Living with a chronic illness is tough. It is debilitating, it is isolating, and at times it feels like the whole world Is against you. Just over five years ago, I was diagnosed with Endometriosis, a condition that plagues sufferers with enormous amounts of both physical and emotional pain and exhaustion.
I had always suffered with painful periods from being twelve years old, with many teachers, friends and even family members thinking I was dramatic and using pain as an excuse to miss school and activities, but this wasn’t the case. Realising this wasn’t normal, I visited my Doctor’s Surgery regularly begging for help, but all I was told was to take painkillers and apply heat. At fourteen years old, I wanted to die. For the next few years life went on like this, screaming, crying; or mostly rocking back and forth in bed for days on end wishing something or someone would take the pain away. Occasionally there would be a new contraceptive pill thrown into the mix. Jazzing it up a bit, I think.
Fast forward to my first day of College, I had been suffering with stomach pain and sickness for a little over a week and barely made it through the day; that evening I caved and I finally saw a doctor. One minute I was in the Doctor’s Surgery, the next I was laid in A&E being prodded and poked with needles, pumped with fluids and a burst vein leaking all over the floor. I was suspected of having an appendicitis and admitted to hospital after my bloods showed an infection somewhere in my body. I then went on to have the week from hell. I was vomiting constantly, crying in pain, injected with blood thinners, hooked up to a drip, and the nurse wanted my blood nearly every day.
At the end of the week, the surgeons decided that my infection markers were low enough for me to go home with a cocktail of drugs to take for the next month, and if my symptoms persisted I was to see the Outpatients Gastrointestinal Team. Side note: my symptoms never left. Throughout the course of the year I learned to live with the pain and different combinations of drugs that were thrown my way; occasionally the diagnosis of IBS and Stomach Migraines were thrown about too.
September 2014, it happened again. The same week of sickness, the same pain, the same Doctor’s Surgery, and a suspected appendicitis. this time however, I was rushed straight through to surgical admissions and put on a drip her again, nil by mouth just incase they needed to operate. I won’t bore you with the details. I stayed in hospital for another week until one doctor looked me in the eye and proclaimed “Some people just get stomach ache.” Great.
It took a few months of numerous tests and appointments until one day, around six weeks before I flew to New York, my travel insurance fell through. Eighteen months of inconclusive tests and no official diagnosis meant the travel insurance my College had taken out didn’t cover me. I was devastated. Despite the fact things were looking so bleak, my angel of a Mum made sure I got to experience the trip of a lifetime though. Even though I was eighteen, my Dad’s workplace Private Health Care still covered me, meaning we could fast track to a local private hospital and push to get a diagnosis in time, and it worked! Within two weeks I saw a consultant who diagnosed a chronic appendicitis so I could travel, and agreed I needed surgery to investigate the problem. Six weeks after the initial appointment I went under the knife, awaking minus an Appendix and a fresh diagnosis of Endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to that of the lining of the womb grows in other places such as the Ovaries, Fallopian tubes, the Bladder and even the Bowels. In rare occasions, Endometriosis can spread beyond the Pelvis, and grow on the Diaphragm, Lungs and Brain. Symptoms can include heavy periods, painful sex, pelvic pain, nausea and infertility. Endometriosis is currently up for debate as to whether it’s actually an autoimmune disease, which would then mean that women suffering severely would get more recognition and the disease would be vastly understood, as with many other autoimmune disorders.
I was relatively pain free for years, and in 2017 I even wrote a post about my experience with the condition, however I spoke too soon. In 2018 my periods did start to return to their awful selves and for a week every month I was doubled over in pain and swallowing tablet after tablet, however I managed.
In July 2019 I had just flown home from Tenerife and was working my first shift back at work when I had to go to A&E. I hadn’t felt myself for a couple of days but it wasn’t something that required immediate attention, however this particular day the pain was so bad I could barely stand. After seven hours in A&E I was admitted to hospital with suspected Gallstones and again, made to swallow a cocktail of drugs every few hours. The pain was horrific. Again, I won’t bore you with the details and I’ll cut to the chase; nothing was found. No Gallstones, no blockage, no infection. I was sent away with a possible diagnosis of a UTI with advice to seek medical attention with my GP should it continue. Well it did, for another six weeks. I went back and forth from Doctor to Doctor until one particular female Doctor tested me for just about everything that could possibly be causing the pain, and referred me to the Gynaecology team at the Outpatients.
Seven months after my initial stay in hospital, I signed the dotted line agreeing to a diagnostic laparoscopy which would hopefully help the surgeons to help me. This surgery would take place in March. Unfortunately, due to the current Covid-19 pandemic, my surgery has been postponed and I’m unsure as to how much longer I’ll be waiting. I now spend at least a few days a week in pain, feeling nauseous and lethargic as the Endometriosis completely wipes the floor with me.
The point of this is to raise awareness of the difficulties surrounding Endometriosis and chronic illnesses, as I have come across many people in my life that are ignorant to the fact that I am constantly in pain, and sometimes need to take time off due to it. They believed that I was dramatic, not wanting to work, attention seeking and lazy. However I am the opposite! These people were teachers and managers and they really got to me until I realised they just didn’t understand, nor did they care to. That’s not to say all managers are like that though, I have had managers that have been amazing and have completely understood my situation, doing everything they can to help me; whether that be extra time off for pain, reduced hours, or even just letting me have five minutes every now and then when I needed it. I am forever grateful to them.
If you know someone that suffers with anything similar, offer them support. This doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, sometimes just offering help in anyway you can makes a massive difference in someone’s life. I know that my experience has made me more considerate and understanding of other people’s struggles, and I hope that one day everyone can recognise that every individual’s suffering is valid and true.