Though my mother had three sisters who also had severe period pain growing up, she just chalked it up to them being sissies, too. However, in 1996, a gynecologist told me that with the complaints I was presenting, he felt that I hit every symptom in the book for Endometriosis. It was the first I’d heard of this disease. I spent the next eleven years fighting HMO insurance red tape, just to get a laparoscopy to officially diagnose me with Endometriosis. And it wasn’t until I was 32 years old that I got my aunts, as well as my maternal grandmother, to tell me about their own battles with debilitating period pain. When I was 35 years old, I finally got approval through my partner (now ex) insurance for the laparoscopic surgery.
Diagnosis? Stage III Endometriosis. My left ovary had so many adhesions that it was wrapped around and stuck to the back of my uterus. Not all of the disease could be removed, because it’s also on my bladder. So the pain continues, but at least I have an official diagnosis. In 2010, a doctor examining my surgical report said that for Stage III Endometriosis, there’s not a lot of the disease – the problem is that what was there at the time of surgery was widespread and therefore difficult to completely eradicate. And of course there’s the lesions that were left on the bladder.
Despite having an official diagnosis, it didn’t stop my job from discriminating against me for being ill. I was fired for missing 1 – 3 days of work per month from this illness, despite notes from my doctor and surgeon, despite informing HR that this is an incurable debilitating illness, and despite phoning my manager each time I needed to be out of work. So I reported the company to the labor board.
After my surgery, I tried hormonal suppression in the form of a low-dose birth control pill called Yasmin. Within three months, I was suicidal and had to be taken off the pill. I have refused any form of hormonal treatment since that time, and went back to doing what I did before surgery – taking vitamins, taking Chinese herbal supplements, getting acupuncture, exercising, and eating a gluten-free and yeast free diet, and seeing more specialists.
In 2010, I had a second pelvic laparoscopy. This time, there were complications, and I came this close to having to have a blood transfusion. I had to stay in the hospital an extra day, and it took five weeks to recover.
The benefit from the second surgery was the same as with the first: I enjoyed longer stretches of time between the pain episodes, but the pain episodes themselves remained excruciating, leaving me bedridden.
In 2012, I began taking Gabapentin. I had benefit from this drug within a few cycles, and for the next YEAR, I was no longer bedridden from the pain!!
The side effects of Gabapentin are terrible, though. I can only take 200mg/day or else I get tremors. A side effect of the drug can be epilepsy, the very condition the drug was created to combat! So, it’s not for everybody.
Beginning at the end of 2013, the old pain returned with a vengeance. I have decided I want no further surgeries. I cannot handle the experience or the recovery time, especially now that I am alone on my own again (In 2012, my partner of 12 years cheated on me, left me for the other woman, and divorced me, stating, “I just can’t take care of you the way you need anymore”).
The pain remains. I am a warrior woman fighting the pain, fighting the workplace establishment that’s only concerned about their bottom line and not their employees, and fighting the medical industry that’s only concerned with kickbacks from the dangerous pharmaceutical industry.
May you also remain strong. Women with Endometriosis need each other because we, unlike anyone else, truly understand each others’ pain and suffering.
Would you like to get in touch with me? Click here to email me, or type my email address into your Yahoo/Google/Hotmail mail account: steph [at] livingwithendometriosis [dot] org
More about me: I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in the field of Social Science from Madonna University in Livonia, Michigan. I have a minor in Education and have also studied Journalism. I am a nationally-certified Montessori Preschool Head Teacher.
You can read my day-to-day personal story here.