The condition, in which endometrial tissue grows outside the uterus, impacts an estimated 176 million women between the ages of 15 and 44. An exact cause is not known, and symptoms can include excessive bleeding, severe menstrual cramps that are felt in the abdomen, lower back and pelvic area, as well as fatigue and even infertility.
The only way to diagnose endometriosis with certainty is through laparoscopy, a minor surgery, according to endometriosis.org.
"I thought it was my body reacting to my cycle," the model told Fox News Digital. "That’s what doctors had suspected… And I have always had bad back pain – horrible, awful, awful, awful back pain – three weeks out of the month. And over the past six to eight months, I had a lot of pain in ways that I just didn’t even know were possible. I was like, ‘This is so horrendous.’"
The 24-year-old said she met with several different doctors to find out what was wrong. She said only one suspected it was endometriosis and recommended laparoscopic surgery. A wary Robinson postponed the procedure. Despite the possibility of finally having relief, the idea of going under anesthesia was frightening to her.
"I was getting a little bit of medical anxiety," she admitted. "I wanted to be certain if I was doing the surgery that it was with purpose… But we did it, and we found [endometriosis]. It has been very interesting comprehending all that."
"Something I always talk about is… being your own best advocate," Robinson explained. "What would your mom, your spouse, or your best friend say to the doctor if they saw you in that much pain? That’s how you have to speak about yourself… I downplayed my pain a lot of the time… I wondered, ‘doesn’t it hurt all women sometimes?’ I just thought it was normal… But I’m now seeing a glimmer of hope."
Robinson has been healing from the surgical procedure. However, she noted that the experience has left her "feeling anger and frustration."
"It’s like nobody believed me, I was right," she explained. "I kept advocating for myself. I kept pushing and it still took this long. [But] I’m at a place where I can finally, hopefully, heal. I’m starting to feel like doing certain things doesn’t hurt when it used to. And that’s huge… It’s been great. I feel great today. [After the surgery], it took two and a half weeks for me to start to feel like myself again."
In 2022, Robinson was chosen among thousands of submissions to be flown to the Dominican Republic and be photographed by acclaimed SI Swimsuit photographer Yu Tsai. Her photo was featured in the 2022 issue, which included cover girls Kim Kardashian, Maye Musk, Ciara and Yumi Nu.
Robinson described the experience as "one of the greatest joys of my life."
"It truthfully gave so many people – so many women – hope," she said. "It’s changing the way that we’re looking at bodies, and we’re accepting bodies in all industries, especially one that’s so intimate, like swim. It showed me posing there without going on a crazy diet or without doing all the body sculpting… By the way, we only had 10 days to prepare [for it]… I wanted to set an example and show that if you’re dealing with a health issue, mental health issue, a body image issue, you could show up as you are and wear the damn bikini and love it and have a fun time and feel super sexy and hot. And I feel like I succeeded in doing that."
Robinson noted that the experience allowed her to raise awareness on coping with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. The connective tissue disorder causes chronic pain and makes one prone to bruises and injuries that can be slow to heal. Robinson received her diagnosis when she was 11 years old.
"It has unleashed this wave of acceptance within the chronically ill community to show up as you are and be OK with it," said Robinson about posing for the magazine. "And it’s just been incredible to get some of these messages from people all around the world. It was a moment where I felt like I needed to do this, and I did it… [The issue was] the true manifestation of being there, speaking out, using my voice. And I did it. I’m just really grateful that Sports Illustrated Swimsuit saw that in me."
The first swimsuit issue ran in 1964. It has been a launching pad for models such as Kathy Ireland, Christie Brinkley, Elle Macpherson, Kate Upton and Ashley Graham.
Over the years the issue has tried to stay fresh with painted bikinis, plus-sized models, unedited photos, tiny swimsuits, amputee models, older models and the addition of professional athletes and celebrities in relationships.
In 2018, the issue acknowledged the #MeToo movement by featuring the likes of gymnast Aly Raisman and model Sailor Brinkley Cook posing nude with words like "Every voice matters," ″Survivor" and "Abuse is never OK."
Today, Robinson hopes to use her platform in raising awareness of a personal health battle many women can identify with. Olivia Culpo, who previously appeared in SI Swimsuit, has also spoken out about her struggles with endometriosis.
"I think in general we are getting more and more comfortable talking about health issues and normalizing them online," Robinson explained. "And in doing so, I think it gives people with the platform responsibility to share [their experiences] because it makes others feel less alone in their journey. And it could also inspire them to take direct action to get help. It could potentially lead to a diagnosis… We have to trust our intuition, right? My intuition told me to keep pushing no matter what. And so, I did, even if it took this long. Endometriosis can affect your fertility, your relationships. Therefore, I think speaking out about something so personal and so intimate and so serious is important. It will allow others to feel less alone and fight for answers. And this applies to all health issues.",
These days, Robinson is looking forward to a healthier happier future. About two years ago, she decided to stop drinking.
"I was just like, ‘I don’t know if I really need this in my life,’" she recalled. "If I’m already dealing with all these health issues, I don’t want to exacerbate them. I don’t want to put my body in a state of stress. It felt like I was gaining more control over my health, even though I’ve never had an issue with alcohol to start with. [But] it’s not good for your gut health, and it’s not good for your body… Think about how you feel when you’re hungover… Why would I put my body through that if I don’t have to? It was a personal choice. I did for a month and then for three… It felt easy… I would much rather have a mocktail and enjoy everyone’s presence intentionally and honestly, and have lucid conversations… I would say, if you are sober curious, try it out."
"It feels freeing to talk about my experiences," said Robinson. "I hope others will feel encouraged to use their voices, too."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.