I remember my first period very clearly. I was about 13 and swimming competitively. I remember feeling nauseous before the race and running to the washroom a number of times feeling like I might vomit or have diarrhea. Then as I stood on my block and bent over to dive in, I saw a thin line of blood running down my inner thigh.
I blacked it out. I was in denial until the next month when it happened again: the nausea, the pain, the tummy ache, the dizzy spells and the heavy, HEAVY bleeding.
This time I told my mom. At the time it was unceremonious, but in hindsight it was the beginning of my relationship with endometriosis. As relationships go, it was a shitty one that inflicted pain, brain fog, dizzy spells and shortness of breath. It made me moody, shaky and sickly whenever my period turned up.
The endometriosis went undiagnosed until my final year at university about 10 years later when it got so out of hand I could barely function. As a fun-loving 20-something year-old, being housebound once a month was incredibly frustrating. At 24 I had my first of four surgeries for endometriosis over the space of 20 years.
Today, aged 42, I am scheduled for my fifth (and hopefully last) surgery. A hysterectomy, to remove both my uterus and cervix. It’s just started to dawn on me that I’ve had my last period. Ever. It seems unreal. Surreal. I cannot imagine a day without some form of discomfort due to endometriosis. I’ve looked for every reason to back out. What if I still have the same –or worse – pain? What if I die and my kids have no mom? What if my sex life is ruined without a cervix? What if I’m just a wimp and need to try harder to cope with the pain? Maybe if ate better, exercised more, used bio identical hormones, went vegan or paleo or became a yogi things would improve? Or what if I imagined it all and I’m actually just really crazy?
The last time I sat in my surgeon’s office firing off a final list off questions at her she told me it was time to trust and let go. That I deserved a better quality of life.
Most people I know don’t even realize I suffer from endometriosis, but it has been my silent companion – one that I’ve grown all too accustomed to – for all of my teenage and adult life. I’ve planned all my big events around it: my wedding, falling pregnant, holidays, work and special occasions. I’ve travelled with excitement only to find myself seeking out a physician in which ever country I’m in, begging for pain relief or doubling over convinced I’m about to die from some weird virus, only to be met by streams of blood. It took me forever to really realize that the punishing pain was all down to endometriosis.
I’ve had every test under the sun, with the same conclusion reached every time: endometriosis with adenomyosis (uterine endometriosis) thrown in for good measure. I’ve cleansed, relaxed and meditated. I’ve researched it, I’ve ignored it, I’ve medicated, wept and pushed through. I’ve been angry, ashamed and confused. I’m exhausted. I now need something I’ve not tried before.
When I went to my GP in December with a sinus infection, he put me on antibiotics to clear it up as quickly as possible to ensure I had no reason to back out of the surgery. “The surgeon and I,” he told me, “both feel it is time we get the inflammatory tissue out of your body.”
That summed it all up. That was the plainest truth I’ve ever heard spoken. My uterus is sick and it’s making me sick. We have to part ways.
I feel a sense of nostalgia as I think about my babies and how my uterus kept them safe. I am grateful for the gift of kids which I did not think would be possible. But I am ready to let go and trust that this is the right thing for me to do. I’m looking forward to comfort being my new best friend.
My advice to all the women suffering from endometriosis is to speak up.
Like with everything in life, awareness is powerful. People want to know the facts. And they want to know that they are not alone.
Endometriosis is a condition the medical world still doesn’t know a great deal about, with too many physicians intimating that it can’t possibly be that bad and that you need to buck up.
I use to think that I was weak, but looking back it’s only because of my endurance, sense of purpose and motivation that I was able to handle the intense pain. I am not saying this is what everyone has to do. This condition is relentless so be kind to yourself. At this stage of my life, especially considering that I’ve already had my children, I don’t believe what I am doing is aggressive.
I will be donating all the tissue that is removed for research in the hope that my loss can somehow help shed light on endometriosis and adenomyosis and help others in the near future.
So here we go. In November when I got the call with the January operation date it felt like it was still ages away. Now there is no turning back. It’s taken a while to make peace with it but it’s time to let go.
I’m excited, but nervous to return to work and exercise post-surgery. This will be the eighth time I am reconditioning my own core and pelvic floor: I’ve had two babies, one back surgery and 4 surgeries for endometriosis and a Hysterectomy.
Here’s hoping this is the last rehab I’ll ever have to go through so I can focus on doing what I am most passionate about: educating and helping others to recondition their core and pelvic floor. I look forward to celebrating my new pain-free life.