I will never forget the words the doctor in the ER said to me: “I will not support your habit and I will not prescribe you anything.” These words, so easily said, cut me like a knife. I was no stranger to being told that my endometriosis “shouldn’t cause so much pain”. Or being told I was “a girl who needed to get over it”. But that night changed everything for me.
Let’s go back a bit. My endometriosis journey started when I was 15. I didn’t know what it was that was causing this debilitating pain but I did know that it wasn’t normal. Luckily for me, I had parents who weren’t happy with the answers we were getting either. I can’t even count the number of ultrasounds and CT scans I had trying to diagnose something that no one could see through either of these methods. I was told that my symptoms didn’t make sense by a handful of gastrointestinal specialists and I was refused a referral to a gynecologist because I wasn’t sexually active and therefore “couldn’t possibly have anything wrong with [my] reproductive organs”.
It took me 10 years to finally get the referral I needed. Unfortunately, this is not at all uncommon when dealing with this disease. When I finally got in to see a gynecologist, she diagnosed me with endometriosis by nothing more than just hearing my symptoms. Five minutes after I entered the office, she was ready to send me out with a prescription for birth control pills that were supposed to save me from the pain. I expressed concern with this treatment because by this point I was well versed on how endometriosis was diagnosed and treated, and I knew that birth control pills didn’t treat the disease. I had a family history of blood clotting and was nervous about this potential course of treatment but I was brushed off as being nothing more than a girl who worried too much. At my insistence, I was given a requisition for blood work that had to be paid by myself. I happily did it and 72 hours later was called back in. It was found that I had a genetic blood clotting disorder and that prescription for hormonal birth control would have potentially killed me by causing a lethal blood clot.
I transferred to another gynecologist and again, here was someone who didn’t understand why I wanted a laparoscopy. At this point in my life, I was starting to believe that I perhaps was losing my mind. I needed to know for sure and so I demanded the surgery. On May 31, 2010, I had surgery and was confirmed to have endometriosis on my reproductive organs and bowels. I was relieved. At this point, I thought this was my ticket to real treatment and more answers but instead, I’m really no better off than I have been over the entire course of this disease. I still have severe pain way too often.
I was out one night at a movie with my husband. Afterwards, we were driving home and I was crying. My husband knows that this is a bad sign. I told him I couldn’t make it to our house and he needed to go to my parent’s house immediately (they lived nearby). I began vomiting from the pain. I collapsed on the bathroom floor and couldn’t move. My parents called an ambulance and I was rushed into the ER. Three paramedics were convinced there was something very wrong with me. After two doses of morphine and Gravol, I was still writhing in pain. I felt that as soon as I mentioned the fact that I had endometriosis, I was somewhat written off. This is when the doctor came in to accuse me of being a drug addict looking for a fix. I yelled. I screamed. I demanded treatment and I will never regret the things that I did to stand up for myself. The nurse taking care of me slid me a card for the patient advocate who I contacted the next day. Unfortunately, after a lengthy investigation, I was told by the hospital that the doctor was within his rights and was “trying to educate [me] on the pitfalls of drug abuse”.
It was after this night that I was determined to raise my voice. We need more awareness about this disease. We need doctors to become specialists in this area. We need better treatment. I started a local support group as a result because I don’t believe that anyone should experience something like this without having someone to turn to who truly understands. It has brought me great friends and amazing support – something anyone fighting this disease needs. My advice is simple: never stop fighting for yourself or fighting for awareness. This disease affects too many women for us to remain silent. I hope that my small piece in this world can make a difference for someone else.
If you have endometriosis or any other complex condition and would like to share your story on Hormones Matter, write for us.