Finding Faith in Yourself, with Sateria Venable
Episode 139: Finding Faith in Yourself, with Sateria Venable
When Sateria Venable, Founder of Fibroid Foundation, was diagnosed with a fibroid disease, she realized that a support system available to women scarce. Sateria went on to create the Fibroid Foundation to provide a global community with women with fibroids. On this episode, Sateria talks about her history with fibroids and how it helped her discover faith and courage in herself to found the Fibroid Foundation. Sateria also discusses people who have helped her along the way, how fibroids can be treated, and what everyone can do to become an advocate.
00:12 Kristy Wallace: Hello and welcome to the Ellevate Podcast, this is your host, Kristy Wallace, with my co-host, Maricella Herrera. Hi Maricella, how are you doing today?
00:22 Maricella Herrera: Hey Kristy, I'm okay. I do not know what was going on with me. Yes, last night and this morning, I think it was the being sick and then not being sick but I was just so really happy. I found myself walking down the street this morning, going to the subway just smiling, listening to music and being like, "I'm content."
00:43 KW: So I have a different take on that which is... And bear with me here when I say this 'cause I'm thinking aloud, but my husband and I have this dynamic where inevitably if one of us is upset the other one is happy to balance it out. So I may be frustrated with the kids and then he always is okay with it and then vice versa. So you and I have a similar relationship in the work place and you know I've been raving...
01:16 MH: You mean you're my work wife?
01:17 KW: Yes. I've been just raging the past couple days and frustrated about things, and so I'm likely driving you to be very happy and upbeat because you're trying to balance out my mood.
01:31 MH: Maybe, maybe. I hadn't thought about that.
01:32 KW: So, now I know...
01:35 MH: And since I'm usually the one that's kind of in a mood.
01:39 KW: We're a good balance. We're a good balance. Yes, but that makes me happy.
01:45 MH: Yeah, and you know, I thought about you because I've been... I know you were very much into the mindful meditation and started doing it through apps and so I've been using an app to sleep 'cause, like you, I have a bunch of trouble sleeping, so I've been using Calm and it's actually really good because it both has sleep stories, but also meditation. And I swear it's not a pitch but I've been doing it as I'm going to bed, put on the meditation on the background, and I think it's been really good on my mood as well, that and the chiropractor, which is a whole other conversation. My chiropractor's a whole other conversation. But yeah, I don't know.
02:29 KW: It's self care. We talk about that frequently on the podcast, but it goes without saying that it's so important to listen to your body and to invest time in yourself. And I... If our listeners are like me I spent many years saying, "I don't have time, I don't have time." Or another day would pass and I'm like, "Oh, I didn't do that today." But I've found that to really invest in myself... To be my best self as an individual, as a parent, as a partner, as a business leader, spending that time to really take care of myself has been critical.
03:10 MH: Yeah.
03:11 KW: I walked to work today, or almost to work. I live in Brooklyn so I walked as far as I could in Brooklyn until I just hopped on the train for two stops, but it was 3 miles. So it was great, I felt good, I listened to a podcast, I was outside drinking my coffee.
03:25 MH: It's a nice day too.
03:26 KW: But it was really nice because I usually will hop on the train immediately, get into my email and I'm working, working, working, and then I... Not even paying attention to where I'm going and then I get into the office, so this was time to just get out of that to be in my head and to enjoy nature as naturey as you can get walking down a street in Brooklyn but it was nice.
03:45 MH: It's a concrete jungle, it's still a jungle.
03:51 MH: There clearly is a lot of interesting creatures out there. Yeah, no, I think that's great. I can't believe you walked in the morning. I was being so good about getting up for running until the weather changed and I can't do it anymore and it's killing me 'cause I haven't been working out for the last few weeks and so I'm gonna try. I'm gonna try again.
04:11 KW: Do it! I'm gonna hold you accountable. I'll be your accountability buddy.
04:15 MH: I need that.
04:17 KW: Well, so, talking about self care, actually, our guest today, Sateria Venable is really passionate about her body, women's bodies, and creating community and support for supporting women with fibroids, which is something... When she was first diagnosed she realized how little information, resources she had to help navigate this and it was lonely and so she's taken the steps. She's been proactive about creating the Fibroid Foundation so that no women feel alone in this situation. And our health is... Can be scary, particularly when you feel like you don't have all the answers or those answers aren't giving you actually what you need. And I am honored to have Sateria on the podcast today to talk about her work and why she did it.
05:14 MH: Yeah, that's great. Support when you... Like you said, when you don't know the answers, when the answers are not easily available for you, it's super important.
05:23 KW: And with Ellevate, particularly, and I think it's important to mention, we are a community of professional women so oftentimes you would imagine those conversations stay in the professional realm, but if we're being honest, we are all humans so our mental health, our physical health, our beliefs, our passions, what upsets us, what makes us happy, all of those things transcend the walls of an office and finding community to support you in who you are and to show up in your best way possible, is important. So even for those of our listeners who maybe don't have fibroids or don't know someone who does, it's an important podcast and interview to listen to because it helps you to be a better ally for others and helps you to really understand what many of your peers are going through and through understanding how you can best support them. So I hope you enjoy my conversation today and we'll see you here next week on the Ellevate Podcast.
06:40 KW: Sateria, thank you so much for joining me today on the Ellevate Podcast, it's great to have you here.
06:46 Sateria Venbale: Thank you, I'm excited to be here. I love Ellevate, you guys are just great. I joined as a member and I've admired the Ellevate Network from afar for quite some time and I just think it's an awesome women's networking platform.
07:01 KW: Thank you for saying that. And likewise, you and I are two women with passion in our hearts for the work that we do and the impact we have and doing work that is personally meaningful. So would you mind sharing a little bit about what you do because it is so important and I'm just so honored to have you on the podcast.
07:25 SV: Oh, thank you so much. Well, I am founder of the Fibroid Foundation and the Fibroid Foundation is an international, patient founded women's advocacy organization focused on supporting the community of women globally with uterine fibroids, which sadly is vast. Approximately 70% of women worldwide will have fibroids to some degree. And I founded the organization as the Fibroid Foundation, it became that entity five years ago, and I've been advocating for 11 years.
08:05 KW: Wow. Would you mind sharing a little bit about what fibroids are? I think many of us know or maybe have heard the term but get your expertise on this subject matter would be much appreciated.
08:20 SV: Sure. So uterine fibroids are benign uterine tumors, and benign's really important because 99.9% of them are benign, and they are in three places, either outside the uterus, within the uterine wall, or inside the uterus and they can grow to various sizes and if you have symptomatic fibroids they can cause lots of issues with bladder pressure, infertility, month-to-month intense pain and discomfort, and really just be challenging to deal with.
09:02 KW: What brought you to this, why is this meaningful to you, personally?
09:06 SV: So my journey, the uterine fibroids was a very interesting one because I don't have a medical background, I'm trained as an architect and I come from a history of women with heavy menstrual bleeding so when I too, in my 20s had the same symptoms of heavy menstrual bleeding, I thought it was normal and started to cope with it. And then I thought, "There has to be a better way than hemorrhaging month-to-month," because it really takes over your life. So I had two surgeries and each time the fibroids grew back, and each time I had had a lot of difficulty finding the right medical care provider and so out of frustration, I decided to put on my problem solving hat and try to find some answers.
10:00 SV: And at the time people really thought I had lost my mind. Like, "You cannot make this... An organization. No one's going to support you in this." And I encourage women to ignore the naysayers and follow your passion because I believe there's a special energy that infuses your passion when you're focused on it. And so that's what happened. It didn't happen over night, but eventually after surgery number two I started talking with women and was shocked at the statistics, particularly that women of African descent have fibroids to numbers of 80% or more, which is outrageous.
10:42 SV: And so I then started a blog. The blog was the Fibroid Initiative, I started it when I still lived in Chicago. And I had surgery number three which was really, really, really hard to deal with because it was an open myomectomy and that's just a really hard surgery to recover from. And I moved to Washington DC after that surgery, and I thought, "Okay, I'll be near the legislative hub of the country and perhaps I can make some greater strides in the foundation." And that's exactly what happened. I came back, I started... We became The Fibroid Foundation, a registered 501C3 and last year I left my day job because all this time I had really been working two jobs, managing the foundation and working a pretty demanding real estate and business development executive career, and now I'm focused solely on the foundation and it's been a leap of faith, but a very, very gratifying one, that has taken over a decade, ladies.
11:57 KW: Oh my goodness. Well, but I think that that's important to mention because a decade is... That's not... It may seem like a long period of time, but we know many companies take time to grow and to develop and to get that momentum going and so I applaud you for that tenacity and really making this a reality.
12:24 SV: Thank you.
12:25 KW: What has been the biggest struggle? You mentioned initially there were a number of naysayers but I'm very inspired by what you've done here because you've personally faced a problem. You saw that there was not support, you saw that there was not enough information, you saw that there wasn't enough activism around that, and you took the initiative to change that and that is inspiring, that's motivational, but I know it was really hard, you mentioned that. So what were some of the hardest things? But then, how has this really become rewarding for you as well?
13:04 SV: Sure. So I think when I first started advocating it wasn't a topic that was discussed as freely as it is now, and I still think we have some strides to make with really making it a topic that we discuss freely. But when I started advocating it was almost unheard of to talk about periods and menstruation and heavy menstrual bleeding, but now I believe people are much more comfortable and I'm happy for that. And I think that part of our growth is based in the fact that, over time, it has become a topic that is spoken about much more freely. Some of the things I've struggled with are getting a... Developing a network and presence, and fortunately I have a business development background, so growing relationships and getting to know folks are something that I really, really enjoy, so I tried to leverage skill sets from my career, that I was trained for, to this new career and that made it a little bit better. But the biggest struggle, which I really wanna focus on for our listeners, was me having the consciousness to know that I could do this and as soon as that began to grow and my faith in my self, things seemed to fall into place.
14:36 KW: Yeah. How did that faith in yourself grow?
14:43 SV: I was very, very much involved in my career and very busy focused on that and while I enjoyed that career, it wasn't something that I was incredibly passionate about, and so as soon as I started to deliberately carve out time on a regular basis to focus on advocacy work, that's when things really started to shift. That was a big lesson for me because I realized that not much would happen with me working the hours that I was working and I had to make a decision to focus my efforts on a regular basis in a different direction and that took a few different paths. It took the form of advocacy and our fibroid talks which we host and I also worked on designing an undergarment that I thought would help women.
15:46 KW: Wow. That's exciting. You're driving that impact on a number of different ways, product development to creating community, thought leadership and beyond, and I appreciate that. I see that too, confidence can really grow... The more we take that leap and we put ourselves out there and we do the work that maybe we're nervous about or uncomfortable or don't have the confidence, but ultimately you succeed and you learn and you continue to grow and continue to build that confidence. How much has your network really been instrumental in this development and in supporting what you're so passionate about?
16:28 SV: It's been immense. I think some of the key areas in which I'm very grateful that I have a network are women in my personal circle who have opened up to me to share their fibroids journey, the physicians that I've had an opportunity to meet and have developed friendships and working relationships with has been pivotal as well. And you mentioned how has this been rewarding? When we host our fibroid talks, and we actually had one in New York in May and we're going to branch off into DC, Chicago, and San Francisco for 2019, and when we have the talks, the platform is a fibroid specialist in that city will work with us on hosting an event where women can come have a reception, where they can meet one another and have a sense of community, but then get some wonderful information on how they can care for themselves and be treated by a local, qualified physician. And when I have an opportunity to meet women in person and hear their stories and get feedback on how they're doing and if our information has been helpful, it is transformative and it's incredibly rewarding and gratifying and that really lets me know that we have succeeded in making a difference.
18:10 KW: Sure. What should our listeners do if they suspect maybe that they have fibroids? They have heavy periods or some of the other symptoms you've mentioned, but have not had it diagnosed, don't know the next steps, what are those steps that they can take?
18:27 SV: Sure. So, first, I encourage them not to be afraid because there are a lot of treatment options and we... On our website, we have a list of questions that you can take to your doctor. So I would recommend that they schedule an appointment with their obstetrician/gynecologist and take with them either our list, but also add to that a list of the symptoms that are most concerning to them. For some women it's heavy menstrual bleeding, for some women it's pain during intercourse, for some women they have a distended abdomen that is troublesome to them, and they may not have other painful symptoms, but the distended abdomen is something that concerns them. Some women it may be infertility or leg pain, so really personalize and share with your physician what you're concerned about. And then you develop a treatment plan with your physician based on your concerns. And with uterine fibroids some of the surgeries, if unfortunately you will need a surgery, require a lot of expertise and so be sure that you've researched your physician thoroughly and if they are not a fibroid specialist have them refer you out to one. But make sure that you're being cared for by someone who is paying attention to your individual needs and is helping you to develop a treatment plan in the short term and long term to alleviate any fibroid discomfort that you're experiencing.
20:07 KW: Great. And also important is how do we... Those of us that are listening today and beyond, how do we be advocates and supporters of women that are suffering from fibroids? I think oftentimes it's something we may not be aware of and if we are aware of, we don't really understand what we can do to support that person as an individual or also be advocates on a larger stage, if that's healthcare reform or if that's other types of legislation or insurance reform. So what can we do, what can I do?
20:42 SV: That's a great question about how other women can be supportive, and I think that really, Kristy, we need the fellows to be supportive. The women are supportive. [chuckle] So I encourage women to share their stories with the men in their lives because oftentimes the men are still in decision making positions at companies, healthcare or legislative or otherwise, and we need their support and understanding to be able to create platforms and initiatives and approve funding to alleviate this health concern. So I encourage women to be vocal and if you do work with someone or have someone in your life that is suffering with uterine fibroids be understanding of them needing to take a break and down time and don't judge them for that.
21:47 SV: I worked through a lot of fibroid pain in a very intense job. I was at work, a lot of times, when I probably shouldn't have been. And suffering through this pain is not something that gives you a badge of honor, we really promote self care. So if you have the ability to take the down time rather than be at work hemorrhaging and miserable and really putting yourself in a dangerous position, we recommend just taking that time and just taking care of yourself.
22:23 KW: Absolutely. Very, very, important advice. Well, thank you so much Sateria for joining us here today on the Ellevate Podcast. This is such an important topic and I'm really honored that you chose to spend some time with us today to share your story, the ways that you're creating change and driving action, and the ways that we can all be better advocates.
22:47 SV: Thank you. It has been my pleasure and it's been a joy to speak with you.
22:54 KW: Thanks so much for listening to Ellevate. If you like what you hear, help a girl out. Subscribe to the Ellevate Podcast on iTunes, give us five stars, and share your review. Also don't get forget to follow us on Twitter at Ellevate N-T-W-K, that's Ellevate Network, and become a member. You can learn all about membership and all the great things that Ellevate Network is doing at our website, www.ellevatenetwork.com, that's E-L-L-E-V-A-T-E Network dot com. And special thanks to our producer, Catherine Heller, she rocks, and to our voice over artist, Rachel Griesinger, thanks so much and join us next week.
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