My Long And Tedious Journey With Endometriosis

My Long And Tedious Journey With Endometriosis

In 2015 I was diagnosed with a disorder called Endometriosis. It took 12 years to figure it all out. Before that, I just thought the excruciating pain during my periods accompanied by excessive heavy bleeding, and excessive bloating was normal for my cycle. For years, I have hated the 10 days of my periods which brought my life to a standstill. Yes, they took that long! It wasn’t until I went to study Dramatic Arts that I started seeking help. It was interfering with my level of performance at school. I had to miss certain physical classes due to the strain the cycle brought on my body. Either that or I wouldn’t perform at my optimum best.
 
Thank heavens, I met Dr. Larbi, my gynecologist from Netcare who made everything clear to me. My journey with the Doctor’s hadn’t been pleasant before then. I was placed on multiple oral contraceptives as a form of hormonal therapy, pain medication, and iron supplements for the elongated bleeding. None of which helped. Sure I gained the weight, the acne, breast tenderness, pigmentation, water retention but not the help that I needed.

The stigma that comes with taking contraceptives didn’t help either. As far as I knew, contraceptives were used to prevent you from getting pregnant. I wasn’t even sexually active, so this completely messed me up psychologically! Also, the admin of remembering to take the pill at the same time every day was a job and a half! Mentally I wasn’t okay. I just wanted it to all go away. 

So as I mentioned one day I stumbled across Doctor Larbi on the Netcare website and was impressed by his accolades and how he’d been able to help women in similar situations as mine. From my first appointment with him, and after hearing my history he was able to do a pelvic exam and speculate that I might have Endometriosis. In simple terms; Endometriosis is a condition in which tissue that is meant to grow on the inside of your uterus, grows outside instead. This causes excruciating, numbing, menstrual cramps along with other symptoms like fatigue, bloating, and, gas pains when you get your period each month. A full diagnosis can only be given after a surgical examination of your womb and the lining thereof has been performed. This surgical procedure is called Laparoscopy. 
 
On the day I went for surgery, I  was put under local anesthesia and small incisions were made on my abdomen, and then a small tube as thin as a pen with a camera and light at the tip was inserted into my abdomen. The Doctor found tissue growing outside of my uterus, around my ovaries as well as on my bowls which explained why I would bloat so badly during the first 2 days of my cycle. To get rid of the unwanted tissue, with my consent prior to the procedure, he burned it using a laser.
These are the 10 facts I wish I knew about Endometriosis when I was younger :
 
1. The cause of Endometriosis is unknown. 
2. Non-cancerous tissue that looks the same as the tissue on the lining of your uterus (endometrial lining) grows on the outside of your uterus, the ovaries, the bowels. 
3. Extreme menstrual cramps come from the tissue bleeding and getting stuck in the wrong spot. 
4. Dark red or brown blood is not normal. It’s caused by the extra shedding of unknown tissue. This also causes your period to be longer than what is deemed normal. 
5. The tissue is Non-cancerous but it can cause Fibroids if not dealt with sooner. 
6. No amount of oral contraceptives or hormonal therapy can help you with Endometriosis. These only temporarily suppress the symptoms but the only way to deal with it is through surgery. 
7. No one is too young to get Endometriosis. Teenagers, young and old women can be immune to it. 
8. There is no cure for Endometriosis. You can have the laparoscopic surgery which will dramatically ease the symptoms but it usually comes back a year or two later after childbirth. 
9.Hysterectomy( the removal of your uterus ) cannot permanently cure Endometriosis because the tissue grows outside of the uterus. Therefore removing the uterus will not aid it. 
10. Though there isn’t a cure for Endometriosis. It can be wonderfully managed if you get the right help.

There are so many other conditions of the uterus that women have no information about. When I was in school we were taught about the menstrual cycle but never the other stuff surrounding it. Below are some ’cause for concerns’ of the uterus that I’ve gathered from my journey.

1. If your menstrual cramps last longer than the first two days of your period. Go check that out!
2. If you’re spotting in between your periods; meaning random trickles of blood, go check that out!
3. If you suffer from pelvic, back, and or abdominal pain, get that checked out!
4. If your bleeding soaks through one super tampon or pad in less than 2 hours. Get that checked out! 
5. If you suffer from excessive, smelly discharge, check that out!
6. If you don’t get your period every 28-45 days, check that out!
7. If you don’t get your period at all, you might want to get that checked out too!
8. Do you have recurring urinary tract infections? This is a cause for concern. Go get it checked! 
 
Might I say that regardless of all the facts about Endometriosis; I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl 13 months ago and no sign of Endometriosis was detected thereafter. I will forever be grateful for my daughter Kebotlhale. I am also super grateful for my husband who’s the one that first suggested I seek help, and then held my hand through it all! 
 
It is important that women across different generations normalize conversations about these embarrassing things happening to our bodies. I have learned that it’s nothing to be ashamed of because 9 times out of 10 times, you’re not the only one going through it! Tell someone, ask questions, and seek the necessary help. Go for at least 3 opinions before deciding on anything major like surgery. There is always light at the end of the tunnel for us all!
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