By guest contributor Emily Griffiths, writing for Endometriosis Awareness Month.
My periods were extremely heavy which led to anaemia and I was put on the mini pill. This is where my journey began as a victim of the gender health gap.
I would visit my doctor regularly trying to find out what was wrong with me as I felt so unwell, only for him to look me up and down and wonder why I was being so dramatic. I was told that I was only suffering from bad periods and the symptoms were normal women’s problems. I suggested to my GP that it could be endometriosis only to be shrugged off.
GPs were more concerned about my education and social life and many hurtful comments were made about the state of my mental health. I ended up with more mental health referrals than scans on my ovaries, and due to this they thought I was only suffering from IBS. The surgery regularly sent me trials of painkillers, mini pills, laxatives and anti-depressants. I battled on through crippling pain and it came to a point that I demanded a scan. Unknown to me ultra sound scans cannot always detect endometriosis, and I was told that my ovaries looked normal.
August bank holiday Monday 2019, I was rushed to A&E fighting for my life with sepsis.
My blood pressure was dangerously low but still had to wait four hours in an ambulance to be treated. It was the most petrifying day of my life and I remember saying to my Dad ‘I think I’m dying’. I spent a week in hospital on IV antibiotics and I lost a stone in weight. Eventually I was given an MRI and it was at this point I was diagnosed with a 7cm endometrioma (cyst), which was endometriosis. I had known deep down I most probably had this.
My local hospital referred me to a specialist endometriosis centre for surgery as they had no idea how to treat me. I had a laparoscopy in October 2019 and to my surprise needed lifesaving excision surgery within a year to remove a 25cm endometrioma from my left ovary . I also had endometriosis removed from my bladder and bowel which were both fused together, cemented endometriosis in the ureters severely damaging my kidneys, an obliterated pouch of Douglas, nerve ending damage and my pelvis need to be reconstructed .
I am now four months post op and still in pain every day due to the severity of my endometriosis and I may not see any relief for 6 months. My fertility has been greatly affected and does not look very promising. I am trying to deal with all the medical trauma for which there is no support.
We need to start talking openly about periods to break the stigma of embarrassment.
The gender health gap is causing a huge risk to women’s lives. It took me nine years to get a diagnosis where I was gas lighted by medical professionals into thinking the pain wasn’t real. My advice to any other woman who is being let down by the gender health gap is not to take ‘no’ for an answer - keep demanding answers and listen to your body.
I feel from all of this that women’s health needs to be taken seriously. Excruciating pain can be a sign of an illness like endometriosis which damages nerves, muscles, at times organ loss, and like myself could possibly lead to a traumatic experience like sepsis.
Chronic illness is invisible but the pain and suffering is devastating for sufferers. People need to be more considerate when asking: ‘‘Are you better yet?’’ Living with a severe illness like endometriosis is currently incurable.
What is endometriosis?
- Endometriosis is the name given to the condition where cells similar to the ones in the lining of the womb are found elsewhere in the body.
- Each month these cells react in the same way to those in the womb building up and then breaking down and bleeding unlike the cells in the womb that leave the body as a period, this has nowhere to escape.
- Periods can be extremely painful and heavy. It is a chronic and often debilitating condition that affects the whole body.
- It may also lead to infertility, fatigue, bowel and bladder problems and even sometimes loss of organs .
- 1 in 10 women of reproductive age in the UK suffer from Endometriosis.
- Endometriosis affects 1.5 million women, a similar number of women affected by Diabetes.
- On average it takes 8 years from onset of symptoms to get a diagnosis which is only confirmed by a laparoscopy.
For more information on endometriosis visit: https://endometriosis-uk.org/
For more information on sepsis visit: https://sepsistrust.org/
About the author:
Emily Griffiths, 22, has a passion in women’s health and women’s rights activism and regularly writes about her own health experiences. Emily wants to see change in how women’s health and pain is treated, and wants to raise awareness on chronic illnesses like endometriosis.
All images contributed by Emily Griffiths