It’s Not Just Cramps

I’ve always had painful periods. Like, really, really painful. The first time I got my period I was 12 years old.  I remember it like it had only happened a few months ago. It was so bad that when I got home from school that day my grandmother had to carry me out of the shower because I had fainted from the pain whist taking a shower. So, pain was normal for me. I grew up experiencing that pain every single month. But then, once I got to high school, it got worse, much worse. I remember I would have to skip school at times because the pain was so bad I couldn’t physically get out of bed. But like I said, I was used to the pain, so I just toughed it out every month. I would tell my mom that the cramps were very painful but not wanting for me to have any serious problem, she would brush it off as normal period pain and would give me pain meds and warm towels for me to put over my stomach.

It wasn’t until my second year of college that I decided to find out if they were indeed normal period cramps. My best friend has cysts on her ovaries, and whenever I would tell her about my pain, she always encouraged me to go to a gynecologist because she suspected I might have cysts as well, since they are very common after all. So I did, after an afternoon of working out I walked into the clinic, asked for an appointment, and filled out my paperwork. What harm could I do to find out? They’re probably just cysts too.” I would tell myself the days leading up to my appointment. (I’ve always been sort of an anxious girl, needing to have everything under control, so doctor appointments stress me out a bit.). So the day comes, and I’m a nervous wreck because what if it wasn’t just cyst and there was something seriously wrong with my body? It is safe to say it has been one of the most nerve-ranking times I’ve experienced in my entire life. But nonetheless, as I sat in the room, the doctor finally walks in and starts to ask all of the intrusive questions they always ask. When I started to describe my pain and all the other symptoms, his eyebrows furrowed and he quickly reached in one of the drawers for a pamphlet. He stared reading a list and asking me if I had experienced these things: very painful cramps, heavy bleeding, painful intercourse, rapid heart beating, bowel problems, back pain, and some others.

As he read from the list my nerves kept rising and rising because, yes, I had experienced every single one of them.  When he told me that he suspected I had endometriosis, I was very shocked. I couldn’t believe that something I was so used to, that I lived with throughout half of my life, wasn’t normal. Endometriosis is a disorder in which the endometrium (the lining that covers the inside of your uterus) grows around and outside of the uterus as well. Nobody knows why it happens, it doesn’t have a cure, it can be very dangerous and life threatening, and no, it is not contagious. But at the time, the only thing I had heard about endometriosis was that it makes you infertile. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want children at this precise moment in my life, but I do want to have a family someday. So when the doctor said I might have it, I automatically thought that I couldn’t have babies.  The doctor asked me to get some blood tests done and a sonogram to see if there were any adhesions in my inner organs (basically to see how advanced my condition was). I walked out of that clinic and immediately called my boyfriend and cried my eyes out. I was terrified that this condition was going to take away a part of my future that I am very much looking forward to.

Long story short, my doctor thinks my endometriosis is minimal or mild, and that it’s still a big possibility for me to get pregnant without having to go through fertility treatments, which is good. I was prescribed birth control pills, which is one of the most common treatments for endo, and it truly has improved my life so much, I’m very grateful for them. I feel very lucky because there are so many women who have it so much worse than me, and they go through what I go through but 10x worse. Endometriosis affects 1 in 10 women of reproductive age, and yet there is very little research done on it and even less awareness about it, and that’s very unfortunate. I wish I had known sooner that I wasn’t alone. If you or anyone you know has any of these symptoms please contact a professional or look for more information about endometriosis.