“She is just unlucky, she can either go on the pill or get pregnant.” My doctor told my 11 year old self.
I started my period when I was 10 years old and the first few ones were absolutely painless and more of a question about why it was there. I never really got an answer to what a period was for but that I had access to tampons and pads when I needed them.
After about 5-6 periods, that’s when I started noticing the pain during my period. It was excruciating and changed depending on the cycle.
Some periods felt like someone was taking a semi and setting it on my left outer thigh and crushing it. This pain would last for up to 8 hours and I would be stuck in the bathroom the whole time biting down on a wash cloth, having explosive diarrhoea, throwing up in between, and losing so much blood.
Other times it would feel like there were knives or barb wire in my perineum that would lock my body in the position that it was originally in for about 10 minutes.
In between my periods my digestion issues got worse, my PMS was horrific, and I started having migraines between ovulation & my period. When we went to the doctor my mother asked about endometriosis, she knew of this because my aunt, her younger sister, had been diagnosed with endometriosis in her teenage years.
My mother knew that all of my symptoms were very similar except the fact that I didn’t pass out like my aunt did on her periods from the excruciating pain. The doctor told her no and prescribed me the hormonal birth control pill.
For the most part it worked over the 13 years that I was on it. The period pain got better and the migraines went away but I still dealt with the occasional leg pain, mainly when I was running. Digestion issues never went away and later in high school I ended up having shoulder, back, and hip surgery.
The surgeons assumed that all of my issues had to do with my sport as a competitive swimmer however, many of symptoms from those surgeries never went away. The chronic mid back pain, occasional leg tingling & numbing and groin pain was almost always there after the operation. I’d learned that I would be in pain for the rest of my life.
At the age of 23, I was moving back to Australia when my mother taught me about period poverty and that’s when I deep dove into this work.
At this time, I also noticed painful intercourse with my partner which often felt like a metal rod hitting my cervix or something pulling at my right ovary. I started investing in all of the period based books and learned about the menstrual cycle.
Who knew that there was so much more to us than just our periods? Once I learned from Dr. Jolene Brighten that period pain wasn’t normal but actually a sign that something was going, I wanted to investigate it. I got off hormonal birth control and started tracking my cycle, especially observing whether or not I was ovulating.
In the book, Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler, I came across her section on endometriosis where I started check marking all of the symptoms of endometriosis that aligned with me.
While I continued tracking my cycle, I was still experiencing excruciating periods because my cycle had finally returned and something was still going on. I researched all that I could on endometriosis including proper diagnosis and alternative treatments as it can’t be cured.
After 5 months, I decided to fly home to the states and meet with a doctor to try to get a diagnosis by a surgeon. I booked 2 doctor’s appointments within 3 hours of each other. The first doctor told me to get back on the pill and not to worry about it if I didn’t plan on having kids anytime soon.
I couldn’t sit with that answer because I knew that my menstrual cycle allowed for my hormones to help my entire body such as my heart & bone health and that plenty of people with endometriosis lost organs due to this disease. I wanted a real answer.
My second doctor listened, acknowledged me, and told me she believed me. She performed my surgery 2 months later and diagnosed me with stage 2 endometriosis, 4 small fibroids, and 2 small ovarian cysts. Most of my endometriosis was mainly on my pelvis, bowel, & rectum with a tiny bit on my right ovary.
Just before I had this surgery, I had actually gone to the emergency for stomach pain which I had before in the past years as well. This time the doctor told me that I was severely constipated and referred me onto a gastro doctor. I thought this was odd because I pooped every day, even though it hurt to do so, it was still a normal part of my daily life.
My gastro doctor told me that she had never seen anyone so constipated in her entire career and assumed that my brain no longer communicated to my rectum to remove my faeces. When I asked her, she said of course it couldn’t be endometriosis and I would need to stay on permanent laxatives. Commencing the endometriosis surgery, I was pooping 2-4 day with absolute ease.
That surgery took away all of my back and hip pain within 2 weeks post operation, the pain I thought would never disappear. I felt good, my body felt like it was mine and that I could have relief but I knew that the chance of endometriosis growing back was high so I needed to take charge in alternative treatments.
I bought all of the books that I could on endometriosis and fibroids. With that I immediately made changes. I went to an allergist to learn that I am allergic to all latex and nuts & seeds yet, I was eating these every single day. My mother ordered me the Everlywell Food Sensitivity Test which is not backed by the FDA but everyone I knew that had taken it, felt a tremendous difference.
When it came to food, my doctors think I am celiac and I’ve been lactose intolerant since I was little. In my research, I found that people dealing with these issues should try cutting back on gluten, dairy, soy, refined sugar, and alcohol. That we should focus on eating lots of vegetables and fruits and focusing on supporting our gut health.
With all of these tests and food changes, I was already feeling so much better! My period pain had finally come down to more of a 5/10 over a 12/10. But I did notice that in my chart of my cycle that my luteal phase was still short; I looked more into my vitamin and mineral deficiencies, which turns out that I have a lot of. Such as B12, Vitamin D, Magnesium, Iron, Calcium, etc. and added vitex & in an amazing probiotic to support microbiome.
At this point in time, I have been working on my lifestyle changes for about 2.5 years and now my period pain is down to 2/10 and sometimes no pain at all. I never experience migraines, bloating, PMS or digestion issues afterwards.
My luteal phase is now 12 days long and I have no clotting or heavy periods. Sure, I still have the back pain and hip pain however, it is only present when I am constipated which is rare now that I focus on ensuring that I eat enough fiber and stretch out to help my muscles that have endometriosis on them.
I have my life back. I feel in control of what choices I make about my body because I have the information that I need. Every single person should have a choice and understand what is going on with their body. If you are in pain, it is not normal and you deserve answers.