Updated: Aug 31, 2019
I was diagnosed with endometriosis in 2014 at the age of 19. I was diagnosed through an unplanned laparoscopic procedure during a likewise unplanned 5-day stint in hospital.
I would first like to put out a disclaimer (you’ll realise I am partial to a cheeky disclaimer): I have huge respect and admiration for those working in the NHS. I have many wonderful friends and family members that have dedicated their lives to our healthcare system. So with that said, if you think I’m wandering into the realm of slagging off: I apologise. This is not an attack on the NHS, without which I would be in a much worse way.
But back to the story.
I’d had the most wonderful day. I’d been at my uncle’s house, barbecuing with my nearest and dearest in the June summer sun. Quite idyllic, right?
It got a lot less idyllic. I was back home, mid-washing up when - and this is not just my usual Ruby melodrama - I thought I had been stabbed. I had excruciating pain in my lower left abdomen. I immediately fell to the floor in hysterical tears. Don't get me wrong, I'd had similar pains before (all throughout high school in fact) but if they were a 7/10 on the pain scale, this was a 12.* I was unable to fully explain what was wrong but, gauging the pretty serious daughter-writhing-on-floor-in-pain situation, my family called an ambulance. When it arrived I was immediately hooked up to morphine, the dose of which they later increased when the said writhing continued.
The ambulance took me to A&E. This part is a little hazy since I was dropping in and out of consciousness but somehow I ended up in the general surgery ward first (I was then moved to gynaecology).
I was in hospital for a total of 5 nights. They first excluded appendicitis and then other nasty things in turn (miscarriage, tumours, cysts, etc). The search for the source of the pain included numerous blood tests, urine and stool samples, ultrasounds, MRIs, and internal ultrasounds.
Have you ever had one of those by the way? Internal/transvaginal ultrasounds, I mean. Oh, they are a delight. Look it up, but the long and short of it is a giant rod pushed into the vagina and pressed against a (mandatorily) full bladder and other organs. You know when you point out what’s sore to the GP and they proceed to prod at it and go “just there, yeah?” and through closed teeth you say “yup” with the subtext of “and that’s not helping Brenda”. Well this internal ultrasound was like a really, really intimate version of that. Remember: by this point I was on day 3 of morphine-requiring pain. Yeah, that internal ultrasound was really pleasant.
Anyway! The search for the source was all fun and games (or something along those lines) until I was told that:
1. They couldn’t find anything.
2. Therefore there mustn’t be anything wrong.
3. Therefore if I could make my merry way back home that would be just dandy.
Alert, alert. This is a very important life lesson right here: you know your own body and you cannot let someone make you feel like they know it better (medical degree or otherwise).
I was in pain. I hadn’t kept food down in days. I was exhausted. And I was only able to stop crying when I was on morphine. But even at 19 I wasn’t in the business of being gaslighted. I wasn’t going to let them send me home until I stopped being 'broken', as I saw it.
So, as a last resort (and in my opinion, a way to politely shut me up), I was booked in for a laparoscopic surgery.
I’ll write about my two experiences with laparoscopies in due course, but for now all you need to know is that the surgeon make a few small incisions in the abdomen, sticks a camera in and see what’s up.
And what was up, you may ask? You guessed it: endometriosis.
When I came to, I was surrounded by two rather sheepish looking doctors who explained that they found endometriosis in and about my ovaries and uterus (it's since taken a vacation to other spots in my body). They informed me that they had burnt out what they could within the schedule they were working to.
I was discharged the day after the surgery with (a) a somewhat mysterious diagnosis, (b) one leaflet about endometriosis and (c) at least some sense of achievement for not throwing in the towel.
Whilst this may all sound super grim (and yes, it was a bit), I am beyond grateful to have gone through it. I say this because I know that so many women wait years to be diagnosed and some probably never are. It was a dramatic time but it sped up the diagnostic process tenfold. And for that I’m infinitely thankful.
I had a diagnosis. I had something to work with. Since then, I’ve self-taught and enlisted the help of numerous specialists. I can now try to live my best life endo be damned.
Thanks for sticking with me.
*I will be writing an entire post about my pre-diagnosis symptoms in due course, so stay tuned!