“I lost my navel and everything that makes me a woman,” says survivor.
Forty-three-year-old Patricia Raymond had been living with the pain of endometriosis since she started menstruating at the age of 14. Nobody knew what she was going through, and when they got to know, even her parents could not help her much. She sailed through her secondary school education in pain, having to stay out of school for some days every month and missing out on very important activities that form the happy memories of a child’s formative years. When family and friends learned about her situation, nobody could offer any solutions. Instead, they adduced her illness to wrong, stereotypical, and superstitious reasons. This has made intimacy very difficult for her and she is yet to be married even in her forties.
“I lost everything that made me a woman,” she said. “I have lived with this pain since my first period at 14 years old. The only thing left for me is my faith in God. Nobody understood what I was going through. I wailed, gnashed my teeth, and bled profusely, yet nobody could tell me what my problem was. I suffered and started living on pain relievers and sleep-inducing pills. I take sleeping pills so that I could at least have some rest, but no amount of the pills could stop the pain when it comes. I had to visit all the gynecologists’ that I came in contact with, seeking solutions to my condition.”
Over 176 million women endure the pain of endometriosis.
In 2003, she had her first surgery which caused her to bleed for days. “I was like a skeleton. I went to the military hospital and started with a Human Immuno Virus (HIV) test and others. I went for a CT scan, but they didn’t see anything because water had taken over my body. I had another surgery, which took away my navel. As I speak, I don’t have a navel because of endometriosis. I have decided to tell my story to help others living with this condition and to create awareness on the need for on-job education for medical practitioners, who were also ignorant of the condition.”
Over 176 million women all over the world also experience the same thing as Patricia Raymond. This is why endometriosis has become a topical issue recently to create awareness on the health condition and contribute to the fight against it. Some of its symptoms include pain (especially during menstruation) and irregular menstruation. The pain occurs mostly at the lower abdomen, pelvis, rectum or vagina. Experts have affirmed that a normal menstrual cycle of a woman shouldn’t hinder her from performing her normal tasks, but it should be a cause for concern if it does. According to fertility expert, Dr. Abayomi Ajayi has disclosed that about 30 to 40 per cent of Nigerian women and girls are victims of endometriosis in the country. He also said that a recent study has revealed that about 11 per cent of women and girls with no symptoms are actually living with the disorder without knowing.
Attaches itself to other organs and swells with blood during menstruation.
Endometriosis is the abnormal growth of cells (endometrial cells), which are similar to those that form the inside of the uterus, in a location outside of the uterus. It is a disorder of the tissue lining the uterus that causes it to grow outside the uterine cavity. It attaches itself to other organs and swells with blood during menstruation. And since the blood cannot escape, these tissues cyst, and scar tissue forms or adhesion takes place. In other words, endometriosis is a normal occurrence happening in an abnormal location in the body.
This causes pain and prevents the fallopian tubes from functioning properly. It affects pregnancy directly. In simple words, endometriosis causes excessive pain in the magnitude of what Miss Raymond has been experiencing as well as infertility because the disorder affects pregnancy. “I saw hell and I couldn’t stand on my feet. I screamed, when the pain wouldn’t allow me. In most cases, I couldn’t cry because there was no strength with which to cry. The more I cried, the more pain I felt. It was so painful. It would continue in this manner for the next seven days but the flow was just two to three days,” Miss Raymond said.
Two advocacy groups for endometriosis have been established in Lagos.
Recently, a group of professionals from across the world gathered at the Civic Centre, Lagos to educate women and doctors on this condition. The survivors were also present to share their experiences to educate others as well as give other survivors hope. “I have never met anybody with this condition. If I had, maybe my case wouldn’t be this complicated,” Miss Raymond said. According to experts who attended the event and those who joined via Zoom viewed endometriosis as “an unrecognized burden in Africa,” and one of the reasons the condition is widespread is ignorance about its existence. To check the spread of the disorder, two advocacy groups – Endometriosis Support Group Nigeria (ESGN) and African Endometriosis Awareness and Support Group (AESG) – have been established in Lagos.
Mayo Clinic: Website
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