Symptoms Pointing to Endometriosis
I discovered I had endometriosis nearly 15 years later. Unlike most people, I did not have excruciating periods every month. Sometimes, I could barely tell that my period was there because of the lack of pain. But I did have other unusual symptoms that should have been further evaluated.
I have been to many doctors since my early 20s. I’ve complained of abnormal bleeding and cramps from running too hard, breakthrough bleeding, migraines that make me sick to my stomach, and unusually heavy periods. I was also struggling to conceive.
I was always told that I seemed healthy and that sometimes, as women, we can be irregular. Bleeding from running too hard was “just a thing that sometimes happens.” I was prescribed birth control pills which were wonderful because I barely had a period, but it led to more painful migraines, so I had to stop.
Then, in 2013, I had a migraine that made me sick to my stomach and I was urged to go to the ER. I also let the doctor know I was having some weird stomach pains in my lower abdomen so the doctor requested an ultra sound.
The Lengthy Process of Diagnosis
I discovered I had three “chocolate” cysts, one the size of a tennis ball and the other two the same size when combined. Both of my ovaries had been affected, so I was told to see a gynecologist immediately. The doctor suspected it was endometriosis.
I didn’t understand how these endometrial cysts could have been missed because of the numerous pelvic exams I had year after year for at least a decade.
I followed up with a gynecologist after my ER visit who recommended I not exercise vigorously in case of cyst rupture due to the advanced stage of endometriosis. The doctor also tried to ease my worries by telling me that having children may be difficult, but not impossible as that was one of my main concerns.
Unfortunately, I was in another state for job training, so I had to wait for further evaluation.
A couple of weeks later, I finally returned home to California to get help. I had to go to my primary care doctor to be seen first and request a referral for evaluation from a gynecologist. Once my referral was approved, I was finally seen about a month or so later. The gynecologist did a pelvic exam and mentioned he could feel the cysts, so I was referred for an ultra sound – again. Afterward, I had to meet with him for follow up which led to yet another referral. It was a frustrating process with lots of waiting in between. Nearly 7 months went by …
The Result of Treatment
I wanted help immediately, but it would take me over a year to get the help I truly needed. I was finally referred to a fertility specialist who performed a laparoscopy and carefully removed the cysts. The doctor also removed any scar tissue and took before and after photos. The entire process took nearly 3 hours.
Since being able to conceive was a priority, I was urged to start IVF in 6 months if I could not get pregnant on my own. It was too risky to wait any longer because the endometriosis could return rather quickly. Endometriosis is a condition that has no cure.
I followed the doctor’s orders and also started a special fertility diet which was similar to the anti-inflammatory diet. I also exercised and even took a vacation since it was recommended. Now that the cysts were gone, it was my chance to try again. Two months later, I was pregnant! I could not believe it.
If you think you might have endometriosis, please get checked out. In severe cases, endometriosis can spread to your bowels, lungs, and brain. It can also dramatically affect your ability to conceive. The earlier you get treatment, the better you’ll be able to manage your pain or worsening symptoms. Good luck!