One woman told how her doctor attributed her excruciating stomach ache to “menstrual pain” – when it was actually endometriosis.
But since Anna Cooper was diagnosed with the disease nine years ago, in which cells from the uterus grow elsewhere in the body, 12 operations have been performed.
Anna with her husband and daughterCredit: MEDIA WALES
And every day she takes slow-release morphine or liquid morphine when things are particularly bad.
Anna, from Newbridge, North Wales, hopes that what she says will shed some light on her experiences and work for change to help others in their situation.
For Anna it was a problem that started at age 11 but took seven years to diagnose.
She said, “It was my 11th birthday when I started my period and my mom hadn’t prepared me for it, I didn’t know what was going on. I was struggling with really painful, really heavy, irregular periods. It wouldn’t.” If I wasn’t like a five or seven day cycle, I would bleed for two months at a time.
Anna found out about her struggle with her illnessCredit: MEDIA WALES
“I would go back and forth to the doctors and most of the time they’d say, ‘The pain grows, you’re growing up, it’s just part of being a woman.’ I’ve been told so many times, especially at school and things like that, it’s just your period, you have to keep going.
“I missed so much school because I was in the hospital and was generally unwell. It really isolates you as a teenager. I had to grow up very quickly because no one else seemed to understand. “
At age 15, Anna was referred to a pediatrician after discovering cyclical swelling under her left rib.
While counselors traced it back to a cyst on her ovary after an exploratory operation the following year, the emergency surgery to remove Anna’s appendix revealed the real problem when they discovered endometriosis cells surrounding her appendix.
She added, “He operated on me and I was busy. He had to take me out of the surgery and bring me back two weeks later. It took him five hours to remove everything. “
In the weeks before her 18th birthday, Anna was diagnosed with endometriosis. While this was an important step, diagnosis is only half the solution to a condition for which there is currently no cure.
Describing this time, Anna said, “I remember my 18th birthday party. I was at home, it was a house party and I had bandages all over my stomach because I had an operation.
“Everyone only had the time of their life because they were 18 years old and carefree and I just had to worry so much more.
Anna has to have a hysterectomy, she saidCredit: MEDIA WALES
“I couldn’t go to college because I didn’t want to live away from home because of the pain. I was in the hospital every week and had various exams and exams. “
Soon after Anna was diagnosed, the endometriosis was removed from her ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder, and intestines.
Before moving to specialists in Liverpool, when she was just 18, she was given two terrible options: either conceive or undergo a hysterectomy.
Anna said, “I was 18 when they gave this to me [option]. If I had listened to this, I would not have had my daughter. “
Despite her health problems, Anna is determined to stay positive. After meeting her current husband at the age of 19, she now has a four-year-old daughter, Grace, who discovered she was pregnant two weeks before starting IVF treatment.
She also managed to keep her job as a senior donor at Boots by coming to work one day a week to manage hospital appointments and life as a mother.
Anna in her hospital gownCredit: MEDIA WALES
But with a chronic illness like Anna’s, there are still problems that she has to overcome every day – even last year when she had a permanent ileostomy pouch attached.
In the near future, Anna will have a total hysterectomy.
Anna said, “It’s constantly affecting every aspect of my life and it’s all from my period which is why I feel so strong about it. I have pain every day, some days are better than others. I had 12 surgeries for it now, one that me with left a pocket.
“Because we had one, we consider ourselves incredibly lucky. But it is not easy.
Anna said fatigue is a painful aspect of the coronaCredit: MEDIA WALES
When people say, “At least you have a child,” digestion isn’t easier because everyone has an idea in their mind. “
She is now committed to making menstrual wellbeing a compulsory part of the curriculum in Welsh schools, teaching students not only the time periods but also signs to look out for when something is wrong.
Anna said: “I don’t want a young girl to be in my position, but then I realized that there are also much worse positions.
There are girls out there who have taken seven, eight, nine years to diagnose and feel that they haven’t been heard or heard just because they think it’s just periods.
“My counselor who diagnosed me said that a painful time when you are in bed is crippled with agony, this is not normal. But a lot of girls think if that’s all they ever knew was normal. “
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