Endometriosis: I went through a medical menopause at 24
Emily Griffiths shares her story of endometriosis, adenomyosis and menopause
Endometriosis is a common condition where the type of cells that normally line your womb (uterus) are found elsewhere in your body, such as your ovaries and fallopian tubes, bowel and bladder. Endometriosis can cause heavy, painful periods, pain in your abdomen and pelvis, and for some women, problems with infertility.
The condition affects one in 10 women, girls, people and teenagers, a similar number to those affected by diabetes.
Here, campaigner Emily Griffiths shares her story of her struggle to get a diagnosis, and how endometriosis treatment led to her going through a medical menopause at the age of 24.
‘It took nine long years for me to be diagnosed with endometriosis.
‘My symptoms started in my teens: I began having extremely heavy periods and severe pain, but my symptoms were continuously dismissed by healthcare professionals and I was told my symptoms were in my head.
‘I endured years of excruciating pain, both during my period and in between periods. There were countless hospital trips, and I had more mental health referrals than scans for my ovaries.
How sepsis led to my endometriosis diagnosis
‘It wasn’t until I was rushed to hospital aged 21 with sepsis where I almost lost my life before I was diagnosed with endometriosis and adenomyosis.
‘Since my diagnosis, I’ve undergone two privately funded lifesaving surgeries to save my kidneys, to remove a 25cm endometrioma cyst from my left ovary and disease from all over my pelvic nerves, bladder and bowel.
‘As treatments for endometriosis are extremely limited, I’m currently in medical menopause from an injection called Prostap, which temporarily stops my ovaries from functioning and therefore the production of estrogen. HRT has been a really tricky process due to the limited supply I can take but I’m powering through the best I can. Treatments like Prostap slow the progression of endometriosis and so relieve pain, but they don’t stop the growth of endometriosis altogether, and this is why it’s so important to have improved research.
The impact of a medical menopause
‘Going through the menopause at just 24 has been really difficult. My menopause symptoms have been varied: hot flushes, body aches, headaches, low mood and insomnia.
‘It’s felt a lonely journey due to menopause being known as something you go through at a later stage of your life, not when you’re young.
‘The emotional impact of menopause is substantial, it’s in your everyday life and so it’s important we continue to talk about the menopause, especially raising awareness of the young people going through it due to a medication or a medical condition.
Campaigning for better endometriosis and adenomyosis support
‘I really hope in the future that all women can have access to education and correct care for the menopause including treatments like HRT, and the speciality of support for those going through the menopause no matter where you live. I speak openly about living with endometriosis, adenomyosis and menopause, and raise awareness at any given chance in the hope to help someone else and create change for future generations.
‘Women’s Health is mostly misunderstood, and I really want to see that change, we will simply not be “pushed away” anymore.
Educate and advocate for yourself
‘I really admire the work of balance and all the information provided which really helped me feel less anxious. My advice to others is to know as much information as possible, track your symptoms, be ready to advocate for yourself, ask questions to medical professionals and if you’re not happy with the result ask for a second opinion, remember you know your body better than anyone else.
‘I respect that diagnosis can be a privilege and this needs to change, I also understand that not everyone has someone to talk to but please know you are not alone if you’re feeling unwell and there are some amazing online communities and online groups you could join. ‘Both endometriosis and menopause have impacted my life hugely. It’s been several years of suffering and unfortunately I will need another surgery soon but I hope every day that soon we will hopefully have the positive change we really need.
‘I campaign every day, I work with government members including my local MP. I’ve also worked with organisations like the United Nations and other organisations for the rights of women and girls with a focus on healthcare and menstrual health, written and featured in many articles about my experiences of living with a chronic illness.
‘My future hope is seeing a change for conditions like endometriosis and menopause where care is at a much better standard with more research. I also have hope for future generations of women to be able to access healthcare without stigma and worry of dismissal and where women’s symptoms are listened to so they can live a fulfilling life.
‘If we all come together, talk about our experiences, raise awareness and strive for the change we want to see, I’m really hopeful we will see it.’