'I would break down and cry every time I had to see the gynaecologist'
- Sharon's story of living with endometriosis
- Sharon describes the effects of her chronic condition on herself and her family
Sharon Weeks, 40, was diagnosed with endometriosis in 2009 after giving birth to her second son Charlie.
She took birth control pills continually for 10 years, starting at 15 and had no obvious endometriosis symptoms.
Sharon said: “I didn't know about the condition but I now believe some symptoms were there: abnormal bleeding, nausea, headaches and extreme abdominal pain.”
Sharon met her husband in 2003 and started trying for a family.
“I took a long time to get pregnant, which was explained as being due to such a long time on the pill.
“After our first born I couldn’t tolerate the pill, despite trying alternate brands. I stopped taking it after five months of sickness, and fell pregnant with our second son, who we lost half way through the pregnancy. At the time, we did not seek answers to why I miscarried as we didn’t feel we could face it, and nothing was going to bring our son back.
“After giving birth to our second son Charlie, I bled continually for three years. I was referred to a male gynaecological consultant and I was put on the pill, but again it made me very ill. His callous disregard for my suffering was horrendous, and after one particular examination I felt physically violated.”
After a year of appointments Sharon underwent a laparoscopy and was diagnosed with endometriosis. Deposits covered her reproductive organs and urinary works, and a further procedure was done to diathermy as many deposits as possible.
“This was essentially a failure as the worst deposits were around my water works and the risks of damaging my ureters was too high for the surgeon to remove enough. This resulted in crippling pain every time I had a wee – the pain was so severe I regularly cried out in pain when using the toilet.
“I then had a merina coil fitted but only for eight months; it made me very unwell with nausea and migraine-like headaches. I was advised to have it removed and exchanged for the copper coil. This relieved some of my symptoms and proved effective as a birth control method.”
For the following two years Sharon relied on analgesia and was unaware of the developing endometriosis.
“I began developing extreme abdominal pain, such that caused me to nearly pass out many times. I was unable to eat enough iron rich foods to support my red blood cells and I was near to collapse.
“I demanded to see the consultant and it was at this stage I finally received the help I needed. Despite being young, the consultant was sensible enough to acknowledge that I had two children, and that I was unlikely to fall pregnant again. He told me we were lucky to have our two boys.
“He recommended thermal ablation surgery, which meant burning my endometrium/womb lining out meaning no bleeding or periods could occur.
Becoming pregnant again would have been dangerous for both me and a baby and for this reason, I underwent sterilisation.
“Given my failing health, the fact that I had become progressively more unwell with every pregnancy and having six miscarriages, I agreed to have the surgery done. I was admitted six weeks later and the procedure gave me instant relief from the relentless bleeding.
“The crippling pain and faint episodes began to improve and I felt well for the first time in three years.”
Sharon was told it would not fully cure her endometriosis and that it would eventually return. “He explained that it would buy me time before what would likely be a hysterectomy.
“When the bleeding stopped it gave me a real quality of life back, including the marital benefits that had been denied to my husband and I for three years. While my wonderful husband never complained about the lack of intimacy caused by the endometriosis, it was always silently there like an elephant in the room.
“A lesser man might well have left me or had an affair. I believe this alone makes me very lucky, but I expect it actually destroys many relationships. It was at this point I think I really understood the impact of my illness on my husband, and realised that it was not just me affected by it.”
Sharon became increasingly depressed for three years after her son’s birth.
“I would break down and cry every time I had to see the gynaecologist. It tarnished what should have been joyful years with my boys and strained my marriage. When I look back now I count my blessings for a kind, gentle, and faithful husband and my two lovely boys.
“The emotional toll of endometriosis is every bit as serious and damaging as the physical pain. I am one in thousands suffering this condition, but I hope an increased awareness of it may go towards improving the care given to women, and may reduce much of the unnecessary suffering.”