Lena Dunham on life after her hysterectomy: ‘I have ups and downs’
Lena Dunham shared one of the most personal challenges of her life with last month when she revealed she had undergone a hysterectomy.
In an essay titled “The Painful Truth,” featured in the March issue of Vogue, the former “Girls” star revealed she had her uterus removed due to her painful struggle with endometriosis. Dunham, who is an honorary chair of this year’s Endometriosis Foundation of America Blossom Ball being held in on Monday in New York, spoke to CNN about her life in the months since her surgery and shared her excitement about getting back to work on her new HBO show, “Camping.”
After you went public with your story in ‘Vogue’ about having a hysterectomy, what was the response?
“I felt deeply supported by other women and deeply seen. It did make me feel better. It made me feel that there was an entire world of stuff that we don’t talk about and it hurts us, and to get to talk about it is so amazing, and to get to really hear from people is just so amazing and to know I was supported and held up and cocooned — it was incredible. It doesn’t take away the pain. The challenges of what you’ve been through or remove your trauma, but it’s incredible.”
How are you doing since your hysterectomy day-to-day?
“I completely have ups and downs. I’m so lucky to have work that I love and an incredible community and friends and family. But yes, of course I do, because just that change in your body, that change in your hormones, that change in the ecosystem in your body is going to rock you and change you in ways you couldn’t have imagined. I think it takes some time to stabilize.”
You’ve said you’ve frozen your eggs [to preserve fertility.] Do you feel the clock is ticking and that you need to do have a child now?
“I’m still really recovering and my surgery was four months ago … I’m really focusing on my recovery. I think to become a parent you need to be comfortable in your own body and understand and have some assurance that it’s not going to fail you. So, I’m taking some time to get healthy. Some women don’t have the ability to take that time. It would be harvesting eggs and putting them into a donor — that would be the situation if I were going to do it and figure out who the donor is going to be and a surrogate carrying the baby.
How do you feel now emotionally?
“I feel like I’m so lucky that I was surrounded by people that had so much love and care and passion for keeping me healthy, and not everybody has that. I’m really an example of somebody that had everything they needed to get the correct diagnosis — and it still took a long time and it still took a lot out of me. What I want more than anything is for that time to be reduced for other women and to be able to talk about this in a way that can help other women to self-diagnose or ask questions to their doctors that they need to ask. That’s one of the reasons why I enjoy being part of the Endometriosis Foundation of America, because it’s a resource. The website can help you figure out what is going on with you.
Do you want to dedicate your life to doing more to raise awareness for endometriosis?
“I feel like anything that is caught in the shadows like endometriosis, that leaves women feeling lonely, that leaves women feeling less than, that is what I want to devote myself to. That’s what I’ve tried to do with my work and in my life, and that’s what I feel my job is. So, yes, endometriosis is one of the things I really want to talk about, and I want to talk about everything that is stuck in the shadows for women that they don’t feel they can discuss.
I know you are returning to television with “Camping” on HBO. When does that start shooting?
“We start shooting at the beginning of April and back to TV in the early fall. We are so excited about that. I love working, and I love HBO, and I love my family there, and my creative partner, Jenni [Konner]. I feel really excited.
Do you see yourself wanting to be more behind the scenes in the future instead of in front of the camera?
“That is not a decision I’ve made. The next couple of years are going to be very formative for me. I’m really going to figure out exactly what I’m feeling and exactly what feels the most inspiring and what feels the most exciting.
In this #Metoo movement we are living in, and being a woman with such a strong voice, what is your role to play right to help other women find their voice?
“I think it’s just important to keep making art and for women to keep expressing the truth of their reality through the work they are making. That, for me, is the most essential thing. If I can support other women in doing that, mentor them or talk about my experience either with my work or my health, then that’s what I will do.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.