When life throws you a big ugly curved ball.

On the 27th of September I was shocked to see the first headline in The Guardian newspaper was: “Endometriosis: the hidden suffering of millions of women revealed” Wow! This was front page news? Most recently there had been pieces about Jeremy Corbyn which I gladly read – even the crazy allegations – or the desperate stories of migrating refugees, but this was a front page article about Endometriosis. Unheard of! I had to read on.
‘1 woman in 10 of reproductive age has endometriosis’ and approximately 176 million women around the globe may be suffering from it which are similar figures, according to this article, to the number of cases of diabetes but still very few people know Naked Cave (2)about this disease. However Endometriosis is not unheard of to me. I’ve suffered from it since 2000, well actually I’ve probably suffered it since well before then but that is when it really raised its ugly ‘freaking’ head.
I had always had painful periods. I considered it my norm. My Mum had painful periods before me and told me stories of Feminax tablets being passed to her under toilet doors as she crouched, doubled in agony. We girls compared stories in school but I just accepted that periods were painful and that you just got on with it. While growing up I don’t remember them ever being so painful that I was unable to do things – once I had pumped myself full of painkillers at worst – but then maybe I’ve blocked those instances out. I think we have a habit of blocking out physical pain, as well as emotional pain, I mean why would you ever wish to remember such things?
The path to my diagnosis was not a pretty one and began one Sunday afternoon in my, then, flat on Church St in Glasgow’s West End. I was making some food, it was early afternoon and felt that telling abdominal pain that my period was likely coming soon. That dull ache. Nothing serious, at first, but over time the pain intensified. I began to pace about the flat unsure of what to do. Sitting down didn’t help, lying down was useless. My boyfriend at the time was with me and was concerned, never having seen me like this before. I felt like an injured animal, bewildered by the pain, pacing and pacing. As it was Sunday I couldn’t just pop into the doctors which was only fifteen min walk away and by this time I was in so much pain I was obviously not thinking straight as I phoned the emergency doctor to ask how much pain you have to be in before you can go to accident and emergency. Gosh we women are strong when it comes to pain! I mean you can’t go to A&E for period pain?? I was in and out of the toilet. I wasn’t quite able to explain to my boyfriend what was happening to me. I remember he genuinely, helpfully and well meaningly told me through the toilet door at one point (this was probably after my sixth visit there in 40mins) that I ‘probably needed a good fart’ and that I shouldn’t be embarrassed. (Oh I wish that I were that genteel). You have to laugh, if you don’t laugh you’d cry….though I don’t remember crying with this pain, that day. Again another thing I may have blocked out. What I hadn’t told my boyfriend was while I was in the loo I was bleeding from both orifices – yes endometriosis is a very attractive disease! – but I didn’t tell him as I couldn’t compute it myself. The blood itself, was black.
Thankfully though I eventually figured out how much pain you need to be in before you go to A & E, that’s when you begin ‘involuntary’ projectile vomiting; which happened most spectacularly in the stairwell when I thought maybe I should begin my journey to A&E. (Actually writing this it just occurred to me did I ever clear that mess up? At the time, however, I realised the seriousness of the situation and just kept going). When I got to A & E, an aching three minute walk across the road to the Western General Hospital (and to think if it had been a weekday I’d have walked the fifteen mins to the GP’s) I was not triaged. The nurse took one look at me through the glass at reception and said the words I will never forget ‘we’re taking you in straight away, you’re grey’. I was in too much pain to care, the way I looked didn’t register with me at all, I was just relieved she said ‘straight away’.
Now when a nurse says ‘straight away’ you think: ‘Oh thank God, any minute now this will be over’ but that wasn’t to be. The symptoms of endometriosis are similar to many other illnesses such as gall stones, urinary tract problems, bowel problems, so I began a series of tests and the tests could not happen quick enough neither could the waiting for the results of the tests. I was roaring with the pain.
I am probably perceived as a fairly chatty person, who is noisy when laughing mostly, but I’m a very good patient. I become very ‘Yes, Doctor, thank you Doctor’ as I have the utmost respect for hospital staff and the job they do and don’t wish to cause them any more trouble than they may already have, but I just could not stay quiet. I felt like a thousand knives were stabbing me repeatedly in the stomach. Stabbing and twisting and ripping themselves out then entering again harder, meaner than before. It was endless. It just got worse and worse. The dull ache was long forgotten. Eventually, I don’t know how long it was but it felt like days, I was given morphine and finally, slowly, the pain began to ease. ‘Yes, Doctor, thank you Doctor’ returned and I was told to sleep. I was out for a few hours and when I woke my ‘vitals’ were taken and shortly after I was told I could go home. That was it. 3 mins back across the road. Home.
By this time it was early evening and that night I was sitting on the sofa, doing what I had always intended to do that night, watching ‘The Royle Family’ on TV. Except, this was different. I had just been through the most excruciating pain I had ever in my life experienced, a life changing pain, yet here I was sitting on my sofa pain free, as if nothing had happened. There were no external signs. I don’t think I felt dopey or anything. Everything was ‘normal’.
Yet no-one had been able to tell me what happened, why it had happened and, most importantly, if it would happen again.

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