I still have a hard time grasping how part of my body that society would use to deem me a woman could betray me in such a harmful way. 

Through my adolescence, whenever the unfortunate time of the month would arrive, I would be deemed as “over-dramatic” or just be going through what was known as “girl-problems.” But to me, it was so much more than that. From pain medications to heating pads or warm baths, to different pain medications because the first ones didn’t work, I was coaxed into the belief that what I was experiencing was normal and that I just had no pain tolerance. 

Confined to my bed, on the verge of being sick and clutching my abdomen as if curling in a ball was some kind of pain release, I would continuously repeat to myself, “this is normal.” Even laying on the cold floor wasn’t enough to help me realize the truth.

I was 17 when I first heard about a condition that had symptoms similar to my own, and after a few months of research, I was able to convince myself to book a doctor’s appointment.

Erica Mack was able to seek help at 17 after being diagnosed with endometriosis, looking for a way to manage her pain. PHOTO: ERICA MACK

Endometriosis is a chronic, inflammatory, and estrogen-dependent condition that causes the endometrial tissue to implant and grow outside of the uterus, which can cause pelvic pain and infertility, as found in an article published in BMC Women’s Health.  

 Many symptoms can be a sign of this condition, but a lot of these symptoms can overlap with other conditions and cause the misdiagnosis of many women. 

Twenty-seven-year-old Lauren Gargiulo was diagnosed with endometriosis when they were 25, but before getting to this step, they were misdiagnosed many times. 

“I was lucky I didn’t have to undergo treatment for something I did not end up having,” Gargiulo says, “but it was so dismissive.”

After finally receiving the proper diagnosis, Gargiulo has been managing their pain with medications such as Visanne and is waiting to be booked in for a surgery that could relieve the symptoms. 

“Confined to my bed, on the verge of being sick and clutching my abdomen, I would continuously repeat to myself, ‘this is normal.’ Even laying on the cold floor wasn’t enough to help me realize the truth.”

erica mack

For me, I tend to notice more pelvic pain and discomfort, especially while menstruating, as well as lower back pain throughout the month, but many women experience much more than that. 

Pelvic pain is the most common symptom found in women with endometriosis. According to an article published in Health and Quality of Life Outcomes in January of 2021, this pelvic pain can be “present during vaginal bleeding, during sexual intercourse, or independent of vaginal bleeding.”

When my doctor first told me about my endometriosis, I had many questions running through my mind, the biggest one being how I can at least manage the pain that I was experiencing. I was lucky enough to be in a stage where being put on birth control — even though birth control can cause it’s own negative symptoms — was enough to decrease the pain to a manageable level, and allows me to live a somewhat normal life when I am menstruating compared to when I would be in massive amounts of pain. 

After being diagnosed with endometriosis, it is a matter of finding something to help with the symptoms. This can be as easy as taking birth control, to being prescribed many different pain killers to help with the pain. PHOTO: ERICA MACK

Dr. Elizabeth Randle, a professor at Dalhousie University, works in clinics to help diagnose women with endometriosis and find ways to help manage their symptoms. 

“I try to direct women based on what their symptoms are and what is most greatly impacting their life at that moment in time,”  Randle says. 

After being able to provide many women with a diagnosis,  Randle says that women can “feel a sense of relief” because they can put a name to the symptoms that they experience and feel some kind of validation. 

According to an article published in Journal of Advanced Nursing, approximately 10 per cent of women within reproductive age will be affected by endometriosis. I’ve found comfort over the last three years knowing that I am not alone and that awareness of endometriosis is becoming more common among women. With celebrities such as singer-songwriter Halsey bringing their own experience and struggles to light, I find that it makes my expression and understanding a lot easier.

March is known to be endometriosis awareness month, which is the perfect time for people battling endometriosis to share their stories and experiences, and allow girls and women to develop their understanding, and maybe even help someone seek diagnosis early rather than brush their symptoms off as normal. 

As I touch my feet to the cold floor and walk out of my room, I am able to live every day in the true “normal” because having endometriosis does not make you any less of a woman, if anything, it makes you a stronger one.

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