After 16 years of being misdiagnosed, Claudia Wright, 28, was told she had stage four endometriosis – a condition which causes tissue to grow across her reproductive organs and bowels.
Despite having specialist surgery in America, Claudia still suffers from such severe bloating that people often assume she’s pregnant.
Each misplaced comment is a reminder that Claudia may never be able to carry a child of her own.
Claudia, from Perth, Australia, said: ‘It is a devastating blow every time somebody asks me if I am pregnant and when my due date is because I may never be able to have a baby of my own.
‘It is a cruel joke that I can look pregnant, but I may never be pregnant, the doctor has advised for my partner Michael Crugnale, 28, and I to start trying sooner rather than later as my chances are quickly decreasing.
‘I tend to hide under baggy clothing or stay indoors when I have a flare up because of the pain to avoid being questioned by strangers.
‘My left ovary is currently showing signs of shutting down and it’s completely immobile, so I can’t try for a family until that’s sorted as I need to have it cut from the scar tissue.
‘It’s traumatic to be told you may not be able to have a baby, but hey, try anyway and try now, regardless of your personal circumstances.
‘Surgery isn’t a cure for my condition as it is a chronic illness, I had part of my endometriosis excised in October 2018 by Center for Endometriosis Care in America.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition where cells like the ones in the lining of the womb are found elsewhere in the body, such as in the ovaries or the fallopian tubes.
Each month, these cells react in the same way to those in the womb, building up and then breaking down and bleeding. Unlike the cells in the womb that leave the body as a period, this blood has no way to escape.
It’s a chronic and debilitating condition that causes painful or heavy periods, and it can lead to infertility, fatigue and bowel and bladder problems.
The condition is fairly common, with around 1.5 million women in the UK living with it.
Symptoms vary from person to person but some of the most common include:
- Painful, heavy, or irregular periods
- Pain during or after sex
- Painful bowel movements
‘The surgery involved separating my fused organs, a hysteroscopy, checking my fallopian tubes were clear and work and removing the endometriosis from my bowel and reproductive organs.
‘The excision I the gold standard of care and best treatment option to remove the disease but it doesn’t mean I no longer have it.’
Claudia was first diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at 11 years old as she suffered with excruciating lower abdomen pains, fatigue, rectal bleeding and migraines.
She spent 15 years being treated for the disease until 2017 when doctors discharged her and explained she had been misdiagnosed.
Claudia began to do her own research and discovered that the symptoms of endometriosis exactly lined up with her own experience.
She was finally diagnosed with severe endometriosis by a gynaecologist. While it was relief to figure out what was going on, things didn’t get much better. Soon Claudia had to quit her job in PR and marketing as her severe pain prevented her from leaving the house.
She’s recently purchased a walking stick as her pain and fatigue make it hard to even stand.
Claudia is now sharing her story – alongside photos of her swollen abdomen – on Instagram to raise awareness of endometriosis and the impact it can have on people’s lives.
‘Endometriosis is overlooked because it isn’t terminal but the despair from living a life in severe pain that isn’t believed, or going through repeated surgeries with no successful outcomes can be,’ she explains.
‘I stay positive because I am surrounded by an amazing support system and I use Instagram to turn my pain into power by using my story and knowledge of the disease to help others.
‘I’m all about researching, advocating, educating and sharing with the endometriosis community and the greater public.’
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