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Living with Endometriosis

Living with Endometriosis
Photo: Living with Endometriosis
Growing up, and into young adulthood, Dominique Ribeiro Da Silva lost count of the number of doctors who told her she was overreacting, imagining things, or to go away and have a couple of Panadol.

The unhelpful advice came, despite years of painful menstrual cycles, mid-cycle bleeding and continuous discomfort.

“It probably started from my first cycle,” says Ribeiro Da Silva.

“I always knew something was wrong, but the GPs were always saying everything was normal.”

When Ribeiro Da Silva was 12, she began taking the contraceptive pill to reduce bleeding which helped for a while, but throughout secondary school, things took a turn for the worse.

Intimacy was painful, and she began bleeding throughout the pill cycle.

“So, I did my own research and come across endometriosis, and thought ‘this is probably what I’ve got’.
“I pushed for referrals and was again told it was something in my head. They changed my pill, but the same thing kept happening.”

It wasn’t until last year, at age 22, that Ribeiro Da Silva was finally sent in for surgery, where Stage 2 endometriosis was discovered.

“There were four incisions made during the three-and-a-half-hour surgery, where they found it throughout my whole system, on my uterus, my ovaries, my tubes, throughout all of that.
“That surgery was supposed to relieve everything, and I was told to go back on the pill, skipping three periods at a time to ease symptoms.”

Ribeiro Da Silva’s symptoms did subside for about two months, but then returned worse than ever.

She’s now booked in for her second surgery.

Endometriosis effects one in ten Australian's. Despite ten per cent of our female population experiencing endometriosis, it remains a largely secretive condition, with an inexplicably taboo reputation.

“It’s not spoken about,” says Ribeiro Da Silva.

“It’s just such a taboo topic, the menstrual cycle.

“Most people don’t even understand their own cycle themselves, so they don’t feel confident in talking to someone about it.”

Which is why many people are left undiagnosed for years, resulting in more extreme treatments to manage the condition, which isn’t curable.

“It’s taken me 13 years,” says Ribeiro Da Silva.

Endometriosis is a disease in which the tissue that is similar to the lining of the womb, grows outside it in other parts of the body.  While it most commonly affects the reproductive organs, it is also found in the bowel and bladder, along with muscles, joints, the lungs and even the brain.

There is no known cure, but management plans can be put into place, which is why early diagnosis is important.

“It’s not a nice topic to talk about,” says Ribeiro Da Silva.

“You’re talking about everything downstairs, but I want to help other people as well now.

“I don’t want people to have be told to see a phycologist, because they are crazy.”

Which is why, during Endometriosis Awareness Month, Ribeiro Da Silva has launched a new Instagram page, @dominating_endo, to share her personal story.

“We need more education and awareness because it’s really daunting to not know what the future holds.

“Some days I wake up with a flat stomach and feeling fine, and other days I look six months pregnant and I’m bleeding everywhere.

“Even if I help one person in their diagnosis then I know I’ve done my bit.

“If anything doesn’t feel right, you know your body better than anyone else.

“If something isn’t right, keep visiting doctors until someone is prepared to listen and understand you.”

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Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan is a widely published journalist with more than 15 years experience in the media and communications industries.

Specialising in health, business, property and finance, Nicole writes regularly for numerous high-profile newspapers, magazines and online publications.

Before moving into freelance writing almost a decade ago, Nicole was an on-air reporter with Channel Nine and a newspaper journalist with News Limited.

Nicole is also the Director of content and communications agency Stella Communications (www.stellacomms.com) and a children's author.