When I was diagnosed, I had no idea why I had never heard of this condition before. Considering it now seems to sprout up everywhere, including most of my organs.
It sounds insane that I never made the connection before. First day of my period meant excruciating pain. Two weeks after my period also meant excruciating pain. It wasn’t until my cyst burst and I was literally sat outside my bathroom, holding my husband’s hand and thinking I was going to die that I concluded I wasn’t suffering from ordinary menstrual cramps.
After numerous visits to the hospital and a few invasive surgeries, I realised that I had endometriosis.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis (en-doe-me-tree-o-sis) is a condition where the lining of the womb – the endometrium – grows outside of the womb. This can affect your ovaries, fallopian tubes and other pelvic regions. The endometrial tissue can also spread outside of this area. I remember reading somewhere that endometriosis had spread to someone’s brain. I mean what is the lining of your uterus doing there?
How does it affect you?
The endometrial tissue behaves how it usually would if it was in the womb. It thickens and then breaks down to bleed with your monthly cycle. But the problem is, it cannot leave your body in the usual way. That can lead to endometriomas – cysts in your ovaries – and scar tissue, alongside adhesions, causing your organs to stick together. When I went for my second surgery, my left ovary was stuck to my left wall and I can tell you, every period felt like someone was stabbing me in the abdomen.
Sound like fun?
I can assure you that every woman that suffers from this debilitating condition would happily indulge in violence if you even suggested that it was ‘just cramps’.
After my last operation, I was so scared to even mention the f-word.
Having only had one child, as well as a few miscarriages, I was petrified that my baby-making days could be over.
Where had it come from? More importantly, how could I make it go away?
Nobody can tell me exactly how I went from having normal periods to downing Oramorph every two weeks like a fresher holding a Jager bomb. But this is what google says could be the top causes of endometriosis.
· Retrograde menstruation: menstrual blood containing endometrial cells flow back through the fallopian tubes. They then stick to the pelvic regions and hey-ho endometriosis.
· Past surgeries: After a C-section (which I had) endometrial cells could have attached themselves to the surgical incision.
· Immune system disorder: The body fails to recognise that it needs to seek, kill and destroy the endometrial tissue that decides to grow outside the body.
This may sound like I have personified endometriosis, but this is just how every woman feels at one point. It takes over your being and you become victim to mother nature.
So, you’ve read this far and are probably wondering why there isn’t a checklist of symptoms.
The main factor in me seeking medical help, was the heightened level of abdominal and pelvic pain. The cramping was worse than labour and if you haven’t had that experience yet, then I could probably compare it to being kicked in the stomach. Hard.
· Excessive bleeding: You have heavy menstrual periods and may suffer from spotting.
· Pain with intercourse: You may have noticed certain positions are more painful than others and this could be at different points of your cycle.
· Infertility: You might be struggling to conceive
· Abdominal pain: You might notice that during ovulation and the first day of your menstrual period, you have extreme cramping and lower back pain.
· Fatigue: If you are constantly feeling tired and bloated then you might suffer from endometriosis.
· Bowel motions: You might have alternate diarrhoea and constipation, feel nauseous and suffer with bloating which exacerbates during your period.
But endometriosis isn’t done there. My consultant told me that the severity of my pain wasn’t an indicator of the amount of endometriosis I had. Some women have tiny adhesions and suffer immensely, whereas some women may have large adhesions and suffer with minimal pain.
But just because you have some or all of these symptoms doesn’t mean that you are definitely a sufferer. You could have IBS, which can sometimes accompany endometriosis, or some other pelvic condition. The point is, if you have got this far, you know something isn’t right and you should go and seek help from a doctor. Insist that you need to be referred, keep a diary of your pain, keep a food diary, even keep a sex diary.
The treatment options for endometriosis focus on keeping your periods at bay. Here are the two I have tried and other options.
· Menopause injections: These personally weren’t for me. I couldn’t deal with the side effects and it just didn’t feel right putting my body through something it clearly wasn’t ready for.
· The combined pill: This is my current method of controlling my endometriosis. I suffer from migraines with aura and needed to have a consultation with a migraine specialist before they agreed to put me onto the pill.
· Combined pill, pregnancy, coil and injection.
Changing the head space
Even though I have ranted and raved my way through this article, it is important to allow yourself time to vent your emotions. But you need to remember, you are a warrior, woman. You can get up and you can beat this. Look out for the hashtag #endowarrior to see how so many strong women beat this condition every day. My hospital hosts endometriosis awareness meetings, and there are so many women who are successful and happy warriors. I must admit, I’m not quite there yet myself, but I know I will be. Take time to thank the powers that be for every blessing in your life and remember, take care of you first.