I grew up surrounded by amazing women; I had a loving relationship with my sisters and mother, a few close girlfriends that I could share my most intimate thoughts with. But none of them knew the pain I was going through, you see I’m very good at putting up a front and hiding behind a smile; being introverted, I’ve never known how to open up to people or let them in on my life, until last year, when an amazing woman, called Elsie, helped me realize that so many women suffer in silence just like I do, but it’s time we spoke out and made people aware of Endometriosis.
I remember the first time I had my period, I asked my mum if I was dying, the pain was unbearable sometimes, I felt like ripping my uterus off. paracetamol and Buscopan became my best friends; I knew that menses came with pain, so I didn’t think anything of it. My desk mate in school once asked me why I was pretending to be in so much pain when she also had periods but never acted the way I did. That’s when I resolved to continue suffering in silence; I kept thinking to myself maybe there was something wrong, maybe I wasn’t normal like everyone else.
Fast forward to many years of popping pain killers and getting injections, later, about a year and a half ago, I confided to a friend who happened to be a nurse about the pain I was feeling; my symptoms had gotten worse with age. I couldn’t function especially on the first day when my periods would start; I’ve never experienced labor pains before, but the pain would be so unbearable I would lie flat on the floor, cringing and crying in pain wondering what was wrong with me. During ovulation,I would get cramps the same way I would when my periods came. Having an internal examination done by a gynecologist was torture in itself, the pain was unbearable, they kept treating me for Pelvic Inflammatory Disease and changing me from all sorts of antibiotics time and again, but nothing seemed to work.
One day my menses started when I happened to be chatting with my friend (the nurse) she asked me why I was limping on my right leg, I told her the pain usually starts from my leg down all the way to my pelvic muscles making it very hard for me to walk. She kept asking me all sorts of questions, whether I had painful bowel movements, bloating, back pain and fatigue. I said yes to all the questions she asked, assuming they were just normal symptoms every woman goes through. She then referred me to a good gynecologist who was understanding and sympathetic to my plight and did a physical examination that in itself was extremely painful, but I needed to know was wrong with me.
I was scheduled for a laparoscopic examination, but I got scared and chickened out last-minute. I kept wondering to myself, what if I had cancer, what if I never get the chance of having babies? The what ifs kept going through my mind, I withdrew to myself, not confiding in anyone and eventually I fell into depression. In my head, I thought that if I ignored it long enough, it would eventually go away, but your guess is as good as mine, that never happened. I called my friend again and told her I didn’t want the test done, because at the time it was expensive and I didn’t have an insurance cover to cater for it, and I didn’t want to tell my sisters and mum about it. We opted for imaging tests that identified the endometrial lesions, although it didn’t quite show the extent of the disease.
I was given some drugs to help me balance my hormones, because my progesterone level was low, but the drugs made me more depressed than I was, I stopped taking them and opted for natural remedies to balance my hormones; so I started putting a lot of fenugreek seeds on my food and exercising a lot. I completely changed my diet and knew what kinds of food to avoid, which helped with the bloating and gas issues. The depression, back pain and fatigue got worse with time, I would always wonder why a week before my menses I would have suicidal thoughts and stay in bed all day and not want to see or talk to anyone; and that’s when I downloaded an app and started keeping track of my symptoms and cycle. I wouldn’t say I’m fully cured, but I can definitely say, I’m very much aware of my symptoms and the pain now.
If the pain you feel doesn’t feel normal to you, don’t ignore it; seek a second, third, fourth opinion if that’s what it takes to have a proper diagnosis of endometriosis. I lived my life knowing no one understood the pain I was going through, my friends would tell me to take painkillers, get a baby (apparently people believe it makes endo go away) all kinds of myths and remedies for my “special cramps”. Not having a support system was the worst thing for me up until last year. Seek help and find people you can confide in. Don’t suffer in silence. Endometriosis is not something to be ashamed of, if anything the pain has made me stronger and wiser. I was advised to have babies before “time runs out” by my gynecologist, but I finally found my peace with this disease, and as cliché as this may sound, relying on God and throwing all my anxieties on him, helped me cope and realize if that were to happen, it’s not the end of the world.
March is endo awareness month. I chose to share my story, not for anyone to feel pity on me, but rather to help raise awareness about endometriosis. A little knowledge on what endometriosis is: Endo is an often painful disorder that lines the inside of your uterus the endometrium grows outside your uterus. Endometriosis most commonly involves your ovaries, bowel or the tissue lining your pelvis. This disease starts quietly, insidiously and unnoticed. It may take years before it is properly diagnosed; the disease is linked and affected by the menstrual cycle and the hormones that make menstruation happen. Often estrogen in the body feeds off the disease. Don’t suffer in silence, get the necessary help and realize there are so many women going through the same pain you are going through. You are not alone!