Breaking the silence: tales of Endometriosis

When I told a few friends that I wanted to write about Endometriosis and my battle with it, they asked if it wasn’t too private and personal to reveal. But how many other students and young women are dealing with the same issues as I have?

Before I was diagnosed with Endometriosis I could hardly spell it, much less pronounce the annoyance of a disease that it is. Initially misdiagnosed as an appendicitis, it was later revealed after surgery what the condition really was. What was this mysterious problem that popped up out of nowhere. Was it actually out of nowhere? Were there warning signs? Was there something that I could have done to prevent it? So many questions, some of which I still have no answers to.

Sometimes, it is so much easier to suffer in silence than to see the reactions of people who believe that it is only a ‘cramp’. Take some painkillers and a hot water bag a teacher once told me a high school. Problem solved in her mind, but not for me. Eventually after visiting doctor after doctor and considering all available options, I chose the option with the least potential side effects for some kind of relief. However, nothing truly fixed the problem. I actually believe it worsened it. Ten years since first learning that I had developed ‘endo’; I have simply learnt to live with it.

A 2007 Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists study has shown that two million women in the UK suffer from the gynecological condition and one in 10 women of reproductive age across the world.

Endometriosis brings with it emotional problems such as (not an exhaustive list):

  • Living with a condition that almost has no cure.
  • Worrying about your ability to have children.
  • Dealing with constant fatigue.
  • Having everyday activities, friendships and relationships that are sometimes strained.
  • Difficulty in working and completing tasks at times.
Glimpse of living with Endometriosis

What is Endometriosis?

According to the Mayoclinic, Endometriosis is a condition where tissue is found outside the womb and in many different parts of the body, such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes, the lining of the inside of the abdomen, the bowel or bladder. This tissue acts like the lining of the womb.

The Mayoclinic further states that the ‘primary symptom of endometriosis is pelvic pain, often associated with your menstrual period. Although many women experience cramping during their menstrual period, women with endometriosis typically describe menstrual pain that’s far worse than usual. They also tend to report that the pain has increased over time’.

No kidding. In the past three years, I have gone from being able to function ‘normally’ while masking the pain, to wincing and doubling over in pain. The best way I can describe the pain to people is as if a knife is being dragged through my abdomen. It is not something that you can prepare for. Imagine having to hold your tummy every time you sneeze. The little things that I have learnt to do to manage my pain.

Drawing showing endometriosis. Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endometriosis

Are there any groups or people who deal with the disease who I can relate to?

From research, you will find out that many persons, including some famous faces, suffer from Endometriosis.

  • In November, 29-year-old actress Lena Dunham revealed that she had suffered from Endometriosis since high school. Ms. Dunham said that she had experienced many of the symptoms that sufferers go through; such as exhaustion, mood swings, persistent bleeding and cramps. Lena’s confessions are actually not as easy as it seems.
  • Top chef host and model Padma Lakshmi also revealed that she had battled with endometriosis. She has co-founded a nonprofit foundation called the Endometriosis Foundation of America, to bring attention to the disease and to further research into the gynecological condition. Padma’s story can be likened to many girls and women. She was diagnosed at age 36 and for almost 23 years, dealt with extreme pain and nausea every month.
  • 31-year-old star Zoe Marshall speaks about her battle with endometriosis and her journey after surgery: http://www.zoemarshall.com/know-your-worth-1/a-day-of-endometriosis
  • In September 2015, the Guardian published an article on stories of 30 women living with endometriosis: http://www.theguardian.com/society/ng-interactive/2015/sep/27/the-pain-is-paralysing-30-women-describe-living-with-endometriosis
Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/postmemes/19617924902

Treatment:

There is no real treatment for dealing with Endometriosis. Some doctors may prescribe painkillers, birth control pills, hormone treatment or even surgery. The type of treatment also depends on the stage (minor or extreme) of the condition and the age of the patient.

My best advice for anyone who is dealing with the condition is to find a good support group who can help you through the pain. Having supportive parents and friends makes the pain just a bit more ‘bearable’.

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