My experience with endometriosis started at a very young age. In fact, at age 14, I was diagnosed right about the time most of the girls in my class were beginning to get their first periods. I was an early bloomer. I started my period at 11 years old, and even from the beginning, I had debilitating cramps and a heavy flow. I never knew any better, it was all I had known.
It wasn’t until a couple of years later, when I began to notice a lump protruding on the right side of my lower belly, that I brought it all my mother’s attention and we starting getting worried. After seeing a gynecologists and having an ultrasound, he concluded that I had a cyst the size of a small orange on my right ovary. Though he wasn’t extremely convinced that this is what was causing my heavy flow or the severe cramps I would have while on my period, he brought to our attention the possibility of it being endometriosis. Since the only way to verify the presence of endometriosis is through laparoscopy, we reluctantly scheduled the surgery.
During the laparoscopy, the doctor found that my endometrial tissue from the inside of the uterus had grown to attach itself to several of my other organs. The endometriosis had infected my ovaries, my fallopian tubes, the cervix, the outside of the uterus, and even my intestines. It was EVERYWHERE! This was all explained to me when I came out of surgery, what was also explained to me was that this would be an issue that I would deal with for a very long time.
After my first surgery, at age 13, I begin taking birth controls pills in order to manage my hormones in an attempt to control the pain. It didn’t seem like anything was helping though. By the age of 17, I had undergone six laparoscopy procedures, where the doctor used a laser to burn off the tissue caused by the endometriosis, leaving lots of scar tissue, which I would find later in life would make it a lot more difficult to get pregnant, I had tried four different birth control pills and two different birth control shots, but it just kept coming back, more painful each time.
By age 18, I finally figured out there was nothing I could do to stop the endometriosis from growing, and the pain would never really go away. The only thing I could do was learn a few ways to deal with the pain on my own. I tried lots of things, but only a couple worked.
If you are suffering from endometriosis, you have probably heard this one before, and if you are anything like me, you may have ignored it. Plenty of people told me to lie down on my back with a heating pad over my stomach. Heating pads are hot, uncomfortable, they make me sweat, and there is no way to get comfortable enough to sleep while trying to hold a heating pad over your stomach! Not to mention, for me, applying just a bit of pressure to my stomach (strangely as it sounds) helped to reduce the pain, or at least make it more bearable. My remedy to this, placing an electric blanket under the fitted sheet on my bed, and sleeping on my stomach. In this position, I receive relief from both the pressure on my stomach and the heat of the blanket, without struggling to keep the blanket in place.
My second best decision when trying to manage my pain from the endometriosis was joining a Yoga class. Yoga gave me a channel in which to release the stress on my body that would build up during my menstruation cycle. With the amount of scar tissue that I had in my body a few of the poses were too uncomfortable to try more than once. But with Yoga, finding what is right for you and your situation is what it is all about. I only recommend poses that are specifically focused on relaxing and stretching your tummy while menstruated, or just not practicing at all during that time, as bloating can add to the amount of pain you feel when stretching.
All the pain aside, my biggest struggle with endometriosis came at age 15, when I learned it would be extremely hard to get pregnant in the future due to the amount of scar tissues surrounding my ovaries, uterus and cervix. I carried this information around like it was the end of the world for a long time. I met other women who had endometriosis who never had children, and every time I felt like a piece of me died. It wasn’t until I was 19 and I met a woman who suffered more than I did from endometriosis that I realized it wasn’t the end of the world and there was still hope. She had suffered for nearly 15 years and had four children! There was hope for me!!! That hope was worth waiting for, on June 8, 2010, seven years after my diagnosis, I gave birth to a healthy baby girl. After thinking for so long I would never be able to maintain a healthy pregnancy, I did it! Twice. My son was born two years later.
So if you are one of the millions out there suffering from endometriosis, know that wherever your journey takes you, there is hope! Hope to relieve your pain, and hope that you can still maintain a viable pregnancy! Don’t give up!