i remember the day i got my first period very clearly. i was 12. i had a babysitting job that night and a few hours before i was scheduled to arrive i got the most godawful pains in my abdomen. aches and cramps, sharp pains and dull pains, things i’d never felt before. i started bleeding. my mother made me go to the job regardless of the pain.
she had fully prepared me for what was going to happen, not fully prepared, actually. she didn’t tell me about the pain, but i don’t think she’d ever felt the pain i did, so i don’t blame her for that.
that was the beginning of my 25 year battle with endometriosis. for many years i suffered with all the classic symptoms but never said anything. i thought that was just the way it was for everyone. the pain set in a week before my period and got worse during the week that i was bleeding. half the month, every month, left me twisted up in pain.
it was particularly bad when i was in university. i went to a doctor about the awful diarrhea i had for the whole 4 years. such pain! he said he needed a stool sample and i was so horrified and ashamed about collecting it that i never pursued it further.
when i got my first “real” job it continued and even got worse. i was missing days of work and i was working feeling like i could barely take it. at that point i’d been married for a couple of years. my husband convinced me it was time to take action. i went to see a gynecologist who specialized in painful periods. he explained to me that periods weren’t supposed to be horribly painful and debilitating. he said if they were, then something was wrong. i went through many many exams, talked for a long time with his physician’s assistant. endometriosis is almost impossible to diagnose without opening you up, but i had all the symptoms and it was getting worse.
he performed a laproscopy and found that i did indeed have endometriosis. he removed a a lot of scar tissue with a laser and that was that. it was my first surgery and i was terrified. it seemed like all would be well after that. ha! a few years later, still having the same symptoms with the same severity, he did the operation again. guess what? it came back a few years later.
by the time i was in my 30s i was getting desperate for a solution. i started seeing a gynecologist who gave me medication to induce artificial menopause. i stopped having my period by the pain was even worse. the doctor said that was the extent of what they could do without surgery. he referred me to gynecological oncologist to perform a radical hysterectomy.(radical= remove every single bit of my reproductive system.)
i saw the surgeon. he asked me lots of questions and as an exam, much to my surprise, he stuck his finger up my butt! i screamed (literally!!!!). he said, ok, let’s schedule the surgery. when i came out of the exam room all the nurses patted me on the back and said nice calming things because they heard me yell. eep!
the surgeon, Dr. Chang, said we should do the surgery asap to spare me more pain. he was going on a Doctors Without Borders visit to the Philippines the following week. i saw him for the first time on tuesday. we scheduled the surgery for friday of the same week!!!!!!
it was a huge rush to get all the tests and insurance issues and surgery prep (bowel cleansing, oh kill me now! lol) etc. and then it was friday.
when i woke up after the surgery, Dr. Chang was sitting in my hospital room wearing a cowboy shirt, jeans and a pair of cowboy boots. he was kicked back in a chair smiling at me. he said there was a huge amount of scar tissue in my body cavity which he removed along with my uterus, ovaries, etc. etc.
i was cured! it took me a year (yes! a year) to recover from the surgery, but i’ve been symptom free ever since!