Lara Parker is a writer and deputy director for BuzzFeed.com. She currently resides in Los Angeles. When she's not talking about all things endometriosis and painful sex, she's getting high on her couch and watching reality TV with her dog, Pepper.
We were honored to speak with Lara about her journey, her plant allies, overcoming endo-related intimacy challenges, and the future of endometriosis education.
Her first book, Vagina Problems, debuts on October 6, 2020.
Foria: Can you tell us a bit about your journey with endo and how long it took you to get diagnosed?
Lara: I started experiencing pretty severe symptoms when I was a sophomore in high school at just 15 years old. My symptoms were pretty confusing to me at first because I had horrendous periods but I was also experiencing a lot of swelling, bloating, nausea, trouble eating, etc. I went to doctor after doctor looking for answers but no one could seem to figure out why my abdomen was constantly swollen. This carried over into college. One of my most confusing symptoms was my inability to run in the days leading up to the onset of my period. I would be overcome with such intense, mind-boggling pain that I thought I was dying every single time it happened.
One day, when I was in college, I was running on the treadmill at the student center when it happened again. I ended up in the ER after being rushed to the hospital after passing out and screaming on the floor of the women's bathroom. When I arrived at the ER the doctor told me to "take Advil next time." I was shocked. After that, I googled "extreme pain while running" and saw the word endometriosis on a random message board. I started to google more about endometriosis and realized that I had every single symptom. So after that I made an appointment with a new doctor, went in armed with my google search, and said, "I think I have endometriosis. What can we do?" All in all it took me diagnosing myself and 5+ years of doctor's visits to get a diagnosis.
Foria: How has having endometriosis affected your life, and how has that changed over time?
Lara: Endometriosis has impacted absolutely every single part of my life at one time or another. Whether that is friendships, relationships, my career...etc. You name it. The thing about endometriosis that I didn't know until a couple of years ago is that it is a progressive disease. The gold star treatment for endometriosis, and the best chance we have at relief sometimes, is an excision surgery with a specialist. But it can cost thousands of dollars.
I didn't get this surgery until this year... actually just a month ago... because of financial barriers. So because endometriosis is progressive, my pain was getting worse and worse as I got older. I used to think that one day I would just.... be free of it. Now I understand that endometriosis has no cure and that I might never really be free of it. Endometriosis impacts every single part of your body. I think over time as my knowledge about this disease has expanded, my understanding of what it has done to my body has increased which is both good and bad.
Foria: What tools, tricks and techniques do you recommend for experiencing satisfying sexual pleasure despite endometriosis symptoms?
Lara: I highly recommend cannabis lube. I love Awaken! I use it all the time for intimacy, and also just day to day on my lovely vagina to keep her happy. I also recommend getting to know yourself on an intimate level! Masturbate. Figure out what makes you tick.... and what doesn't! I also recommend the OhNut. It's a wearable device that can control the depth of penetration and can make painful sex a little less painful. But I also highly recommend changing your idea of what sex is... or what it can be! Some days I can't do a damn thing at all. Some days even becoming aroused hurts like hell. So on those days, taking a nice hot cannabis bath with my partner still feels intimate without causing me more pain.
Foria: What changes in the world would you most welcome for people living with endometriosis?
Lara: We need the ACOG (American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists) to formally recognize the difference between ablation (bad surgery!) and excision (good surgery!) so that insurance companies will be more likely to cover the procedure. We need medical schools to make sure that students are given a solid understanding of endometriosis and the dangers that it poses. We need weed to be legalized everywhere. And, honestly, we just need people to have a little more fucking empathy. Endometriosis is so, so much more than a bad period. It is absolutely life-threatening in some cases if left untreated. And it is debilitating.
What new and exciting things are you working on these days?
I finallllly just finished all the edits on my book, Vagina Problems, which comes out this fall. It is a book about endometriosis, painful sex, and other taboo things that we're "not supposed to talk about." And outside of that? I'm just looking ahead to when I am healed from this surgery and can hopefully finally feel some relief.
Foria: If you could tell someone who's experiencing issues with painful sex just one thing, what would it be?
I would tell them that it doesn't make them any less lovable or desirable.