Endometriosis is an invisible disease. Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Pain has been normalized and so has the use of painkillers. Faith Muraya gives us a glimpse into her life as an Endo warrior. She shares with us her journey of pain, and the lifestyle changes that she has had to make.
The journey of Periods and womanhood is the norm for women. As with most girls, my periods begun in high school. To be more specific, mine begun on a fantastic holiday in Naivasha where I now had to explain to all why swimming was not an option.
I am now a 25-year-old daughter, sister, cousin, niece and, for three months now, a proud wife.
From the information I gathered, my endometriosis began in high school when I was around 17. The periods became more intense. I would narrate the pain to my mum who would tell me it is okay to pop a pill. I always thought lightly how my mother took comfort in pills not realizing my mother and I faced, and still face, the same battle.
As a teen I had severe acne, and the dermatologist prescribed birth control pills. The relief was instant. The pain decreased. At such a tender age and not knowing the side effects of pills, I began to experience anxiety, depression and heart palpitations. I was a newly initiated health freak and I got to reading. This method was not going to work. I stopped and so did my menstrual cycle. I uncovered that I loved to read about health and wellness. I become a vegetarian. Yes people, by choice. And let me tell you my family took turns at challenging my new lifestyle. I am glad to say 9 years and counting. The diet change made a small difference on my pain levels.
For over 5 years, I continued with Ponstan, Panadol and hospital visits to relieve the pain. One major symptom held me down every month, I was fatigued.
Yes, 18 and fatigued. I was still not aware of endometriosis. I continuous blamed myself for not being good enough. That I was lazy. So I exercised two to three time a day. Pushing my body further into a vicious cycle of fatigue, insomnia and pain. I would bloat so much that I could not button my trousers.
In 2014, as I went through the wild fun of university, I began to drink and neglect my health. With school and a part time job, my body began to deteriorate and even though I was not eating well. I had gained 5 Kgs. What could this be? I was well rested but exhausted no matter how much exercise I did. The weight would not budge. Then my period did not come for one, two, then three months. I panicked!
With an insurance cover I insisted on getting during the year, I took to the hospital. The doctors told me I was pregnant and my hormonal balance was causing the issue. This was without any positive urine or blood test. Doctors!
As my symptoms grew worse, I researched my symptoms and diagnosed myself with either an ovarian cyst, PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) or endometriosis. The next time, I marched into the hospital and demanded an ultra sound. And lo and behold there is was a 10cm * 10cm ovarian cyst in my right ovary! The doctor did not even apologize for the misdiagnosis. After three months I had had enough, I packed my scans and patient history never to return to the hospital again. I booked an appointment with a gynaecologist who came highly recommended.
With my appointment on the Monday, I continued my weekend with hope. Unfortunately, my ovarian cysts ruptured, at the time I had no idea. I fell to the floor in agony, sweating and feverish as my boyfriend confused helped me into the shower for a cold rinse. The pain subsided and I insisted I was fine to wait for my appointment.
In the morning, my boyfriend insisted on accompanying me. When I got to the clinic, the nurse took my temperature and blood pressure asked me how and felt and left. Two seconds later the gynaecologist entered the room and confirmed the tests he then asked me if the night before I had suffered severe pain and I confirmed. He calmly explained that my cyst had ruptured and I had internal bleeding. He drafted a letter for surgery the same day and off I went. Emergency laparoscopy surgery! At this point, I was scared out of my mind, I was not mentally prepared for this. The surgery was successful. As I sat there in bed, my mother took to the university with doctor’s letter for leave of absence almost coming empty handed as the university did not understand. With only two weeks to recuperate, I took to the internet, YouTube videos, articles etc. I began my lifestyle change.
When I resumed university, a stinging pain began to torture me. The doctors confirmed that an infection was imminent and I had to rest. It was either I failed my classes for missing them, or the infection spread. Neither was a choice. This is when I accepted help. My boyfriend took to helping me with life. Feeling vulnerable and weak almost sunk me.
I discovered Ayurveda in the quest to grow my hair. That is a story for another day. Ayurveda has a lot to offer in natural ways to heal your body. I use Eve Care by Himalaya Herbal healthcare. This helps stabilizing my hormones and diminishing the pain significantly. I take it for six months and it keeps me going through the year. This does not work alone. My diet has changed through the years, coffee or anything with high caffeine causes the pain to return instantly. I rarely eat processed food, no sugar or junk food. This year I’m on the quest to have a gluten free diet, needless to say, I’m struggling.
Last month, I had my first flare up in two years. It’s said that after two years after surgery the symptoms are more than likely to return. I had been drinking a lot of coffee to get through the day for one year and my body was done. As the month began, I started vomiting every morning. I could not eat. I started to gain weight, I have chronic backache, pelvic pain, fatigue, fainting and hair fall. For one year, I have been deemed ‘overwhelmed’ at work. Embarrassed and ashamed, to share the real story, I said that this year, It’s about accepting the situation and acting to change it.
The challenges of endometriosis mean that as an outgoing lady, I’m easily reduced to a crying helplessness due to the pain, fatigue, confusion, frustration. Chronic fatigue can make a professional career difficult. Where do I get the strength to get to work? to be productive? The constant explaining to friends and family. And of course those who doubt you.
Now that I’m married, I have been advised by gynaecologists to get a baby as soon as possible or I may struggle in future. My husband and I are left with the decision to wait or believe in God. He is my Warrior.
As I type this article, I have spent the day at Aga Khan Hospital. Something has changed. I begin chapter 2. I urge all my sisters to be you, research and the most crucial action support each other.
Thank you so much, Faith, for sharing your journey with us.
We pray that you will have many pain free days ahead and babies to fill your quiver, all in God’s time. Grace upon grace unto you.