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I thought my pain was normal.

I was diagnosed with Stage II endometriosis when I was in my early 30’s. My doctor performed a laparoscopy and found endo lesions on my ovaries and removed a chocolate cyst the size of a grapefruit. But it took me almost 20 years to get a diagnosis.
When I first got my period, I remember my mom giving me ibuprofen and a heating pad. I was doubled over in pain. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t stand up straight. I couldn’t move. I could barely breathe. I missed school every month. Since I’d never known any differently, I thought everyone went through this when they got their period. I thought my pain was normal.

I thought my bloated belly, despite only weighing 110 lbs at the time, was stubborn fat. I thought that everyone had heavy bleeding with their periods. I thought every woman got chronic UTIs. I thought that every woman experienced some level of pain with intercourse. I thought my pain was normal. After all, I’d never known it any other way.

My doctors always dismissed my complaints and just prescribed stronger pain relievers. But as I got older, my pelvic area started to ache constantly – not just during my period. I was constantly fatigued and no amount of sleep helped. I learned by chance that my aunt had also had endometriosis – and had a hysterectomy. With this new information, I found a new doctor. But, despite being one of the top gynecologists in the area, he was incredibly dismissive and belittling. So, I found another doctor. This time I went to a fertility specialist/surgeon. At my first appointment, he said, “Well, I think this has gone on long enough. I suspect endometriosis. Let’s schedule you for surgery.”

That was almost 15 years ago. I’m really fortunate in that the removal of the endo lesions has brought me a tremendous amount of relief. While my periods are still painful, they are manageable with a heating pad. Eliminating dairy from my diet has also helped me quite a bit.

So, be persistent. Advocate for yourself. Don’t let anyone dismiss you. Your pain is real. And being in pain is NOT normal.