All about: Endometriosis
This post has been sitting in my draft section for a long time. I struggled with whether or not I want to share my struggle with the entire internet or simply keep it private. Most people who battle some sort of chronic illness, at times, feel very alone. I understand the feeling and that is what has given me the courage to write this post and share it with all of you. It doesn’t make it any less painful knowing there’s a title on the chronic illness – but it’s less lonely knowing that other people besides yourself, can relate.
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis occurs when the tissue that is similar to the endometrium (which is the lining of the uterus) is found outside the uterus, on other parts of the body. It “affects 176 million women worldwide” according to endofund. Endometriosis attaches to any of the female reproductive organs (uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes). However, in other cases, it can also be found on the bladder, bowel, intestines or appendix. The chronic illness interferes with girls’ and women’s day to day life- whether it’s their career, school, relationships, etc.
Of course, the symptoms will vary from person to person. Symptoms can be experienced during menstruation or throughout a woman’s cycle. However, the most common symptoms are:
- Excruciating cramps
- Length of period: anywhere from 7-10 days
- Flow: Heavy flow. A heavy pad won’t last you an hour before the need to change it again.
- Bowel: you will want to urinate often and urinating may be painful.
- Diarrhea, nausea and/or vomiting.
- Severe bloating.
- Intercourse: Painful
- Fertility: Infertility or a more difficult time to become pregnant
- Body: pain in muscle and joints
- Mind: Migraines, mood is up and down
- Fatigue: exhaustion from pain
Is there a cure?
There are things that can help manage one’s symptoms but there is no cure. Disclaimer: I am not a doctor so please consult your physician or gynaecologist. Doctors now choose not to operate (laparoscopically) on women frequently to remove endometriomas (unless she is trying to conceive and even then too much is not recommended). It is invasive and can actually do more harm than good if it’s done too many times. Therefore, medicine has now found alternatives to slow down the progression of the disease and improve the symptoms that women deal with. Some of those options are low-dose oral contraceptives, IUS (hormonal), painkillers or GnRH Therapy. Again, these are things you probably want to discuss with your physician (everyone’s medical history is different and your doctor will know best/ should know best). Some women go to a naturopath and claim that acupuncture has helped relieve some of the pain.
I always struggled with my period growing up. It got in the way of pretty much everything. Many sick days from school (sometimes I wonder how I even managed to get my degree and diploma). Lots of sick days at work (which wasn’t always easy to explain to a male manager, heck even some female managers). Growing up, lots of female friends used to think I was exaggerating – after all most girls and women around me were getting their period and going about their daily activities. It affected my relationship with loved ones. It made me cancel plans last minute because of debilitating pain and I’ve been taking naproxen since I was 17 years old. I’ve been put on and off birth control since I was 16. I’ve also been on suppressive birth control, meaning I didn’t get my period for several months (How? back to back birth control). My gynecologist just this year, finally put a label on my pain and diagnosed me with endometriosis.
Excruciating cramps, that have me rolling around in a ball for several hours. Pain in my back. Pain in my abdomen and pelvis. Migraines. Bloating. Spotting. Missing periods. Irregular periods (can be as little as 3 days to 11 days). Heavy bleeding – so bad it looks like a crime scene at times. Nausea. Vomiting. The sweats. Sore breasts-so bad that sleeping can be painful. Mood swings (can you blame a woman when she’s going through so much). Overall body aches (mainly around my shoulder or neck). Oh, I forgot to mention the best part… sometimes these symptoms occur when I’m not even menstruating. Thanks, hormones! I typically have low blood pressure, so add that to the mix ( at times I was concerned whether or not I’d make it to school or work without fainting on my commute on the public transit).
Solution / Temporary pain relief
Throughout my experience, I’ve managed to go on with my day to day activities with temporary solutions. From jumping from one birth control brand/dosage to another. Taking naproxen like it’s candy. Natural remedies like drinking sage (maramiya). Yoga at times, physiotherapy, stretches and a healthy diet.
Gotta keep your head up
Somehow, through it all, I try to remind myself that things can always be much worse! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had long days and nights of crying in agony. It’s not always rainbows, sunshine, and lollipops for me. But I’ve seen people with far worse illnesses accomplish far more – so there’s no excuse. I have my eyes to see with. Ears to hear with and a voice to speak with. Legs and feet to get me everywhere- and the list goes on. However, that being said…I know my limit, I know how much to push myself and when I need to rest. I know that some days are rough and some days it feels lonely because not everyone truly understands the feeling. Not every illness or disability is visible. Be kind to everyone you meet because you don’t know what someone is going through. Someone asks you for a seat on the train? Let them sit, even if from the exterior they look young and in “good shape”. If you’re a supervisor at work or manager, remember that you’re not your employees’ doctor- you don’t get to dictate whether or not they can just “do a lighter shift”. If your friend cancels on you last minute, just understand that if it were in their hands, they would much rather be chilling with you than curled up in their bed, in pain. Do not ask her when she’s planning on having a child or why she doesn’t have children. It’s none of your business, first of all. Secondly, infertility is common amongst women with endometriosis- so unless she chooses to share that with you, then stop trying to be Sherlock Holmes and figuring out everything. And last but not least, if you’re feeling alone- you’re not. I hope this post makes you feel a little at peace in knowing that you’re not going through this alone.