A young Donegal woman with endometriosis shares her difficult journey for answers in the hope of helping others.
March is Endometriosis Awareness Month. If you know 10 women, you know endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a disease caused by tissue developing outside the uterus. The two main symptoms are pain and infertility. One in 10 women in Ireland are said to be affected, but the average time it takes for a diagnosis is nine years.
This lack of understanding and awareness is something that frustrates women worldwide. One such woman is Kirsty Laverty, who lives and works in Donegal. She began having symptoms at the age of 12, but she was 21 by the time she even heard the word endometriosis.
Here, Kirsty shares her experience:
My journey to diagnosis of endometriosis
Firstly, endometriosis is a condition where cells similar to the lining of your uterus grow on other organs on your body. I have spent years in pain from the age of 12, heavy periods, painful periods, feeling like I was just being a wimp and couldn’t deal with pain.
Thankfully I have a fantastic GP who did everything she could to help me. I spent days in hospital, from appendicitis one minute to IBS the next, they really didn’t know what was wrong with me. They would fill me full of morphine and painkillers and send me home, if I was lucky I might get an ultrasound.
One particular day when I was 21 sitting on my hospital bed waiting for my usual “your fine, your scans are clear, you can arrange for someone to collect you” conversation that I was well used to. Instead, I got a reg who asked me “has anyone ever investigated you for endometriosis”. This was the first time the word endometriosis had ever been mentioned to me.
Then it started, the lightbulbs started going off in my head and I started to push for answers. Unfortunately, our healthcare system in Ireland is absolutely ridiculous when it comes to taking young girls seriously. I used to go to a gynaecologist appointment and think ‘maybe someone will believe me today’ but I eventually got sick of the same old comment “you are too young to have anything wrong with you”. The Reg who had seen me was unfortunately the only person who mentioned endometriosis to me, every other person dismissed my pain as IBS. So, I eventually asked my GP to refer me privately through the cross border directive to Northern Ireland.
I had my first laparoscopic surgery in August 2015, and I was officially diagnosed with Endometriosis. My second surgery happened in December 2017, once again privately in Northern Ireland.
I’ve now had endometriosis removed from my bowel, bladder, and womb, these surgeries were using ablation and monopolar diathermy. I suffer with Chronic pain(some days even tramadol and other pain relief don’t ease it), fatigue, nerve pain, nausea, bowel problems, to name just a few. Excision surgery is the gold standard in the treatment of endometriosis and I hope to be travelling to London to have this surgery in the near future.
I have availed of the Cross Border Directive for both surgeries and although it is a lengthily process at least there is some money that can be claimed back. For me, I think our medical professionals need thorough training in how to spot the signs of endometriosis.
I am lucky, I had my parents and family at my side to every appointment and every A&E visit and they believed me when the hospital didn’t. I am a very private person but when I was asked to do this article I hoped that by telling my story, maybe some young girl may be taken seriously and not have to go through what myself and so many others had to go through.
Endometriosis awareness month is led by the Endometriosis Association of Ireland, which provides support and information to women with endometriosis and to promote research
Up to 155,000 women in Ireland live with this condition that causes a range of symptoms from severe pelvic pain, back pain, pain with periods, painful sex, pain with bowel or bladder movements, leg pain, fatigue. Many women with endometriosis (Approx%) are affected by infertility.
There is no absolute cure for endometriosis but there are treatments that can ease symptoms.
Read more from this 2017 article with Kathleen King, Chairperson of the Endometriosis Association of Ireland.