I write this having just dropped my wife off at the hospital for an operation. The operation is an exploratory laproscopic procedure she needs to confirm a diagnosis of severe endometriosis. I’m expecting several of the regular readers of this column may be asking what endometriosis is, and quite rightly too. Before I explain what this is, and how it works, let me tell you our story…
Back in 2004 we were married in Edinburgh, Scotland. Not long after marriage is when many couples think about adding to their little grouping – for no other reason as to keep their mothers happy. After an extended honeymoon in New Zealand our decision was to return at some point to raise our planned family. So 2006 was when we began trying, and it is now 2009.
Endometriosis is when fragments of endometrial like tissue grow in places outside the uterus. These growths or implants or lesions, known as endometriosis, are usually found in the pelvic region on places such as the pelvic lining (peritoneum), ovaries, bowel and pouch of Douglas (cul de sac).
As we speak Mrs. Boon is preparing for surgery first to confirm that she has this disease and secondly to remove any of these growths, lesions and a cyst that has been identified on her ovary. Although this sounds intensely serious, as any surgery is I suppose, she’s only going to be in hospital for a couple of days and the scarring on her body is minimal.
The reason many of you may not have heard about this disease/condition before is that for many, many years endometriosis fell under the broad and hugely sexist label of ‘women’s problems’. Possibly due to the fact that in previous years doctors were of the male persuasion and the main symptoms of endo flared during menstruation. Any reports of pain related to a period were put down to the normal monthly cycle of the female – ie nothing is/was wrong.
Obviously, this is back in the old days. How have we moved on? Well, not very far is the answer to that question. According to a survey of 4000 members of the Endometriosis Association 61% were told nothing was wrong with them the first time they consulted a physician about their symptoms. The survey found the average length of time for a diagnosis was 9.28 years – made up in part by delays in women seeking treatment (thinking their pain was a normal part of the menstrual cycle), misdiagnosis and an actual diagnosis. 9.28 years is a massive average! Your heart goes out to those women who take longer than this, 10, 15, 20 years to realise something is wrong, or waiting for someone to hear their assertions.
My wife goes into surgery today having been previously diagnosed with Pelvic Inflammatory Disease and Chlamydia among other things. The first time she received a diagnosis of ‘suspected severe endometriosis’ was when we sought a fertility consult with private/public company Fertility Associates here in Auckland. And a massive thank you goes out to Dr. Mary Birdsall for her compassion and understanding in this diagnosis. As well as this, she apologised on behalf of her profession for the 10 or so years Zoe had waited to be told that, indeed, things were amiss.
I’m going to leave it there for now. I am publishing this blog at 8.15am on Wednesday 18th February. I will either add to it or write another as more information comes to hand. If you have stumbled across this page and want to find out more information, here are some links.
Endometriosis Association (Milwalkee, US)
Of course, there are many hundreds, perhaps thousands of websites out there. These are just three that may surpass me in their ability to inform you about endo.
PS: apparently endometriosis isn’t real because it’s not in the spellcheck I just used (mind you, neither is Milwalkee, and I’m sure that exists).