March is Endometriosis Awareness Month.. So let’s talk about it. What Exactly is it?
Endometriosis is an often painful disorder in which tissue similar to the tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus — the endometrium — grows outside your uterus. Endometriosis most commonly involves your ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue lining your pelvis. Mayo Clinic- Endometriosis
Now that we know what it is, let’s talk about it. I was diagnosed with it at 15/16. I was told I would probably never have kids. I remember sitting in the doctors office, the doctor telling me at 16, I’d probably never have children. I remember feeling so heartbroken, angry and confused. Why? Why was this being told to me. I didn’t understand at the time. No one really explained any of this to me. Soon i’d find out just what it all meant.
I had been rushed into emergency surgery in 2003, I was 17 years old. I had an ovarian cyst that had ruptured. While in surgery they removed my appendix, since most doctors were dismissing my pain as appendicitis. This surgery started what would become the “norm” for me. Another surgery revealed I was at Stage 4 at 18 yrs old. Unfortunately this wasn’t documented well by the doctor then. All we knew was that it was “everywhere”. We tried Lupron Depot, birth control. Various treatments to manage my symptoms and pain. Which just seemed to worsen each month. Lupron depot made it so I no longer had a menstrual cycle. This way they could manage the pain a bit better, unfortunately this led to other side effects from this medication, which is actually classified as a Chemotherapy medication. Here I was 18-20 and in menopause, on “chemo”. My life consisted of painful periods and doctors appointments.
My mom and I began to research. We found an amazing team of doctors in Atlanta at the Center for Endometriosis. I submitted a lot of medical records, and received word I would be taken as a patient. So off we went. Another appointment. Another doctor. This time though, we had hope. I was going to the best of the best. Little did we know just how things would go.
The consultation was overwhelming. I was basically informed i’d need another surgery. We prepared, we made plans. Traveling back and forth from South Florida to Atlanta wasn’t easy, but my mom made it happen. I was 20 years old, supposed to be in college and my periods were so bad I couldn’t function during that time. I remember my mom and I having the discussion. Me saying, “don’t let them take everything. I want a chance to have a baby later in life.” We expressed this to my doctors, Dr. Sinervo and Dr. Albee. They were aware of my fears, my anxieties, my desire to be a mom. They assured me they would do all they could. That day… that day is forever etched in my mind. Waking up in my hospital room. My mom sitting there, waiting for me to come out of the anesthesia. I looked at her, saw that she’d been crying. I asked her, “I lost them didn’t I? You took them out?”. I screamed, yelled and cried. Not only out of pain but heartbreak. She held me as I cried, as I mourned the loss. It may sound silly to some, but to me it was heartbreaking. She told me my entire right side was covered in endometriosis. The worst case they’d seen in someone my age. I had it on my right ovary, fallopian tube, intestines, pelvic wall. It was in a sense everywhere in my pelvic area. My mom had to make the decision for me, she had to make the decision to remove organs. Make the decision for her 20 year old daughter about her future. She agreed with my surgeons, remove the right side. So at 20 years old I had a unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy. This means, my right ovary and fallopian tube were removed. They did this to remove the endometriosis, to buy me time.
I then had to have a LEEP procedure due to pre-cancer cells found on my cervix.. Then.. then a miracle happens.. I end up pregnant in 2008. It was a shock, lots of crying. For 9 months there was no endo pain. No hellish periods.. It was glorious!
My son is now 10, he’ll be 11 in April. I’m 33 and I still battle endometriosis. I’ve battled it for 18 years, I’ve had 6 surgeries in total for it. My last one was in May 2018. They found two endometriomas in my left ovary. Once again my doctor did all he could to give me a chance to have another child. I’m once again at Stage 3. We’re considering reaching back out to the Center for Endometriosis Care. I need another surgery, however after 8 abdominal surgeries, they’re waiting until it’s absolute necessity. I’ve had severe scar tissue. Scar tissue and adhesions on various organs, in various places. Scar tissue that made placing my feeding tubes, very difficult. It turns out the severity of my endometriosis has created quite the problems in my pelvic area. Intestines are fused together, bowel issues, bladder issues. Things you wouldn’t think about endometriosis affecting, but it has far reaching consequences. Even with my J tube, there’s damage from my endometriosis. They’re saying “frozen pelvis”. It’s horrific to realize just how damaging endometriosis is, and how little it’s explained.
I’m in pelvic floor physical therapy to help with various symptoms from my endo. I have trouble going to the bathroom, both #1 and #2. This is being attributed in part to my endo. Horrific menstrual cycle pain. Every month i’m out of commission for a few days. I’ve tried birth control, sadly they just make my cycle last for weeks, which I can’t cope with. Pain with intercourse, pain with bowel movement, pain with movement in general at times.. These are things rarely discussed or acknowledged by some doctors. Things that are often dismissed. I’m hopeful that Pelvic Floor PT can help, if anything, may be it can help with going to the bathroom. Or help with the pain. Even in some small way would be appreciated.
Knowing i’m running out of time, knowing that each month my pain and periods are absolutely horrendous, knowing I need more surgeries for my endometriosis, it gets to me. Sometimes I debate if it’s time for a hysterectomy. I begin to accept that fate, then it becomes too overwhelming for me. Too much, too soon. I know that’s my eventuality. I know that is what I will end up needing, but how do you mentally prepare for that? How do you mentally prepare for no longer being able to conceive? It’s not easy. In 2019 it was discovered I have a hydrosalpinx. Meaning my only remaining tube is blocked. I have to see a fertility specialist to see just how blocked. I haven’t prepared myself for that yet. I can’t determine which would be easier, just doing the hysterectomy and giving up, or trying with the fertility doctor, and having hope. How do you make that decision? It’s incredibly difficult to make.
The emotional damage from my salpingo-oophorectomy was immense. I felt like less of a woman. I felt broken, damaged. I wanted to be a mother, and here i’m facing that I would probably never be a mom by natural ways. Depression, anxiety it was there. I had to work through the pain, not just physically, but emotionally as well. That’s what no one tells you about endometriosis. Yes physically the pain is unbearable, but emotionally, it’s unbearable at times. No one talks about the mental and emotional aspect of living with endometriosis. I’m not sure why, is it taboo? It needs to NOT be. It needs to be discussed. Women struggle with both aspects of pain. Let’s be there for them. Endometriosis is hell. It’s physically and emotionally painful. It robs women of their joy, their lives, even motherhood.. their hopes of motherhood are dashed at times due to their pain, or severity. It can affect relationships. It can damage them. We feel inadequate. We wonder why our partner stays, we wonder how a new partner will feel when they find out you may not be able to conceive. Don’t push your partner away. Communicate your feelings, your fears with them. Lean on them. Let them help you face this.
The feeling of being unworthy due to being infertile, or due to the struggle and pain with your endo. The feeling can be so overwhelming, so soul crushing you can’t breathe. You scream; “Why”, you beg and plead. You try to grasp this, try to grasp how this happened. You feel alone, broken, scared, angry. I assure you, you’re not alone. You’re not broken. You’re not less than, you’re not inadequate. You’re not unworthy. It’s ok to be angry, it’s ok to be scared. You’re worthy of love. So damn worthy. Just know you have a community of women behind you lifting you up in your time of pain. We are here, we will help you shoulder this. We are a sisterhood. We are a community. We are fighters with hope for a cure.