‘My endometriosis spread through my body like cancer’
I always wanted lots of children, but at 33, my body made the decision for me.
Endometriosis is where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus - called lesions - grow outside the uterus and between structures such as the vagina, ovaries and rectum creating scar tissue sticking them together like glue.
It can strike women at any age and cause infertility and crippling pain, with some sufferers saying it is excruciating in the run-up and during periods.
This is my story …
At 10am I woke in my hospital room very dazed to the news that my one-and-a-half-hour operation for my endometriosis had turned into a five-hour operation.
The endo had spread through my body like cancer, attaching itself to other major organs, which had to be removed. It had also spread through my bowel, resulting in two bowel resections. I lost 30cm of my bowel on my left side and about 15cm on the other side.
One of my ovaries and my appendix were removed as there were golf ball size clumps of endo attached to them. The doctors' had hoped I could keep both ovaries to avoid being thrown into menopause at the age of 37, but both ovaries were mangled, so they took the worst one out.
"I always wanted children at an early age"
Getting our period is a rite of passage into womanhood; it's the next journey as we leave our childhood and step into becoming a woman - and let's face it, at 13 you aren't thinking about becoming a woman. You are thinking about boys, bands, clothes and hanging out with your friends.
The last thing we are thinking about is planning our lives - that's for old people, right?
I always wanted children at an early age. I have the best relationship with my mum and I wanted to have that relationship with my children; I didn't want to be an older mum, I wanted to be a young mum, like mine.
Fast forward to my early 20s, where I met the man of my dreams and knew we would spend this lifetime together. I had a vision and had planned out what I wanted in regards to children. Thankfully, his vision was the same. He was 11 years older than me, so having children was already on his radar, he just needed the right life partner to start with. Hello!
I was 23 when I had my first child and 26 when I had my second. Up until this point, my periods were perfect. They came every 28 days, like clockwork, and lasted five days, but it wasn't long after my second child that this all changed.
I noticed a change in my monthly friend, who slowly became my worst enemy due to the intruder lurking in the shadows, whose voice could only be heard when my friend popped over for her monthly visit.
This intruder in the shadows had a name, but kept its identity hidden for many years, and it wasn't through lack of trying to find out - it just knew how to mask itself really well.
"I put up with this pain for years"
The situation was this: Each month I knew I was about to get my period because I started contracting massive pains in my pelvic region. It was like my own personal body alarm, knocking on my door.
For the first three days of my period I would be in excruciating pain; crippled, bent over in agony, knock you right off your feet PAIN!
As a woman, mums, business owners … we tend to always put ourselves last.
How often have we heard these words come out of our mouths: "I don't have time; I've got too much to do; I'll do it once I finish; I'm too busy right now; I'll deal with it later"?
I put up with this pain for years, visiting countless doctors over those years in tears. They ran tests, bloods, did X-rays and ultrasound but would always come back saying, "There is nothing wrong, we can't find anything".
The pain medication would wipe me out for days, leaving me bedridden or like a walking zombie. It affected my mental wellbeing and was crippling physically and emotionally.
I experienced this each and every month for six years until at 33, I visited the gynaecologist, who sent me for a CT Scan.
It was there that my shadow, my enemy, appeared. Say hello to Endometriosis.
My gyno broke the news to me that I had endo and at the age of 33, being still so young and with the possibility of wanting more children, he gave me three options.
"I weighed about 58kg and for a 1.6m-tall woman, that's beyond skinny"
I asked to think about my options, but a few months turned into a few years, and at 36 my body had enough. It made the decision for me.
I started to tune into my body when I saw a change in my bowel movements. I monitored what was happening over several months and when what looked like old blood clots started to appear, I knew there was something very wrong.
I circled back to the gyno and booked in to have surgery. I'd had the conversation with my hubby about more children. Although he would have loved an entire cricket team, it wasn't to be.
I was advised by medics that it was a simple one and half our surgery and I'd be out in no time - but for me, that wasn't the case, as I've explained above.
I previously thought the operation was fairly routine, yet it was nothing of the sort. I was hospitalised for seven days and released on the provision I would rest at home in bed. But a week later, I didn't feel like I was getting better, in fact, I was going downhill fast.
I weighed around 58kg and for a 1.6m-tall woman, that's beyond skinny. I remember getting up and looking in the mirror and was horrified at the skeletal face looking back at me. I felt really unwell and had excruciating pain shooting up my body, so-called the doctor who diagnosed me with peritonitis.
Left untreated, it can rapidly spread into the blood and to other organs, resulting in multiple organ failure and death. I was rushed by ambulance to hospital where I spent another seven days being drained of the infection, and slowly going insane listening to people snore in the beds beside me.
The lesson and moral to my journey?
Make yourself a priority and get things checked out. Listen to your body and always get multiple opinions if you aren't happy with the one you received - and don't procrastinate in making decisions when it comes to your health.
Apparently, it only gets worse, take it from me, I'm living proof.
Tamara Wrigley, of Sippy Downs, is a successful businesswoman, TV presenter and property mogul who bought her first property at the age of 21. Follow her Instagram and Hepburn and Corder Renovations page.