health

1 in 10 Australian women suffer from this crippling condition. Mel Grieg is one of them.

 Images: Supplied

I just got home from seeing my obstetrician/gynaecologist and I still have his words ringing through my ears: “The endometriosis is everywhere; it even took over your appendix. You’re in trouble”

For people who aren’t aware of endometriosis, it’s to do with endometrial tissue that resides outside the womb. To put it simply, it’s basically big round balls and small dots that cause a shitload of pain for women, often crippling them. Endometriosis causes inflammation and can lead to valuable baby-making parts and other organs fusing together, making it almost impossible for eggs to fertilise naturally, rendering many women infertile.

I am one of those women. I have been told that I will not be able to fall pregnant naturally.

“I’m 23, single, and freezing my eggs. This is why…”

I have Stage 4 endo and my patches are everywhere.

Endometriosis has been with me since I was 17; it sadly runs in my family. I have kept it at bay for 10 years by being on the pill.

I went off the pill recently to try for babies. And now, just like when I was fist diagnosed at 17, I feel every ounce of pain my endo brings every month. I go into self-lockdown for 24 hours at the start of each cycle; I can’t move, every step I take I’m in severe pain. Ironically the pain feels what I envisage childbirth to be: absolutely horrific.

Since going off the pill, what I’ve learned is that while the pill took away the pain, it didn’t take away the endo. The endo grew for 10 years while I was on the pill and completely took over my bowel and uterus; I had major surgery in March 2013 to detach my ovary from my bowel, which had become joined from the sticky Endometriosis patches.

Mel after her surgery

I was lucky the doctor could save my bowel and ovaries after doing a small resection. The doctor cleaned me out and said I had six months until it would all grow back. One year later I’m getting ready for more major surgery after it did grow back (and decided to bring its army with it.)

How Mel's stomach looked after her surgery.

My next surgery will be my worst and it could see me lose my ovaries. To say I’m devastated would be an understatement. It makes me feel like I’m a not a real woman. I know I shouldn’t feel that way, but when you think about how children come into this world? It's hard to believe that I can't make that process happen. But that’s okay - it doesn’t change the way I will love my children or how I will be as a mother.

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An ex-boyfriend once told me, “Just take a Panadol and eat chocolate like every other woman does ... You’re being a drama queen.”

My husband now understands what endometriosis is and he is prepared every month to go into battle. His helmet is on and sword drawn ready for battle – he must find immediate sources of chocolate, he must reach hot water to fill my water bottle, and he must be on his best behaviour to avoid igniting an all-out war.

To partners, employers and non-sufferers: endometriosis is a real disease. When a woman with endo complains of period pain, shit is real. If she calls in sick, you better bloody believe she is sick enough not to come in. She can’t walk. Radio is a male-dominated industry, and for a female, it's hard to turn to a team of six men and say, "My period pain is unbearable, I can't work today" – using the word PERIOD is forbidden in a man's world. The more aware people are of endometriosis, the easier it will be to talk about.

Amazing news for anyone with endometriosis

Partners, it hurts like hell to have sexytime with endometriosis. You need to be gentle and you need to make love to us on our backs - it’s a medical fact. I'm pretty sure we can get a medical certificate advising the best love-making is done the way. We want it.

Endometriosis is a horrible disease. There are different levels of pain and damage, but all endo sufferers feel the same in the sense that we just want some understanding. It’s real and we need your support. Sound it out with me: E-N-D-O-M-E-T-R-I-O-S-I-S. Learn it and remember it.

I am thrilled to have been appointed an Ambassador for Endometriosis Australia – this is now a lifelong mission for me to raise awareness of this horrible disease and especially in young women who might not understand the symptoms until it’s too late. We all normally get some level of pain during our cycle, but if yours is unbearable that’s not normal. Get checked.

Do you suffer from endometriosis? What do you wish people would understand about it? 

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