I went back and forth on whether or not I wanted to write about this topic and when I shared that sentiment with Michelle her response was:
But, Lauren, you feel so passionately about it.
She’s right, I do. And given that March is Endometriosis Awareness Month, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share my story in an effort to help others who may have similar stories like my own.
I remember the first time I told my doctor I had painful periods. I was around the age of 17 or 18. Almost without hesitation, she told me that I “probably have endometriosis“. Followed up with “there’s really nothing to be done about it, try a heating pad and some over-the-counter pain reliever.”
She did offer me a prescription for muscle relaxers but I’m pretty sure that scene from Sixteen Candles where Molly Ringwald’s older sister takes a muscle relaxer on her wedding day to ease her cramps and ends up passing out at the altar, was enough for me to decline the doctor’s offer.
From that point on, I’d go for my annual pap smear, share that I had horrendous cramps, and was told the same thing every time.
It’s probably endometriosis.
No red flags were raised when I shared that my cramps are horrible. No flags, no eyebrows raised, not much further inquiry. Just a nod of the head and what I suspect, “probably has endometriosis” jotted in my folder.
For years, I was under the impression that painful periods were the norm.
For your reference: when you see the word “pain” please read slow stabbing.
I thought that all women surely must spend hours sitting on the toilet the first day of their period, doubled over in pain, hoping for something to happen. Perhaps a BM or the passing of a blood clot, anything to ease some of the hurt. When that doesn’t happen, all women on their period then lay in a fetal position on a cold bathroom floor in a ball of pain so bad they might vomit or cry. The cold tile doesn’t do the trick so into the tub we go! Surely a hot bath will alleviate some pain – the doctors did say to use heat. Naked, wet, sitting in a ball shape in the bath, praying to the period goddesses for signs of relief – we all sit and wait. Welp, none of that does the trick. Time to take three more Aleve because other than prescription pain medication, Aleve is the only OTC that works and three is the magic number. Honorable mention goes out to medicinal cannabis for its healing effects. After about 3-5 hours (HOURS) the pain subsides, and then women on their periods are granted a nap from the period fairies because they’re exhausted and survived the first day of our menstruation. The end.
That is a very literal description of what the first day of my period has been like for the past 20+ years. I now know there’s nothing normal about it.
If you are reading this and any part of that sounds like your experience with your period, please for the love of God, ask all of the questions about Endometriosis. Don’t let anyone brush it off like it’s no big deal.
That’s what I did.
But then just last week, I had my first laparoscopic surgery to explore my uterus and to find out if I really do have endometriosis, and guess what…
Stage 2/3 or otherwise known as moderate. You may be wondering how I got here. After three failed IUI’s and some trouble getting pregnant, I was told….you guessed it…
You probably have endometriosis.
And that was the last time I was going to hear that and not do anything more about it.
You know, the real kicker here is that none of my doctors prior to my fertility doctor ever really explained to me that conceiving can be complicated due to endometriosis. That would have been helpful. But alas, this is where my journey has led me.
At this point, I want to direct my attention and energy to the places and the people that have shown me the endometriosis light. My dear friend and fertility + mindset coach, Kasia McGuire, who if it wasn’t for her, I would not have felt empowered enough to speak up. Like, really speak up and go for a second opinion. I’ve never had to do that before.
But you know what they say, “empowered women, empower women”, so no surprise there.
I’m grateful to my doctor for listening and asking me questions about the pain I experience. And after saying, “you probably have endometriosis” following it up with “let’s go in and have a look. And if you do, which I suspect you do, we’ll remove it.” And that’s what he did.
He basically gave me a uterine facelift. It’s as good as new.
For what it’s worth, many doctors don’t dive too deep into the endo pond because unless they specialize in the disease, it’s difficult to diagnose. It really is on you to do the diving.
My point in sharing all of this very personal information regarding my health is because I wish I would have read this post ten years ago. But I didn’t, so I’m writing this for the young girl sitting in a high school bathroom stall doubled over in pain when she should be in English class or the thirty-something-year-old woman calling in sick to work because the pain is just too intense to head into the office.
Painful periods have been normalized, it’s not okay. Nor is it healthy. At a certain point, endometriosis will disrupt your life. Perhaps when trying to make a baby or when trying to get some work done, endometriosis doesn’t take the day off.
It’s often mistakenly labeled as just “really bad cramps” or misunderstood, so find a specialist whose passion and mission in life are to help women suffer less. One in ten women have endo – that’s means about 200 million women worldwide suffer from this very painful condition where the tissue that’s typically found on the inside of your uterus grows on the outside of it. It’s actually quite common.
They say that the best way to raise awareness about endometriosis is to talk about it. This is me paying it forward. I know someone out there will read this and will get the proper help they need.
It feels so damn good to have some answers and a proper diagnosis. I didn’t expect to feel this way…but I feel validated.
Speak up for your uterus, no one can hear her hollering from inside.
In an effort to help others and raise awareness, please feel free to share this on your social media. Someone will be grateful you did. Thank you.
To hear more about my story and journey with endometriosis, head to our podcast, Cozy Conversations:
For more on Endometriosis, go here.