Mel's Endometriosis Story
By Mel Skelly
I suppose I’ve always known that there was something wrong. That “something wrong”, had taken the form of many incorrect misdiagnoses - everything from thyroid dysfunction, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and even miscarriages! So after 13 years of illness, hearing the words, “you have Endometriosis” brought me both trepidation and validation.
But let me start at the beginning. I started my periods early, at the age of about 11. The first few cycles weren’t too bad, but each one began to get more painful and a lot heavier. I had my mum take me to the GP and put me on the pill at age 14 because I couldn’t handle the pain and the flow. I experienced a lot of symptoms throughout my high school years, most notably headaches, migraines, weight loss and gain, extreme nausea, flooding and what I now know to be pelvic pain. I tried 5 different OCP’s before I found one that worked for me, and for a time, my symptoms subsided. However after a couple of years the cramps and nausea and fatigue returned - white hot pain, searing cramps that convulsed my whole body, and headaches with aura. I went from GP to GP, trying to explain that I KNEW something was wrong but no one would take me seriously. Every visit was a disheartening kick in the guts. I was even referred to a psychologist at one stage, accused of “doctor shopping” and “making up the pain”.
Fast forward a couple of years, and I am in the stirrups awaiting a Pap smear in the office of a rural GP. The doctor came in, paused and said, “we can’t do this test whilst you are on your period”. I explained that this bleeding occurred most days. After a few quick questions, the doctor explained that my pain and symptoms were NOT normal, and they had to be investigated immediately. I could have hugged him, and I will forever be grateful, because he steered my life back on track.
I ended up having surgery a couple of months later to have a complex cyst removed from my ovary, and it was during this surgery that my Endometriosis was discovered. On my ovaries, bowel, pouch of Douglas, Fallopian tubes. Scarring, adhesions, lesions. Scary words to hear in recovery, but at last there was a reason for my pain. As soon as I was discharged, a quick google search solidified my diagnosis in my own mind. All the symptoms over the years finally made sense.
I work in a male dominated industry, and this can add extra pressure some days. A lot of the dudes don’t know (or don’t want to know!) about how this cruel disease can strike me so suddenly some days. Most of the guys are great, but some days one too many comments like “you look a bit pale, are you ok?” or “you look like hell!” can be embarrassing. It can also be hard to explain to my boss why I have to have another day off, or go home early again, or why I need some time in the lunch room with a heat pack. In this sense, it can be incredibly isolating, but I am trying my best to break the stigma associated with women’s health.
I experience pain most days and I’m on the wait list for another surgery, but I try to take stock of all the lovely things in my life. I have a successful and flourishing career, a gorgeous dog, and a wonderful husband. He takes great care of me and often knows what’s best for me, even when I don’t. In reality, this disease affects both of us. I couldn’t imagine my life without his love and support - thank you never feels like enough.
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