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Christine Eads

Christine Eads has worked in film, television, and radio for more than 15 years. She serves as one of the hosts of SiriusXM Radio Inc.'s program Broadminded exit disclaimer — on channel 107. She pitched the idea for Broadminded to SiriusXM radio because she was tired of hearing women in the same old roles in talk radio — as sidekicks while men had the spotlight. The show is now in its fifth year.

Christine founded The Duffy House exit disclaimer, a safe house for women and children who are survivors of sexual assault and domestic abuse. She is also the spokesperson for Rachel's Well exit disclaimer, an organization whose mission is to improve women's health by removing barriers to care and by stimulating research. Christine lives in Virginia with her nine-year-old son, Aidan.

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Please read our disclaimer regarding this interview.

Interview With a Woman Who Overcame Two Traumas and Now Helps Others: Christine Eads

By the time she was 31 years old, Christine Eads faced two blows to her reproductive and mental health. First, in her early 20s, she was violently sexually assaulted. Her attacker was never found. Then, a few years later, she was told she would never be able to have children due to primary ovarian insufficiency (POI). Despite this devastation, Christine uses her inner strength and past experiences to help others. Read her triumphant story and how she believes in family support and being a patient advocate.

What is POI?

POI is a reproductive health problem that occurs when a woman's ovaries stop working normally before she is 40. POI is not the same as early menopause. Some women with POI still get a period now and then. But ovulation problems can make getting pregnant hard for women with POI.

How long did you know something was wrong before you were diagnosed with POI?

When I was a teenager my menstrual cycle was never regular. I got my first period late in my teens. Then in my twenties my period completely stopped and it took six years to get a diagnosis.

What symptoms did you have? What did your doctors think was the problem?

At first my period would come every three to four months and it was really light. Finally, when I was 25, it just stopped coming all together. Over the next five years I saw a dozen doctors who told me that I had everything from depression to a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Some told me I was too skinny. Others told me I was too fat. Some doctors said I needed to take birth control pills and others told me to stop taking birth control pills. Of course all these diagnoses were wrong and that just brought me back to square one.

Through all of that, I also had terrible mood swings and I would wake up in pools of sweat. I was told that was a side effect of the antidepressants I was taking. Then, when I was 29, someone recommended I see Dr. Nelson at the National Institutes of Health exit disclaimer (NIH) — so I did. He diagnosed me with POI.

What was your initial reaction to being diagnosed with POI?

I was devastated. I wasn't ready to have kids at that point in my life. But, I had always dreamed of having a huge family with tons of children. That was taken away from me. I was also really angry at the doctors who didn't diagnose me properly. I thought if they had, I might not be in this situation.

How did getting the right diagnosis lead you to better treatment and health?

Everyone at the NIH was amazing. I had everything from eye exams to therapy sessions. They always told me the next steps. I had osteopenia from a lack of estrogen, so I had bone density tests done right away. I also suffered from dry eye which they also figured out quickly. I now wear an estradiol patch, which helps control some of my symptoms. I take progesterone to induce my period. I also take high doses of vitamin D and calcium.

How has having POI changed your life?

Before I was diagnosed, I had no idea this disease existed! Nor did I know the number of women it affects. I am so blessed that it didn't completely take away my ability to have children. I was able to get pregnant, and now I have a nine year old son — my miracle baby. I always wanted a big family but biologically that will not happen. While talking to Dr. Nelson and getting counseling at the NIH, I realized there might be children out there that needed me. So, I became a foster parent. The first girl I fostered is now a permanent part of our family. She is 21 with a son of her own. So I think of myself as a grandma! They say everything happens for a reason. Sometimes we may struggle before finding the good in a situation. I certainly struggled. But look at me now - big family here I come!

What would you recommend to other women who may have an abnormal menstrual cycle or other symptoms similar to yours?

Get to a doctor that knows what they are doing right away. Like Dr. Nelson says, "Your menstrual cycle is a vital sign, take it seriously." It can tell you so much about your body. If you aren't getting your period, it is a problem. I hear women all the time saying they skipped a month and how happy they were. They shouldn't be. I would take years of cramps and heavy bleeding over what I went through. If your period is irregular, go to your gynecologist and ask a million questions until you are satisfied.

Also, don't be embarrassed to talk to family and friends about what is happening with you. POI, or other disorders, may run in your family and you may not know it. I didn't tell anyone and I wish I did. I want POI to be as well known as any other disease. Your doctor can give you a simple blood test to determine if you have it. The idea that "your menstrual cycle is a vital sign" needs to be posted in every doctor's office!

How would you tell other women to solve their own "medical mysteries" and be proactive patients?

Go with your instincts. If you feel a diagnosis doesn't make sense to you, follow your gut. You are your best advocate for your health so don't take "no" for an answer. Ask for tests. If one doctor won't do it, find one that will. Do your research. When I was going through all of this, the Internet and websites like womenshealth.gov weren't around. But be aware that there is also bad information on the Web. Know the kind of websites (like government sites) that have trustworthy information. Never ever give up. It is your life and your body.

How do you use your media platform as a radio talk show host to help other women?

I try to interview as many doctors about women's health issues as possible. A lot of people don't take an active stand for their own health. So if they hear about a health issue on my show, they might go see a doctor and get the help they need. I also like to interview women with health issues. It is always better to know you are not alone.

So, while you were trying to get a proper diagnosis for your POI, something unbelievable happened to you. Would you mind sharing that with us?

Back in 1994, when I had just graduated from college, I was coming home from work when a man in a mask carrying a gun attacked me. I was abducted, robbed, and sexually assaulted. My assailant still hasn’t been found.

In the weeks following the attack, I stayed with my family and had support and love around the clock. I don't think I would have made it without my family. I quickly learned that a lot of people who experienced violence have no support. There were a few safe houses available for women at the time, but only for victims of domestic violence. RAINN exit disclaimer and the National Sexual Assault Hotline exit disclaimer are wonderful organizations that help survivors, but I wanted to give back in the same way I was helped. I wanted to provide a support system for a survivor that is like a family. So, when I finally felt strong enough, I started The Duffy House exit disclaimer. The Duffy House offers services, including a safe place to stay, for women after sexual assault or domestic violence.

How do you fund the Duffy house? How many women have you helped?

Right now, Duffy House is funded solely through corporate and individual donations. We are a relatively new non-profit so we are working hard to get the word out about what we want to do. While we raise the funds to build our own long-term house, we are helping survivors with emergency shelter, court advocacy, individual counseling, and a wonderful therapeutic riding program. Our most recent event was on May 7, 2011, when we had our third annual Duffy Day of Pampering. We brought in women from area safe houses and gave them manicures, pedicures, facials, massages, meditation therapy, and much more. We babysat their children and the kids played laser tag, went horseback riding, and played on an interactive bus.

How does being a sexual assault survivor help you relate to the women you help at The Duffy House?

I know exactly what they are going through. A lot of people sympathize with situations, but I think it's good to meet someone that has overcome the same situation you're in. You know that you will survive and you can get your life back. There were a lot of times when I just didn't know how to get past it. Now those thoughts never cross my mind. I just look forward to helping someone else see that life is worth living.

Content last updated July 01, 2011.

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