Coping with endometriosis
Endometriosis affects 176 million women and girls world wide. It has been known as ‘the career woman’s disease’ as it commonly affects women who delay becoming pregnant. However, this is not always the case, as mother of three Veronica Rees tells Yvonne Evans
Ballineen native Veronica Rees is 25 years old and is mother to two girls and a boy, all under the age of seven. She has just been diagnosed with endometriosis which is the abnormal growth of cells (endometrial cells) similar to those that form the inside of the uterus, but in a location outside of the uterus.
The cause of endometriosis is unknown. One theory is that the endometrial tissue is deposited in unusual locations by the backing up of menstrual flow into the fallopian tubes and the pelvic and abdominal cavity during menstruation. This is the case for Veronica who has the tissue growing on her hips and outside walls of her uterus and abdomen.
It all began when Veronica was 17 and living in Wales with her father.
“I started to get very bad periods, they were painful and heavy. I just thought it was normal. I went to a gynaecologist and he put me on the pill to regulate my periods,” the mother of three said.
“I became pregnant two years later with my first born, at that point the symptoms I was experiencing had died down and I thought it had been sorted. But then after my daughter was born it came back ten fold.”
Most women who have endometriosis, in fact, do not have symptoms. Of those who do experience symptoms, the common symptoms are pain (usually pelvic) and infertility. Some women also experience painful sexual intercourse.
“I was having problems with my bowels and my stomach too. I went to several GPs and they passed it off as Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I knew it was something else, it was very frustrating and there were days where I was very down about it,” Veronica said.
Unfortunately, neither the symptoms nor physical examinations can be relied upon to conclusively establish the diagnosis of endometriosis.
After several visits to GPs and consultants in CUH, Veronica was scheduled in for a minor surgery. Laparoscopy is the most common surgical procedure for the diagnosis of endometriosis. Laparoscopy is a minor surgical procedure done under general anesthesia.
After the surgery, Veronica’s consultant gave her the diagnosis; it was endometriosis, neither IBS nor Chron’s disease as they previously anticipated. After eight long years Veronica finally found out what was wrong with her body.
“It was a huge relief to know what exactly was going on. At least the doctors could treat the problem now they knew what it was.”
Veronica is now undergoing treatment. Every three months she has an injection containing Gonadotropin-releasing hormone analogues (GnRH). These drugs suppress estrogen, which causes a woman to begin a false menopause possibly shrinking the present endometriosis.
“It’s not actually as bad as I thought it would be. I get hot flashes, nausea and have irregular bleeding. But there is a 90 per cent chance that it will help lessen the condition. I am positive and I urge other women who are diagnosed to remain positive too, it’s not life threatening, it could be worse,” the upbeat 25 year old said.
If this course of hormonal treatment doesn’t work for the young mother, she will have to undergo more surgeries to remove the tissue and even possibly a hysterectomy later on. But this doesn’t bring Veronica down.
Veronica hopes she can help other women by telling her story,
“There isn’t a whole lot of awareness about it. People know the name endometriosis but don’t know what it is. I hope that women like me will finally know what is wrong with them.”
For more information on endometriosis go to www.endo.ie or talk to your GP.