I was 11 years old when I had my first period, and I was ecstatic!

My mother had done her due diligence and had given me, “the talk,” years before, so I knew exactly what was happening to me and I was elated.  I wasn’t like other girls who thought it was something to be ashamed of.  To me, it was a sign of the death of my childhood and I was being ushered into womanhood on a red carpet. Literally, a red carpet.  I was 11, but I was a “woman.” Elation soon turned to complacency which then turned into, “ugh this is a necessary nuisance.” That is, until I turned 14.  Everything went south from there. My periods became increasingly painful.  Some months, I couldn’t go to school.  Couldn’t sit up straight for the crippling pain that seemed to start from the base of my spine and radiate outward around my abdomen.  Shortly after came the nausea, the feeling like my uterus was literally trying to free itself from my body.  I was diagnosed with menorrhagia when I was 15 and told by my doctor that the pain was, “normal,” and to basically bear it as he wrote me a prescription for “hydros” that my mother refused to fill because she felt I was too young for such a high medication.  This was the cycle for years.  Every doctor told me that the pain was normal.

At 17, I had a period so bad I passed out at school and had to be taken to the Emergency Room.  I was told that I had passed out from loss of blood and not from the pain.  I knew this wasn’t right.  My friends never complained of periods that were anywhere near mine.  At 20, I began having pains even when I wasn’t on my period but I couldn’t pinpoint where they were coming from.  Panicking, I went to three different doctors. My primary care physician, who then referred me to a gastrointestinal specialist, and finally an OB/GYN.  This doctor listened to me, I mean really listened to me. He recommended a laparoscopy, and I was terrified.  Part of me hoped for answers, but the other part of me hoped it wasn’t a tumor or cancer or any of the millions of other disaster scenarios I was picturing.  I went under nervous and woke up with an answer.  I had endometriosis and it was what had been causing all my symptoms.  I felt… validated.  I had a reason, a cause.  There was something that could be treated to reduce the hell that I’d been dealing with for the past nine years.  I wanted to scream, ” SEE! I wasn’t imagining it!”

My diagnosis, while freeing, also brought up a new set of woes that culminated in a failed treatment plan that ended with my doctor recommending a hysterectomy.  I was 21 years old and they wanted to take my uterus, my womanhood, my ability to create life.  The thing that, 10 years before, I’d used to define my womanhood.

Additionally, I was told that due to how extensive my endometriosis was, the pain may not even stop without my uterus.  So, I kept my uterus.  Distraught does not begin to convey the depths of my dismay and despair.  It was a low point in my life for sure.  Seven years later, I’ve learned to, “skin and grin.” I still have months were the pain is so bad it takes my breath away and at times my back feels as though a toddler is gleefully A-Town stomping on it,  but I write this to raise awareness so that other women and young girls going through the same thing will know that they are not alone, that they aren’t imagining it, that their pain is real and deserves attention.  I realize that March is almost over, but I needed time to get my head together.

Courtesy of Women Health

Courtesy of Women Health

Endometriosis is an often painful disorder in which the endometrial tissue which grows along the lining of the uterus begins to grow outside of the uterus.  Most commonly, these growths can appear on a woman’s ovaries, bowel, or tissues that line the pelvis.

Quick Facts

The exact cause of endometriosis is not known but there have been linkages to certain occurrences such as scar tissue on the reproductive organs.

  • Most women suffer symptoms for almost a full 10 years before being diagnosed.
  • About 176 million women worldwide suffer from endometriosis
  • The average women is 27 at the time of diagnosis
  • Endometriosis is 1 of the top 3 causes of infertility

Signs and Symptoms

More often

  • Painful periods
  • Pain with intercourse
  • Pain with bowel movements or urination
  • Excessive menstrual bleeding
  • Infertility

Less often

  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Bloating
  • Nausea

If you have some of these symptoms, it does not automatically mean that you have endometriosis.  These symptoms can also be caused by lifestyle, diet, and exercise.  However, these symptoms are often written off by the women who have them as simply being a bad period when a deeper issue may be involved.

Risk Factors

  • Never giving birth
  • Genetics – as in close female relative has endometriosis
  • Any condition that prevents menstrual blood from leaving the body normally
  • History of pelvic infection
  • Abnormalities in the uterus
  • Testing includes pelvic exams, ultrasounds, and laparoscopy

Awareness Starts With You!

As mentioned before, most women go almost a whole decade before they are diagnosed.  Often because they think that they’re symptoms are normal, or that they have a particularly bad cycle.  Your doctor may even tell you that your symptoms are normal.  However, there are many routes that doctors can take to mediate the symptoms as these symptoms can cause lifelong pain, suffering, and damage.

Courtesy of Endo Sisters United

Courtesy of Endo Sisters United

Finally, Be Your Own Advocate!  You are in control of your own health and you influence the health of those around you.  Find Support! Being educated about endometriosis and its effects can make you and those around you more aware of potential health issues.