Lucky or not so lucky

I’ve noticed recently that quite a few of my friends have been mentioning the pain of living with endometriosis

Common signs and symptoms of endometriosis include:

  1. Painful periods (dysmenorrhea). Pelvic pain and cramping may begin before and extend several days into a menstrual period. …
  2. Pain with intercourse. …
  3. Pain with bowel movements or urination. …
  4. Excessive bleeding. …
  5. Infertility. …
  6. Other signs and symptoms.

When I was a teenager I was one of the last of my friends to start my periods. At the time I was ashamed but looking back I was lucky. Once my periods began so did the suffering. Pain like nothing I had ever experienced in my short life. It would begin on day one and continue until the bleeding stopped on day 9 or 10. Most of my friends were regular and knew exactly when to expect their period to begin. I didn’t realise for some time that other girls didn’t experience the same problems I did. I was very irregular so didn’t know from one day to the next when I would have a flood. I often finished a lesson and stood up to discover that both my skirt and the chair were covered in blood.

My periods were generally over a week long and sometimes I would start one only a week or two after the previous one but at other times I could go upto 2 months between. I would need to take pain relief and would spend hours curled up with a hot water bottle clutched to my abdomen.

When I was about 15 or 16 (so long ago now that I don’t remember exactly) my mother took me to see my dr. He told me that I would grow out of this and everything would settle down by the time I was 17. It didn’t.

As the years went by I would like to say that I got used to this. I didn’t. My periods were always long, always heavy from start to finish and always painful.

In my mid twenties I had my first child and a couple of years later my second. Quickly followed by my third. It was after the birth of my third child that I went almost a year without having any periods. I got into a habit of marking on the calendar how many days passed between my periods. Eventually my Gynecologist did some tests and found that I had polycystic ovaries. My ovaries were not working as they should meaning that they didn’t release oestrogen as often as they should and therefore producing eggs. Many women with this problem have difficulty with conceiving.

I feel blessed that not only did I manage to have 3 healthy sons but also had a fourth son. I was given some treatment for this, but not until after my fourth and final son was born. Among the tests I had undergone I had a bone density test which showed that due to my lack of oestrogen over the years my bone density was not what it should be. I was put on the mini pill (even though I had been sterilized by this time). This was to boost my oestrogen levels as I was even in my mid 30s a prime candidate for Osteoporosis. I couldn’t start this medication until after I had stopped breast feeding my baby.

When I was 38 I was diagnosed with stage three cervical cancer. The treatment for this was intensive resulting in what they called a non surgical hysterectomy. At this point I went through early menopause. This was in itself a blessing for me as it meant the end of all those long, heavy and painful periods. It also meant no more babies but I had already finished having my family so that was fine by me.

I know that I am not the only female in my family to have problems with their reproductive system. My daughter in law is currently in hospital having had emergency surgery for an ectopic pregnancy. She has also had two miscarriages in recent years. I myself had two miscarriages (before and after my first son). Two of my sisters in law also had problems.

My daughter in law is very passionate about supporting Tommys Charity for stillbirth and neonatal births. We both believe that the loss of a child at whichever stage shouldn’t be swept under the carpet. Women (and men) should be able to express their loss without it being a taboo topic. I also believe that other “womens problems” are not spoken about enough. Just because these problems are relating to womens reproductive system doesn’t make them shameful. They are not something that should only be spoken about in a whisper hidden from everyone.

I am unlucky that I suffered right from the beginning with endometriosis. I am lucky that this problem was cut short by my cancer treatment. I am unlucky that I had cancer. I am unlucky that I had polycystic ovaries. I am lucky that I had 4 healthy sons. My life has been one big rollercoaster of being unlucky but balancing it out with good luck.

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