I had a love-hate relationship with my body for a long time, which originated when I was about 12 years old. I remember this because it was when I was 12 that my menstrual cycles were getting worse and worse. My first period was at age 11, and I remember thinking, “wow, I am going to bleed to death” or “is this natural?” (Obviously since that time, I have had a lot of education and do know it is completely natural and normal.) At age 12, I vividly remember I could not go to my best friend’s birthday party because of the pain I was in for my period. I was laid up in bed while my friends were all having a great time with a pool party and then a sleep over. Also there was a pinata (!). Since that time, my periods have been increasingly worse and more debilitating. I would go to the hospital in high school for severe pain in my stomach, when I was not even on my cycle. Like many others, I was simply shrugged off by doctors who said, “you just have painful periods” or “maybe your pain tolerance isn’t as high as you think” or “you are just under a lot of stress”.
I felt that, for one week every single month, I was completely incapacitated. I feared movement because that would cause a new wave of pain. I remember my sophomore year in college, I was going through a particularly rough period pain week. I laid in bed all day in my dorm room, for two and a half days. I finally gained the courage to take a shower. I passed out in the shower because of how much pain I was in; it was simply unbearable. It was at that time that I knew something was not right. I felt like I was living two lives: one where I was pain-free and carefree, and then the other where I could hardly move and was in constant pain. In fear that I would be told I was simply overreacting again, I did some research of my own to see if I could self-diagnose. Here are the symptoms I most identified with:
- Extreme pain, off and on menstrual cycle
- Back pain
- Pain with sex/pelvic exams
These are the symptoms of endometriosis. Endometriosis is a condition where tissue that is supposed to grow inside the uterus, migrates and grows outside of the uterus by attaching to other reproductive organs and also anything near these organs including the rectum, bowels, and intestines. I found a doctor I trusted and told him that I thought I had endometriosis. I explained my symptoms and explained how much this was affecting my daily life. The next week I had a laparoscopy procedure or exploratory surgery. During this procedure, they found lesions on my uterus and even some on my intestines. When he came back and told me I do, in fact, have endometriosis, I was so relieved. I was not even scared of what this meant but was just happy to have a name to what was causing me so many problems for my life.
The goal of this story is to inform other women that if you feel something is not right in your body, you are probably right. Fight for people to take your pain seriously, arm yourself with knowledge, and find a doctor that will listen to you. I still struggle with endometriosis and the repercussions that accompany it, however, I have found that one in 10 women have endometriosis. You are not alone! If you or a loved one can resonate with these symptoms, please check out this resource for more information.