Saturday, November 20, 2004

Endometriosis

In a previous entry, I talked about the first time I heard the term "endometriosis". 17 was not the best age to throw 6 syllable medical terms my way. I didn't talk to another OB/GYN for years after that. When I finally went back to the doctor to again ask for help with my pain, I mentioned what the earlier doctor had said and the new fellow laughed. "You can't diagnose a condition like endo at 17. Many women have pain before and during their cycles, like you. You must just have a lower tolerance for pain." In other words, Becky, you are just a wimp. Suck it up and take some aspirin. My mother said the same thing. "This is a rite of passage. All women go through it."

Do all women faint in Math class and need to be escorted to the nurses' office? Someone once asked me what my most embarrassing experience was. Here is a good one. I was in the middle of a math exam. I was in horrible pain because my period had just started. Suddenly I was seeing large black spots before my eyes and could no longer hold my head up. I walked very unsteadily to the front of the class and told my teacher, in a whisper, that I felt ill and faint. He saw that I was white as a sheet. He took me out into the hall and sat me on the stairs while he rushed back into the classroom to use the wall phone to call the nurse. He came back to sit beside me and wait. He relayed to me that I should put my head between my knees and breath deeply. That did help a bit. What he didn't know was that I had already been to see the nurse once before, that day. I had been in so much pain, I was feeling nauseous and laid down in the nurses' office for a while. She knew I had my period. What I didn't expect was this:

Nurse arrives. Nurse cracked open this little paper tube under my nose that smells strongly of ammonia and says; "Hello, Mr. Mackie. I know what is troubling Rebecca today. SHE HAS HER PERIOD!" The nurse announced the last part in a rather LOUD voice. Did I mention that Mr. Mackie had left the classroom door open so he could monitor the class while they took their test? Did I mention that the hallways in my old Jr. High School ECHO? Need I tell you that now everyone in my class KNEW what was troubling me...I could hear the laughter echoing down the hall after me as the nurse led me back to her office to call my Mom. Mortifying, to say the least.

On the advice of my doctor, I spent the next number of years just grinning and bearing the pain. I should have bought stock in the makers of Midol and Pamprin. Until I collapsed (see earlier entry), I had no idea what kinds of damage were brewing in my unruly belly.

So listen up, ladies (and gentlemen)...in terms of your health, only YOU have your best interests at heart. Don't let so-called "medical professionals" bully you into ignoring symptoms. Stand up for yourselves! If you know something is wrong, don't sit down until someone figures out what the problem is.

Symptoms of endo include:

* Pelvic pain and pressure just before and during your mentrual cycle.

* Painful sex.

* Fatigue

* Painful urination and/or bowel movements during period

* Other Gastrointestinal upsets such as diarrhea, constipation, nausea.

Many endo sufferers also have frequent yeast infections, allergies and chemical sensitivities. Also, the only definitive way to diagnose Endo is to SEE it through an exploratory laparoscopy.

If you want to learn more about endo, visit the Endometriosis Association website. They have been a great resource for me over the years. (They have a neat interactive thingy that can help you determine if you have endo.) I also belong to an email endo support group called WitsEndo. These ladies are a wealth of personal experience and support.

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