Ever since I can remember having a period, it has been excruciating. Heavy bleeding, terrible stabbing pain and crawling over in a ball was how I met what we call womanhood. From the age of 12 I would wake up in a cold sweat, in my sleep stumble to a bath as hot as I could handle in a hope to relieve the pain. My mother many a time would find me yellow in the bathroom and threaten to take me to hospital to try and have it elevated.

When I was 15 I developed a pain in my right abdomen, which would become present often after a meal. To this day I have just learnt to live with it. Sometimes disappearing for months, other times, and more recently becoming disabling.

A painful menstrual cycle accompanied by diarrhea became a normal part of my life. Once a month I would stay home or take myself off to the nurse’s office in an attempt to sleep it off with a hot water bottle by my side. During this time, however, I developed a terrible reflux pain up my esophagus, especially when taking painkillers for my symptoms. The only thing that would eventually allow me to have a “normal” menstrual cycle was the pill, which I took for a short period midway through university.

At 22 my periods stopped for 6 months, I gained 10kg in 3 weeks and developed server anxiety. After seeing a doctor, gynecologist and a psychologist I was diagnosed with PCOS (Poly-cystic Ovarian Syndrome) and anxiety. For the severe right side abdominal pain, increased bloating and gas, a gastroenterologist came to the conclusion of IBS. I then began Yaz, 10mg Cyprilex and a series of diets for the weight gain and abdominal pain. My period went back to a normal 28-day cycle, my anxiety decreased but the abdominal pain never subsided. After seeing a reflexologist I was moved to Melodene due to the fact that I had clots in my family and this was a friendlier pill. This change also slightly reduced the anxiety.

My reflexologist also recommended a low carb diet, with hopes that the recognized bloating from grains would help ease the pain. Throughout my life I have suffered from “growing pains” in my legs. Something I had learnt to get used to and address with hot water bottles on my legs.

At 24, filled with hot water burn marks on my stomach, I seeked help with another gastroenterologist who once again assumed IBS as after scans and ultrasounds nothing worrying was found. This was also the year that I had my first panic attack. After being rushed to hospital, convinced I was having a heart attack, I was told it was a panic attack and was given pills for future occurrences. I also began seeing a physiotherapist due to an increased pain in my back and later hip.

Throughout this time my stomach pain was worsening, I had increased bouts of constipation, diarrhea during my period and severe bloating.

Earlier this year, at 25, I was rushed to hospital with a sharp gut crunching pain in my left abdomen. After drips and throwing up I was taken for an x-ray. Nothing was found. Due to a recent bladder infection there was a toss up between a kidney stone and bladder infection, and finally the doctor on call diagnosed it as a bad bladder infection.

Finally some answers:
Due to this and the never ending abdominal pain I decided to see a general practitioner in the hope that she may look at me holistically and aid me in my plea for normality. After mentioning all my symptoms she encouraged me to under go some blood tests and see a gynecologist with a suspicion that I may be suffering from endometriosis.

I saw a gynecologist who confirmed the suspicion but wanted to avoid surgery. I have been put onto Visanne and at the age of 26, after being on it for 3 months, for the first time in 14 years I had minimal pain. The relief was unimaginable!

However, this is not where my story ends. In the last month of 2017 I suffered two panic attacks. I saw my reflexologist again who took one squeeze of my foot and a look in my eye and proclaimed, without a word of a hint from me, that I had an ovarian cyst burst earlier in the year. (Hence the extreme pain.) I also had the pain in my right abdomen return and filled with dismay returned to my gynecologist for more answers. We decided that the relief I had (no more bloating, stomach pain and less pain in my side) was as good as it was going to get and if I needed more I would have to revisit the gastroenterologist. She did, however, acknowledge that my move towards a meat free diet (vegetarian with minimal fish) was a good option. I had researched that a vegan diet, with little estrogen, was ideal for endometriosis sufferers.

After mentioning to a friend my condition and constant suffering (pain in my right abdomen) she recommended I chat to her mother (a reflexologist). She encouraged me to try not having dairy. And this was my final answer. I simply started by removing milk from my diet and for almost 2 months now I have been without any pain. I can honestly say I only experience it when I eat too much sugar or any milk. I feel freed and so relieved!! It has been a long journey of pain and suffering but I feel that I can finally live a normal life again!  My current remedy is Visanne and no milk. I also find keeping a good exercise programme of running and yoga helps too. This also helps my anxiety, apparently a condition that goes hand in hand with endometriosis.

I really hope that my journey can help others move towards a more normal lifestyle. I know that this is not the ultimate solution and I am aware that I still have challenges now and lying ahead of me with this condition. But, for now, I am ecstatic about feeling normal and pain free for the first time in 12 years! 

Thank you for sharing your story Lenska.

If you would like to contact Lenska, you can follow her on Instagram @lenskatweedy.

Remember, every one of us has a different story, and the more shared, the more we can learn. If you are interested in sharing your story, please contact me at shireen.emlwy@gmail.com.