What is Endometriosis?
According to the google dictionary, endometriosis is a condition resulting from the appearance of endometrial tissue outside the uterus and causing pelvic pain, especially associated with menstruation. The endometrial tissue around the uterus grows abnormally, which can create cysts on the ovaries, irritate surrounding tissue, or cause a scar that binds reproductive organs.
The hormonal changes in your menstrual cycle affect the misplaced endometrial tissue, causing the area to become inflamed and painful. On the other hand, I describe it as pain, pain, and more pain. Most people take it lightly when a woman complains about a painful period, we are told to be tough and that it is normal. So we just stay silent in our pain and not complain.
The initial diagnosis
I took a step in trying to figure out what was wrong and what can help me in 2010. I was sick and tired of constant pain and overdosing on over-the-counter pain medication. I decided to visit a gynecologist, and after a few uncomfortable tests were performed, including a Transvaginal Ultrasound where a device called a transducer is inserted into your vagina which uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of the inside of your body.
I was told I have fibroids which are smooth muscle tumors (usually noncancerous) that grow in the uterus from the muscle layers of the womb. Surgery was scheduled and the traditional abdominal surgery was performed, not that I was given any other options. After surgery, I was informed that I actually didn’t have fibroids but had endometriosis.
According to endometriosis.net when symptoms of uterine fibroids occur, many of them are similar to those that occur with endometriosis. Symptoms such as abnormal menstrual bleeding; pelvic, back, and leg pain; and bladder and bowel problems can occur in both conditions. Because the symptoms can be so similar, endometriosis can be commonly mistaken for uterine fibroids.
I was given a prescription for birth control pills which is always recommended for a woman with endometriosis. They help control the hormones responsible for the buildup of endometrial tissue and may reduce or eliminate pain in some cases. In my case, I would say that it did help with making my flow lighter and I was ok for a couple of years before the severe pain returned.
The second diagnosis
The sad part of all this is that women are made to feel like they are being dramatic or that it couldn’t be as bad as we say it is. I found myself in the same position again in 2014 when I went to the GP with belly button pain. I was told to go home and take pain killers. Of course, I was back the following day in tears because I couldn’t take it anymore. Fortunately, I was seen by a different doctor who did a biopsy by taking a small tissue sample just below my belly button which came back positive for endometriosis yet again.
This time around I was given 2 options: A Hysterectomy with the removal of ovaries which to me was never an option, or taking hormonal treatment called Visanne (used for the treatment of the painful symptoms of displaced tissue of the lining of the womb). That is the option I went for but, I experienced continuous heavy bleeding which resulted in anemia.
I was advised by my doctor to stop taking it and was now back where I started. I was devastated and depressed, to say the least. My only saving grace was back to religiously taking ibuprofen and any other pain medication I could get my hands on.
The breaking point
I reached my breaking point in 2019 when the pain was just unbearable that i couldn’t walk straight and needed help. I dragged myself to hospital and told them immediately that I am in pain, I am bleeding heavily and that I have endometriosis. I remember the person attending to me laughed and said, “What do you know about endometriosis?”. The biggest mistake is that I have been to 3 different hospitals, in different cities, and my medical records are everywhere and have to start from the beginning each time.
Ultrasound was done, again I was told that I have fibroids. I was scheduled for 3 consecutive doses of Zoladex ( which is a man-made form of a hormone used in men to treat symptoms of prostate cancer, and in women to treat breast cancer or endometriosis) to prepare me for surgery to remove the fibroids. Zoladex worked wonders for me because, for the first time in my reproductive years, I was not in pain, I didn’t have my period and life was great for the first month.
Then the side effects hit me like a ton of bricks and landed in yet another hospital’s emergency room. I could not breathe or speak, it felt like all the energy was sucked out of me. Blood work was done and I was told I am anaemic, that is why I fainted. I started taking folic acid and vitamin B, but then side effects kept on pilling up.
I started having hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings, trouble speaking at times, fast/irregular heartbeat, urinary incontinence, and the fainting didn’t stop until I completed the 3 months of single Zoladex injections. What was most frustrating about this is that, when I reported the side effects to health professionals I was told Zoladex couldn’t be the cause of all of this even though these are known side effects of the treatment.
Once I finally completed the Zoladex treatment, it was time for surgery and I was told that my fibroids are not big enough for them to be removed. I just have to live with then and go back to taking birth control pills, if I still have a problem then a Hysterectomy would be my only option. On my way home that day, I threw those birth control pills in the trash and never visited any health facility again.
I prayed, I cried, got angry, and even hosted a pity-party. I had to make peace with the fact that, this is something I will live with for the rest of my life. Yes, some days are better than others, and I can not tell you one solid solution accept for the healing and resurrecting power that is on the inside of all of us. It is hard to believe that I no longer take any pain medication even though I still experience heavy bleeding.
How I cope with Endometriosis:
- I joined a Facebook Support Group called Endo Warriors South Africa for women suffering from Endometriosis. It is where we share our struggles and ideas to make our lives just a little bit better.
- I take Folic acid and Ferrous Sulfate (Iron) Supplements when on a period.
- I take Multivitamins for women (with primrose oil and cranberry extract) daily.
- I take CBD (Cannabidiol )oil whenever I am in pain.
I make my own CBD oil at home since it is cheaper for me to do so. Steps on how to make your own click here. CBD oil helps with pain and inflammation and does not make you high. I take half a medicine dropper three twice a day for as long as I have menstrual cramps. I can increase the amount as the pain worsens.
Endometriosis is not easy to live with and I hope that this article encourages you to be more understanding next time a woman complains about menstrual pain. Not to say that every woman has Endometriosis but if you or your loved one suffers from severe pain, please be considerate and ask them to visit a doctor for help.
Blessings to you.