil before sex. The last straw for Tara came after visiting a pelvic pain specialist who did not even examine her, but wanted to put her on anti-depressants, to which she declined and ultimately, wanted to cut the part that was hurting her, out. He offered no prognosis and she never went back. This experience, and her experience as a while with her pain, prompted her to take matters into her own hands. She began searching for answers online until she finally came across an article on vulvodynia that would change her life.
A previous experience using neodymium magnets to reduce back and nerve pain after a car accident, prompted a “light-bulb moment,” where she thought that adding the neodymium magnets into a vaginal dilator might offer similar relief. It made sense. So she enlisted the help of her husband to make the device and within two weeks she could have sex again with little pain. Knowing this had helped her and that it could possibly help others, Tara set out to make this device available to women experiencing the pain of vulvodynia.
Aided with the help of medical experts and advisers, she turned her idea into a non-prescription, vaginal dilator device and start-up business: VuVaTech (www.vuvatech.com) which helps to relieve the pain and sexual discomfort experienced by so many women today. She has estimated that the dilator device has allowed over 17,000 women all over the world, including herself, live a more normal life and finally be able to enjoy sex without pain. In conjunction, this device has helped improve relationships, marriages and even helped to expand their families.
It’s important to note here that during this stressful and painful time, her partner, Jason, became her husband and was 100% supportive and caring. He understood that her pain was not an excuse and that the agony was very real. There was also the knowledge that this was not her fault. This understanding and empathy helped an already strong relationship become stronger and now that they were able to have pain free sex it made their marriage more meaningful. Her advice to men: “Please be supportive. Sexual pain should not end a caring, loving relationship.”
Tara Langdale-Schmidt’s story is amazing to me. From her perseverance through her pain, to her determination not to give up on a diagnosis, and to her brilliance on creating something that could help herself- what I truly loved was her desire to help other women suffering. This quote really nailed it for me: “If I never made a cent from my business, it would be fine. My passion and my mission is spreading pelvic pain awareness to women who are not receiving a correct diagnosis from their doctors. Women need to know that they do not have to live with painful intercourse and pelvic pain.” I think this sentiment is something that all chronic pain patients share, to some extent, and especially women who are often not treated in the same way as men. It is something that drives me to write and share my own story with everyone, so they know they are not alone, and sometimes, so they know they are not crazy and something is really wrong with them. It can make all the difference in the world being able to arm yourself with knowledge and better equipped to seek out a doctor who will listen, or maybe a product that can help you.
I can’t tell you how over-joyed I am to be able to share this story with you. I think her story is one that can inspire those of us with chronic pain and illness to take initiative for their health and if they are not being heard, if they are not getting the right diagnosis and are being turned away with dismissive words to keep searching. I often tell my daughters and my girl friends that a doctor is someone with a degree, who can, from study and experience diagnose you but they are not perfect and they do not know your body as well as you do. Don’t be afraid to tell them that you do not want that medicine. Don’t be afraid to take yourself to another doctor for a second or third or fourth opinion. You are important.
Featured image: Tara Langdale-Schmidt and Husband Jason Schmidt
Author: Liza Zoellick is a chronic pain warrior from Houston who has been chronicling her journey through chronic pain and illness on her blog: http://lovekarmafood.com. She is a frequent and valued contributor to the National Pain Report.