TW/Disclaimer: This series will discuss medical and mental health issues. If these topics are upsetting to you, I would encourage you to stop reading now. Anything we say is based on our own experiences, and we are not experts. This is not medical or mental health advice.
Hello friends, welcome to Pass the Heating Pad! This is a place where I want to talk about my journey leading to my endometriosis diagnosis, everything that has happened along the way, and where I am now. Here at Eating Confidently, we believe it’s important to be confident in all aspects of your life other than just what you put in your body. Living with allergies alone is stressful, but adding on chronic pain and other issues can make day-to-day life incredibly overwhelming.
My goal here is to share my experiences in a way that allows me to finally let them go, educate others, and encourage those who are seeking solutions for their issues to continue to push and advocate for themselves.
So friends, let’s get started.
If you’ve been following our blog since the beginning, you are likely familiar with my food allergy story and diagnosis. For those that are new, I’ll summarize that journey. One afternoon in elementary school I was picking up pecans and walnuts with a friend. On the way home, I noticed hives covering my arms. A scratchy throat a few years later at a baby shower lead to my parents and I deciding it was time for me to get tested. One RAS (radioallergosorbent) test revealed that I was severely allergic. Two more revealed I was allergic to a majority of nuts (peanuts and chestnuts to name a few) but nothing else.
With the exception of my food allergies and needing glasses, I've always been what I consider "normal" health-wise. Everything changed when I started working on my bachelor's degree at Mercer back in 2016. There were more early mornings, long drives, and late nights than I could count. No matter what I did I always felt like I was suffocating beneath the workload.
I distinctly remember the desperation as I switched from Advil to Aleve in 2018. The first 2-3 days of my "time of the month" shifted from light cramps and stomach pain to intense, stabbing pain and cramps that wouldn’t subside for days. By junior year it was so bad that during those days it took all my energy to force myself to push through classes and work so I could go home, and curl up in a ball on my bed.
Junior year was the most difficult and stressful year of my college career. and the over-the-counter pain medications I took no longer gave me the relief I needed. Those first few days of each period were easily a 6-7 on a 1-10 pain scale. If I was lucky, Aleve might knock it down to a persistent 4.
I couldn’t concentrate in class, get my homework done efficiently or well, and I knew those 3-4 days each month would be debilitating for me. Every time without fail, I always had a big assignment, paper, or test to study during those few days.
So I would sit on my bed at night, almost in tears from the pain with a heating pad, forcing myself to get as much work done and left the rest for the morning--in hopes, a night’s rest would give me the relief and rest I needed.
After a talk with my IM (internal medicine) doctor, and some blood work to rule out blood clotting factors that ran in my family, I found myself sitting in an OBGYN exam room. I thought hormones would wipe away my pain and I would get the relief I desperately needed. I just thought it was bad period pain. Little did I know, that office visit would be the start of an extremely tedious, and painful journey to my real diagnosis--endometriosis.
It took months of failed hormone therapy, many tears, and months of frustration before my OBGYN told me there was something more serious going on. I sat on the table in shock as she told me about endometriosis and said the only way to confirm that diagnosis was through a laparoscopy.
After more failed hormone therapy, and another doctor's appointment, she finally agreed to do the surgery. By this point, I was having 7+ pain daily and nothing was helping with it. Surgery day arrived and she found two spots of endometriosis on my left ovary--as I suspected since my pain was most intense on the left side of my abdomen.
I felt relief as soon as I woke up, but it didn't last for long. There is no cure for endometriosis, and there is no treatment for this condition other than excision (removal of the endometriosis, adhesions, and more). Even if you are lucky enough to find a doctor that believes you and your pain, and will do the excision, there is no guarantee it will help with your pain.
This was back in November 2020. Where am I now in March 2021? I'm still in pain, and still searching for answers. My story is not uncommon for those who have endometriosis. In fact, I'm one of the lucky ones. On average it takes someone 7-10 years to be diagnosed with endometriosis. It took me about a year and a half from when I first complained of pain to when I received confirmation of my endometriosis diagnosis.
So, why write about any of this? Especially on an allergy blog of all places. Because 1 in 10 women have endometriosis, and there is no cure or real treatment for this condition other than surgery.
In honor of March being Endometriosis Awareness month, I've decided to post this first article. You might have noticed the yellow ribbon by my name in Eating Confidently's IG bio. Yellow is the color chosen back in the '80s to represent endometriosis. I'm proud of that ribbon, and the struggles I've pushed through to be where I am now.
I'm sure you probably have some questions, or might be off-put by this article. This is merely a snapshot of my life over the past two or so years, and I plan on sharing more very soon.
Stay tuned for the next post! Thank you for making it this far. Take care, and live confidently!