For the past 18 months, I have been suffering from a condition that I didn’t often talk about. Not because I was ashamed, or really all the embarrassed, but because I tried not to see it as a big deal. It affected my everyday life, but it wasn’t life threatening so I did my best to ignore it (plus being dismissed by countless doctors so many times will leave you feeling like there’s nothing that can be done anyway).
My symptoms were weak bladder, the inability to pass urine properly, the constant feeling that I need to go to the toilet, painful periods, thrush and IBS. As I said, not life-threatening but a daily nuisance. Some days were worse than others, mainly brought on by stress and tiredness and it was in those moments that were particularly difficult for me. The amount of times my boyfriend has had to comfort me while I’ve been sat on the toilet crying, unable to go for a wee, is more than I’d care to count #relationshipgoals.
I first went to the doctor in December 2015 with my symptoms. A course of antibiotics was given, which eased the symptoms but they didn’t go away completely. I went back in the March with the same problems, and I was told that I had IBS, but the bladder symptoms couldn’t be explained. I went back in the May, with no improvements and was told by my GP that it was beyond his expertise so was referred to a specialist who I saw in the June. She treated me, gave me some treatment for the thrush, booked me in for an ultrasound scan and referred me to a gynaecologist as she believed (the only one who did believe me, funny that) that there was something else at play. I didn’t get my appointment with the gynaecologist until the August and when I did see him, he was extremely dismissive of me, saying that the results of my scan were inconclusive and I would have to wait until December for another scan to see if anthing improved.
I left that appointment broken. He was meant to be an expert in this kind of thing and I felt dismissed and ignored. I broke down on the walk home but decided that I didn’t want to be the girl that no-one takes seriously, so I rang another GP for a second opinion. She referred me to a urologist (bladder doctor), who over the next few months did a series of scans and tests that all came back inconclusive.
As a result, by April 2017 it was time for another trip back to the gynaecologist, and while I was dreading it my first gynaecologist was on annual leave so I got to see another one, who took me far more seriously than the first. Although he was reluctant, I managed to convince him to do a laparoscopy (keyhole surgery that looks at my stomach and womb) and he booked me in. The earliest I could be seen would be July 25th, but the trouble was it with my first gynaecologist, the one who dismissed me the previous August.
Yesterday, I arrived at the hospital, slightly scared and ever so sceptical. I had convinced myself that I was going to get dismissed again and that I’d get another discussion about inconclusive results. I suppose, after a number of appointments, tests, referrals and medication from the past 18 months that had all failed, I was protecting myself from getting my hopes crushed once again.
I woke up from the surgery, cold, in a hell of a lot of pain and disorientated. They don’t show you that part on Greys Anatomy I thought. The nurses were absolutely fantastic, I had quite a lot of bleeding and nausea and they really helped me through it. About an hour afterwards, the gynaecologist came to see me and he explained that he had done three procedures, looking at my stomach, womb and also bladder. The same doctor that had dismissed me nearly a year ago, showed me the pictures and explained that I’ve been suffering from endometriosis* for a number of years. He explained that it was when tissue that acts like the lining of your womb is found in other parts of the body, mine on my stomach and bladder.
Endometriosis. A condition that only happens in women and is more common than type two diabetes. A condition that not a lot of people have heard of, a condition that gets ignored, dismissed and minimised. A condition that two million women in the UK alone are suffering with, more often than not, in silence. A condition that causes infertility.
To be told that I could struggle with infertility is the hardest thing to hear. But I’m in recovery now and I finally have an answer. It’s bitter-sweet. I’ve finally been diagnosed and my symptoms should now improve (I went for my first proper wee in 18 months this morning and it was amazing!), but I have waited a long time to get here and knowing that I could have been treated sooner, stings a lot.
If you feel like you are suffering from something and you are not being taken seriously, push. Push hard and be persistent. My gender is not going to define why I suffer and you shouldn’t let it either.
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