What the heck is endometriosis? That was my first thought when my new gynecologist told me that my symptoms sounded like endometriosis. This was 20 years ago, when little was known or said about endometriosis, and I had never heard of it. I consider myself to be well read and current on many subjects, so I couldn’t wrap my head around how there could be something so debilitating to women that I had never heard of.
Then my gynecologist told me that endometriosis can only be diagnosed by performing surgery. I was immediately suspicious that he was trying to make some money by talking me into undergoing an unnecessary surgery, because I’d certainly never heard of an ailment that could only be diagnosed via surgery. I asked him plenty of questions about endometriosis and the surgery involved (called laparoscopy) and then I decided to get a second opinion.
While waiting for my appointment with the second gynecologist, I did some research and educated myself about endometriosis. The symptoms sounded like what I was experiencing, and I began to come around to the idea that maybe I did have it. I was also dumbfounded to learn how many women have endometriosis, and how little was known about it by the medical profession.
If my own gynecologist had made me suspicious, the one I went to for a second opinion made me angry as hell. I detailed my symptoms to him and asked him if he thought it sounded like endometriosis. He proceeded to tell me that endometriosis is very rare, and that it sounded like I was over stressed and needed to relax. Relax??!! I felt like I was back in the 1800’s and being told that I suffered from “the vapors.” I left his office so fast I left skid marks on his reception room floor.
My experience with the second gynecologist made me appreciate my gynecologist a lot more and I decided to trust him and let him perform a laparoscopy. He found lesions, which indicated that I did in fact have endometriosis. He was able to remove the lesions during the surgery, and the relief was wonderful.
What did I learn from this experience? How important it is to advocate for yourself with doctors. The go-to tools I keep in my toolbox for doctor visits are:
- Make sure you understand what the doctor is telling you. If you don’t, ask as many questions as you need until you fully understand.
- If you have doubts about something your doctor says or wants to do, get a second opinion. You may find a doctor that is more knowledgeable, or you may come to appreciate your own doctor more.
- Do your research. While I’m not suggesting doom scrolling for medical advice, I am suggesting reading up on current studies and new treatments, so you are armed with knowledge when you go to a doctor appointment.
- Talk to family and friends. You may be surprised to find out how many other women are dealing with similar issues.
- Trust your instincts and listen to your body. You know your body the best
My experience being diagnosed with endometriosis taught me how important it is to advocate for yourself with your doctor. It also taught me that you should seek out a medical professional who is knowledgeable about your specific condition. I eventually moved on to a new gynecologist who was more up to date on current endometriosis treatments and who proved to be invaluable in helping me navigate the merry go round of endometriosis.