By Lauren Gallagher
I started my period when I was 11 and instantly it was unbelievably heavy and painful. My mum had really bad periods, and had adenomyosis confirmed through a hysterectomy at age 29, so I guess I was lucky as she pushed me to see doctors.
When I was 13 I had a cyst burst on my left ovary and was diagnosed with polycystic ovaries. Unfortunately, that diagnosis followed me throughout my journey; doctors would repeatedly tell me that the cause of my pain was my polycystic ovaries. Over the years, the pain worsened and I was advised to try the pill and take ibuprofen. I once mentioned that I couldn’t cope with the pain anymore and the doctor assumed I was depressed and told me to start antidepressants.
Eventually I saw a doctor who was fantastic and really listened to me. As soon as she heard my story, she asked me if I’d ever heard of endometriosis, and immediately referred me to a gynaecologist. Sadly, that gynaecologist, was dismissive and told me my symptoms were probably due to polycystic ovaries. She agreed to do a laparoscopy since “that’s what the GP is pushing for”, but it was like I was an inconvenience to her. I left feeling drained.
"My surgeon said my insides were unrecognisable"
She carried out the surgery and did find endometriosis, although just a small amount, attaching my uterus to my bowel. I was 19 when I got my diagnosis. Even though she had diagnosed me, she suggested my pain was in my head since she’d only found a small amount; in her mind, I shouldn’t have been in that much pain.
18 months later I saw a second gynaecologist. He sent me for an MRI which showed endometriosis filling up my pouch of Douglas, so I underwent my first excision surgery. Endometriosis was found throughout my pelvis; surgeons told me it was the worst case they’d ever seen. My bowel surgeon said my insides were unrecognisable. It’s possible that there was a lot more endometriosis during my previous surgery than had been found or reported. It was a really bittersweet moment – I finally had answers.
I had some relief for about two months following surgery but then my pain worsened and I became bedbound again. In January 2021 I had further surgery, but I still live with a lot of pain so I'm continuing to see specialists.
What I’ve learnt
The journey with endometriosis is hard and lonely. The biggest problem is the lack of education or support. People can make you really doubt yourself. Some doctors will look at your notes rather than looking at you as a person. Others might project their own experiences of what pain is onto you. I’ve been told I’m too young to be in so much pain. When I was diagnosed I wasn’t given any information at all, and I’ve had to do my own research and equip myself with the knowledge and information I need.
That said, I’ve luckily been able to find people who will listen. My GP is fantastic; I wouldn’t be here without her support. I also have an endometriosis support page on Instagram which has been a lifesaver for me. I’ve made so many friends across the world, but the sad thing is that every one of them has the same story as me. Through my page I want to spread positivity and let women to know that there are other people going through exactly the same thing as them; that they’re not alone.