Dealing with a chronic condition is a life-long journey — each day may bring a different challenge but that doesn’t have to keep people from achieving our goals.
There are many physically limiting conditions out there that people do not know much about. Spreading awareness and education is so important to better the lives of those affected.
Asa part of our “Unstoppable” series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Diana Falzone.
Diana Falzone is an anchor and journalist who has contributed to Vanity Fair and Buzzfeed. Previously, Diana was a FOX News Digital reporter and host. In 2016, Diana was diagnosed with endometriosis after undergoing emergency surgery. She shared her story in an online essay that went viral and aimed to help raise awareness so other women would not suffer in silence. Now a mother, Diana has made it her mission to raise awareness of endometriosis in part as a paid spokesperson of the AbbVie sponsored campaign, SpeakENDO.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is really an honor. Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
Thank you so much for this opportunity! The story I really want to share began in 2016, when I was diagnosed with endometriosis, a chronic and painful condition affecting one in 10 women of reproductive age in the U.S. After facing many challenges associated with the disease including chronic pain, three surgeries for endometriosis, feelings of isolation and stigma around women’s health, I became passionate about helping raise awareness of endometriosis so other women would not suffer in silence.
Do you feel comfortable sharing with us the story of how you became ill? What did you do to not let that “stop you”?
In 2016, I was at work when I became incredibly sick with debilitating pelvic pain. These were not your typical period cramps. This was stabbing, take-your-breath-away pain accompanied by heavy bleeding and nausea. I had experienced similar pain before, starting when I was 17, but this severe onset drove me to the nearest emergency room where my symptoms were shrugged off as nothing more than the flu or a hormonal imbalance. Despite my best efforts to get a second and third opinion, it took me too many tries to have my symptoms and pain taken seriously by a doctor. It was beyond aggravating to be dismissed by medical practitioners, especially when I already felt physically weak and vulnerable. Unfortunately, this is more common than you might think. It can take up to six to 10 years, and three to four consultations for some women to receive an endometriosis diagnosis.
As a nearly 33-year-old and generally healthy woman, I felt confident something was wrong and I didn’t let other opinions stop me from finding a specialist who really listened to me when I said I was experiencing painful symptoms. The specialist ended up finding a mass in my uterus and additional testing revealed that I had endometriosis. In my case, surgery was recommended to try to remove the lesions and I was told I was infertile.
Can you tell our readers about the accomplishments you have been able to make despite your illness?
My diagnosis changed my whole world in the blink of an eye, shifting my self-identity. I could not have anticipated the many hurdles I would face that would continue to change my life after being diagnosed with endometriosis. It fueled my passion to raise awareness for the chronic condition. In 2018, I went to Capitol Hill to spread endometriosis awareness and brief congressional leaders on, as I like to put it, the endometriosis epidemic. In my testimony, I shared details of my diagnostic delay to underscore the need for continued education and research funding.
With community support, I also successfully lobbied for the first bill in history to teach young people about the signs of menstrual disorders like endometriosis in New York state. It passed unanimously in the State Senate and Congress and was signed into law by Governor Cuomo in late 2019.
I did not let my endometriosis stop me from beating the odds and fulfilling my dream of becoming a mother; I welcomed my son in August 2018.
Challenging experiences such as this highlight the importance of not letting your illness get in the way of accomplishing your goals.
What advice would you give to other people who have limitations?
- Always trust your gut. You know your body better than anyone else.
- Never let ignorance or illness devalue you.
- Speak up early and often about your symptoms. Whether it be to a doctor or your family and friends, using your voice makes you a powerful advocate for yourself and other women.
- Find a doctor who listens to you, respects what you have to say and works with you to identify medical options with which you feel comfortable.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
I’m forever indebted to my parents, Bob and Lucy. When I was 17 years old, I was trying to figure out my path in my life. My dad sat me down and presented me with a book, “The Soul’s Code.” He told me, “We are all born with a fate. You cannot ignore what drives you. If you want to go to college then go. If you want to pursue something you feel more passionate about, your mom and I won’t hold you back.” It meant a lot that they believed in my ability even at a young age to make my own life choices. I was supported 100 percent. Thanks, mom and dad.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I have used my story and my voice to help other women who may have experienced or be experiencing a similar situation to mine. In recent years, I have partnered with AbbVie to spread awareness on endometriosis through their sponsored campaign called SpeakENDO — an educational resource for information on endometriosis to help people fully express their symptoms, advocate for their own care and learn from others who’ve been there.
Can you share “5 things I wish people understood or knew about people with physical limitations” and why.
- Getting diagnosed can be a long journey in and of itself. Support those during their path to and after diagnosis.
- Finding a voice to advocate for oneself may not come naturally. Be open and understanding if someone is speaking up about their physical limitation.
- Sometimes, people with physical limitations may wonder or be told their pain or symptoms are all in their head. Encourage one another to find a doctor who is open to discussing symptoms and treatment options.
- Dealing with a chronic condition is a life-long journey — each day may bring a different challenge but that doesn’t have to keep people from achieving our goals.
- There are many physically limiting conditions out there that people do not know much about. Spreading awareness and education is so important to better the lives for those affected.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
“A comfort zone is a wonderful place, but nothing ever grows there.”
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂
Nancy Pelosi is a powerhouse. She has broken boundaries at every turn of her career. I admire her tenacity, grit and determination. No one gets in her way. She is living proof you can be a doting mother and still achieve career greatness.