A 33-year-old woman dealing with periods that were so painful they felt like “her guts were being ripped apart” was shocked to be diagnosed with two “grapefruit-sized” cysts on her right ovary.
Farren Bay, from California, had been suffering from the pain since her teens, but was constantly told by doctors that she had constipation or a urinary tract infection (UTI).
It was only when she collapsed on the floor gasping for air at the age of 26 that doctors finally diagnosed her with endometriosis, where the tissue that makes up the lining of the uterus grows in other areas, such as the ovaries, causing severe pain.
The hospital technician has now undergone surgery to remove the cysts and has been prescribed pain-relieving medication. But she said the first round of medication triggered a temporary menopause and that she still suffers from nausea that makes her feel like she’s “trapped” in an older person’s body.
Doctors say she can still have children, but only through her left ovary and fallopian tube after cysts attacked the other side of her body.
Farren Bay, now 33 and from California, was diagnosed with endometriosis in 2015 after she collapsed on the floor gasping for breath because the pain was so intense. She had been to the doctor since she was a teenager, but was told that she had constipation or a urinary tract infection (UTI)
Scans revealed that she had two ‘grapefruit-sized’ cysts on her right ovary (a picture from surgery is shown above). These were removed during an operation.
The hospital technician (shown after surgery) was prescribed pills to help ease the pain, but said they left her with hot flashes and memory loss. She then switched her to a separate treatment, but she said she was still in pain from them.
Endometriosis is a painful condition in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside of it, such as on the ovaries and fallopian tubes. When this breaks each month, the blood does not drain, leading to the formation of cysts.
About 11 percent of American women, or 6.1 million, are thought to have the condition, causing them to suffer from pelvic pain, pain during intercourse and indigestion, among other symptoms.
Endometriosis: What is it, what are the symptoms and how can it be treated?
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition in which the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus, the endometrium, appears in other parts of the body, including the ovaries and fallopian tubes.
It bleeds just as it would when lining the uterus, and the blood gets stuck instead of draining, leading to the formation of cysts.
About 6 to 11 percent of American women have the condition, which typically strikes between the ages of 30 and 40.
But diagnosis can take years because symptoms can be mistaken for a bad period.
Causes of endometriosis
The cause of endometriosis is not known, although one theory posits that family genetics play a role.
Other possible causes are immune system problems and complications from menstrual periods, where the shed tissue ends up flowing to other parts of the body.
Symptoms of endometriosis
The main symptoms of endometriosis include chronic pelvic, lower back, and abdominal pain that may be worse than normal for a period; experiencing pain during sexual intercourse, painful bowel movements; bloating and nausea.
Painful periods and difficulty getting pregnant are other key symptoms. Heavy menstruation and infertility are considered symptoms of endometriosis.
Diagnosis of endometriosis
The doctor will perform a pelvic exam and may perform an ultrasound, however a laparoscopy is currently the only way to confirm a diagnosis of endometriosis.
A laparoscopy is a procedure in which the doctor makes a small incision in the abdomen and passes a small tube through it to see if there are patches of endometriosis tissue.
There is no cure for endometriosis. However, hospitals offer treatments that can relieve symptoms.
These include pain relievers such as paracetamol, hormonal medications, and contraceptives such as the pill, the contraceptive patch, and the IUS. Surgery to remove endometriosis tissue or parts of the affected organ are also options.
But it can often take years to diagnose because doctors often dismiss warning signs as “bad periods.” It is also difficult to diagnose, as this can only be done through a scan or surgery where doctors look inside the pelvic area for rogue uterine tissue.
Treatment options include surgery to remove any cysts and medications to trigger a temporary menopause and relieve pain. Intrauterine devices (IUDs) may also be inserted to help drain menstrual fluid.
Bay said that despite repeatedly complaining to doctors in her teens, it took until 2015 to receive a diagnosis.
In her case, they used laparoscopic surgery to detect the condition, where a small incision is made in the abdomen and a tube is inserted to check if tissue from the uterus grows in other parts of the body.
She then had surgery to remove the cysts and was then prescribed the medication Lupron Depot, which stops periods to help ease the pain.
But Bay said she had a “terrible experience” with the drug that left her suffering from “insomnia, hot flashes, mood swings, bone pain and memory loss.”
She added: “The drugs put you into a medically induced menopause, it was absolutely horrible.”
Doctors later switched her to a separate medication, but Bay said it didn’t work, leading her to “stop” for a while. [taking] all together’.
She is now taking another medication, but says the condition still causes her pain and leaves her feeling “angry, confused, upset and alone”.
“The pain put me out of a job as a hospital technician in December 2020 for over a year,” he said.
‘I couldn’t pay rent, pay for my car, daily necessities or even food, not to mention the cost of surgeries and medications that kept piling up in debt.’
Bay says she still suffers from nausea and fatigue every day, as well as pain in her pelvis, hips and knees.
“At the age of 33, my body can’t do the things I want it to, it’s disheartening,” he said.
“It also affects my relationships with the people in my life, because it’s hard to socialize. At times, I am constantly nauseous and so fatigued that I hardly want to go out.
‘My body feels like it’s trapped inside an old lady.’
Bay returned to work in March 2022, but has only been able to work part-time due to symptoms. She is forced to rely on the financial support of her parents.
Describing her symptoms before diagnosis, she said: “I remember feeling like my insides were being ripped apart in my early years and into my teens, and even as an adult.”
Doctors repeatedly said I had a UTI or constipation, he said, but my symptoms persisted even after treatment.
In July 2015, at the age of 26, she called her father for help because the pain was so bad.
“When he found me, I was collapsed on the floor, gasping for breath,” Bay said.
“The paramedics arrived and I was rushed to the hospital to discover that I had two cysts the size of grapefruits on my right ovary.
“I was admitted for observation and my gynecologist at the time told me that if I didn’t feel better in the morning, surgery would be the best option.
‘She removed the cysts [in surgery] and during my follow-up appointment, I found out that I had been diagnosed with endometriosis.’
In December 2020, Bay (shown left and right with her stomach after surgery) had to take time off work for over a year due to pain that forced her to struggle to pay bills and even put out food. in the table. She had to rely on her parents for financial help.
Bay aims to raise awareness of endometriosis (shown above after surgery). About 11 percent of American women have the condition, estimates suggest, but it’s often misdiagnosed
She has spoken out about her illness to raise awareness of the condition and help others in a similar place.
She said: “Illness can be lonely – people will make you feel ashamed or ‘crazy’ for having the feelings you do when faced with it.”
‘Endometriosis is a disease of the whole body. You are in pain and your feelings are valid.
“I hope that sharing my story will help many others to receive a diagnosis or feel less alone because this disease is very isolating.”