I decided to share a very personal post with you for Zusterschap’s month long theme on women’s bodies.
This post features a hidden fact about myself and something I’ve been less inclined to discuss in the past. Back in March, I shared an Endometriosis Awareness post but since then I’ve had laparoscopic surgery. So this post is more to share my experience and spread some awareness – maybe answer some questions about a disease that can cause infertility, miscarriages and daily abdominal pain.
The symptoms for endometriosis may seem like your average period problems but ignoring them may result in bigger problems later on in life. This is why so many Endometriosis charities push for doctors to get a faster diagnosis and take the disease seriously from the early signs (as the disease has also been known to link to bladder and colon problems).
If you’ve experienced the following symptoms, it may be worth getting yourself checked out:
- Heavy, long periods
- Extreme abdominal pain (even when not on your period)
- Severe cramping
- Pain during sex
- Problems conceiving/infertility
As a teenager, I was convinced the extreme pain I was experiencing was normal and it took me a while before I found out that no-one’s body should make you feel so out of it like mine did. Nor should it be all year round – day in, day out. After nearly two years of invasive, repetitive and unsympathetic hospital appointments and being shrugged off due to my age, I finally underwent my second laparoscopy which confirmed my endometriosis had returned on my left ovary. The procedure itself takes around 45 minutes and you are completely put under anaesthetic for this time – leaving you to wake up feeling very sleepy but meaning you can go home that day to recover and take it easy for sevem days.
Luckily, being younger, the cysts caused by this were removed, healed and I went a few years with relatively toned down pain. Despite feeling pretty much like I’d been beaten the shit out of from the belly button downwards, within four days I started to feel like me again. For the first few days I really struggled to get up and walk and felt pretty emotional.
My wounds have now healed (though they have left some not so subtle scaring) and I feel like me again. So far, the pain has not returned and I think this will give me (hopefully) a few relatively pain-free years. Of course, not all cases of Endometriosis need an operation and some cases are very mild, but it’s important to get yourself checked by a doctor, especially if the pain is a daily occurrence.
Should I ever struggle to conceive, I will luckily get the help I need more quickly. Although it took a long time and a lot of emotional distress, I eventually got my diagnosis. However, many out there will never know the damage to their body until they try to conceive as some symptoms can go completely unnoticed.
As a 17 year old girl, I was not provided the support or information that was required. Had I not pushed to get it sorted, my pain would be even worse. I still feel when I go to the hospital that my disease is not taken seriously and up until now I’ve never really shared this information with anyone – I’ve just been supporting the charity in my own quiet way. I think it is really important to share this in case women do not realise that it could be Endometriosis they are experiencing.
From Facebook and various social media platforms, I’ve found that there are some amazing support systems out there. If you fear your future will be affected, have miscarried or have had hysterectomies as a result of their disease – the support is there. Plus, there’s amazing stories of people who have gone on to have happy, healthy babies as well.
Endometriosis, though not curable yet, can certainly be managed if you are given the correct support and information. Mine is certainly not an extreme case and I am fully aware that I’ve been very lucky to get off as lightly as I did. I feel it is important to get the message out there in a hope that others might find it helpful should ever develop the disease.
My future may or may not feature children, but I hope I get the choice either way when the time comes.
If you have any questions/know anyone or think you might have it yourself, please feel free to leave me any comments – I’m happy to answer anything I can (though I’m certainly not a doctor!)
– Sophie Athawes