Marilyn Monroe is remembered as many things: a blonde bombshell, a sex symbol, and a woman struggling with drug abuse who died far too soon.
But there’s one thing we hardly ever hear when we reflect on Monroe’s legacy: that just like one in ten women around the world, she was diagnosed with endometriosis.
It's believed the actress suffered from the chronic and incurable illness for most of her adult life, until her death in 1962.
Thanks to actress Lena Dunham, who uses her own influence to raise awareness of endometriosis, we've been reminded at just how heartbreaking Monroe's battle with the disease must have been.
Dunham's post on Instagram brought to light a little-known story about Marilyn Monroe, recorded in several books about her. In April of 1952, the actress was admitted to the Cedars of Lebanon hospital where she was to have her appendix removed.
It has been written that as the procedure was about to begin, doctors pulled back her gown to find a note taped to her stomach.
The letter, addressed to her surgeon, Dr. Marcus Rabwin, begged him to keep her ovaries intact.
Marilyn Monroe taped note to her stomach for appendix surgery c.1952
"For God's sakes Dear Doctor no ovaries removed" pic.twitter.com/08DrudiB38
— Photos and Bacon... (@photosandbacon) June 12, 2014
"Cut as little as possible...I know it seems vain but that doesn't really enter in to it," Monroe wrote.
"The fact I'm a woman is important and means much to me.
"Save please (I can't ask enough) what you can – I'm in your hands. You have children and you must know what it means – please Dr Rabwin – I know somehow you will!
LISTEN: Mia Freedman speaks to her cousin, Syl, about a chronic endometriosis diagnosis, and how it turned her into a warrior. Post continues after audio.
"Thank you – thank you – thank you – For God's sakes Dear Doctor no ovaries removed – please again do whatever you can to prevent large scars.
"Thanking you with all my heart."
In his book, They Knew Marilyn Monroe: Famous Persons in the Life of the Hollywood Icon, Les Harding wrote that above all, "Marilyn yearned for what she never had: a normal family life."
He said the Some Like It Hot actress was "desperate" to become a mother.
Her surgeon obeyed her wishes, but Monroe's dream of becoming a mum would never be realised. In mid-1957, she had to terminate an ectopic pregnancy. Just a year later, she suffered a miscarriage.
Many have even linked the star's addiction to barbiturates and painkillers - which lead to her death when she was just 36 years old - to her endometriosis, but this has never been proven.
Whatever other demons she was battling in her last few years, we know one thing for sure: that Marilyn Monroe, whose beauty and charisma seemed sometimes unattainable, had more in common with the average woman than we ever care to remember.