By LESLEY FREEDMAN
Here we are at a family wedding just a few months ago. I love this photo. My daughter looks happy and healthy. I don’t look too wrinkly.
But halfway through the reception someone tapped me on the shoulder: “Your daughter’s lying on the floor in the bathroom. I think she has to go home.”
She was diagnosed with Endometriosis a couple of years ago, but that was my first experience of how suddenly and brutally Endo can take her from the party to the pits. A few weeks later she was in hospital for her second surgery in less than two years. She’s unlucky to be at stage 4 – the most severe – and she’s only 23.
Endometriosis is thought to be an autoimmune disease where cells from the Endometrium (in the uterus) migrate to the pelvic cavity and set up scar tissue and inflammation. They attach to other organs too like the bowel, bladder, ovaries and fallopian tubes, causing excruciating pain and often irregular bleeding. Some women don’t have much pain so they don’t find out ’til it’s almost too late that their reproductive organs have been damaged. Endo can begin with first menstruation, so mothers, listen when your daughter misses school because of her period.
One in ten women in Australia has this chronic, incurable, gynecological disease that often results in infertility. That’s half a million women with a disease that forces them to abandon their studies, their jobs and their holidays and lands them on the couch or in emergency; and often, when they want babies, in IVF. It costs us around $600,000 dollars a year for every woman with Endo; for doctors, drugs, surgery, natural remedies and practitioners and lost hours of work. My daughter is managing uni part-time but is finding it impossible to commit to the job she needs so she can support herself.
Having mentioned drugs, the only treatment doctors can offer are contraceptives that were designed to do just that – prevent pregnancy, not Endo. Oral contraceptives contain oestrogen which triggers flare-ups of Endo. So although women are routinely prescribed the Pill to control their disease, the presence of oestrogen reduces the adequacy of the treatment.