This Sunday (15th November) I am going for a stroll up a mountain. A 21.4km stroll to be exact, in the world’s toughest half marathon. The reactions from this have been mixed, from “oh, good on you!” to “that is nuts! Why would you do that on a Sunday morning at 7AM when you could be relaxing in bed?” and “… But why?” I am doing this for Endometriosis Australia, myself and the amazing women EA supports.
(Massive smiles after finishing my first Point to Pinnacle last year!). I think I can spot an endo belly :p
I first came across Endometriosis Australia in March this year. After six months of pain and discomfort at all stages of my cycle and thinking the pain was normal and would go away I decided to go and see my GP, who then referred me to a gynaecologist. The gyanecologist gave me heaps of information, which did include endometriosis as she suspected that I did have it (the pain at all stages of my cycle, diarrhoea and pain when I went to the toilet, fatigue and heavy, painful periods). After seeing the gynaecologist on the 17th March this year I was in surgery 4 weeks later on the 17th April. They found endometriosis in my Pouch of Douglas and the nasty, nasty endo had twisted and fused my bowel to my pelvic wall. I also had adhesions on my fallopian tubes. I remember thinking at the time that it was a relief, that I had an answer. A long recovery soon followed which included finding what medication could help me live. I did partake in a 7KM walk for Hobart’s City to Casino 4 weeks post lap with my doctor’s permission. It was tough but I did take it easy and get a new Personal Best time! I am doing okay now with the support of my doctors and since starting syneral in August, life has been amazing. I am reasonably pain free and enjoying my life and active and busy job as an After School Care Coordinator.
Laparascopy sites 3 days post-surgery.
This is me when I am not walking up a mountain!!!
For those of you reading who do not know, the Point to Pinnacle is held in Hobart, Tasmania every year. Competitors can run or walk the event which starts at Wrest Point Casino and finishes at the summit of Mount Wellington and is 1,270 metres in elevation. It is tough, it hurts but the team spirit, encouragement and scenery is beautiful. It sounds corny but I have likened my endo journey to this: yes, there are times it hurts, I struggle, cry and am in pain but the encouragement and support from my ‘endo sisters’, family and friends has been what has got me through. Going up the mountain people support you, last year I and others were high-fiving and encouraging those who felt they could not go on that they could. It is truly beautiful to see strangers supporting each other as they complete this tough event.
What is driving me to create change is the mentality that is “period pain is normal, take a nurofen and grab a heat pack and you will be fine. It’s only a week”. I did that for years and it was only when it got worse that I actually did something about it. But the truth is endo is like any chronic illness. It can cause infertility, fatigue, create problems in other areas of the body such as the bowel or bladder. It hurts. Good days and bad days are a part of it and I know that on the good days I am terrified of going to sleep and waking up in the night in pain. My social life suffers as I am tired from fighting the pain daily (but I am SO lucky to have incredible and supportive friends, family and endo sisters who get it!). There is fear. Fear of what will happen once you stop an amazing medication that is helping you live the life you are meant to be living. Fear of going through medications until finding the one that is right for you and your body. Yes, I see that my endo is not as bad as it was only early stage but my life is still affected. I am 24 and wanting to be enjoying my twenties despite this invisible illness. 1 in 10 Australian women and young girls have endo but most cases go undiagnosed. This is a massive number of women with this invisible illness! Being in pain and feeling this way is NOT normal. It is a silent disease and this is what is driving me to create change. I want all women and girls to realise that this pain is not normal and to get help, there are people out there who can help. Last year I did Point to Pinnacle in pain, but this year I am feeling amazing thanks to my gynaecologist and will be wearing my Endometriosis Australia top with pride!
To Support Katie head to https://give.everydayhero.com/au/katie-dowling-p2p-2015