Liana’s Story

Part 1

My period began in first form, and so did the signs that things were not normal. The third time I had my period, I discovered the hard way that they can be painful. I was standing in line at the canteen at lunch when the pain that had been building all morning became unbearable. By the time I made it back to my classroom, I looked and felt sick enough that my friends escorted me to the sick room where I promptly vomited. I was sent home. I was told that I had PMS, and that this was normal, but that didn’t make sense since my period had already started. But what did 12 year old me know. Over the next few months, I learned that I had to take painkillers to make it through a period. Tylenol worked, until it didn’t. The first time it failed me, I managed to muscle through. The second time, I had my first “incident”. I found myself in the bathroom with vomiting and diarrhoea, screaming from the worst pain I had ever felt. Some of our neighbours called worried about the noise. My mother didn’t know how to help me. It took a combination of a hot pack and Advil (that I kept bringing up) before the pain was under control. During my teens I experimented with so many drugs – all of them painkillers. I had several more incidents, and got carried home from school on many occasions. This was my normal, but I knew it wasn’t normal. I soon learned to always have painkillers on me for fear of another incident. I remember once during an incident, I heard my sister ask my mother why she took me on. I was obviously doing this for attention. She had painful periods too, but she kept it to herself. It hurt to hear her talk about me like that. My mother responded by saying, “Do you get pain so bad that you vomit and get diarrhoea? Does the pain radiate down your legs so you can’t stand or even sit?” There was silence after that. I think she got the point, because ever since she has been another source of support for me.


Part 2

By the time I went to Canada for university, I thought I had this under control. One period, during my first year, I ran out of Advil. I started the day with a single pill, which I knew was not enough, but I hoped I would make it until I could buy more. A friend had invited me to the mall to meet her brother, and I went expecting to be able to get Advil on the way. I didn’t make it. On exiting the subway downtown, my legs finally buckled under me. Then I started vomiting again. The effort to keep from screaming was so great that I could not move, not even to avoid the mess I just made. My friend ran off to get help. Some ladies behind me panicked and called 911. They stood vigil over me to make sure that I got help. I couldn’t lift my head to see what they looked like. I couldn’t speak to thank them. When the paramedics came, they asked if I were pregnant. My friend told them that I was not, that it was my period. “Oh, tell her to get up them.” Because I must clearly be faking it. Between the completely unhelpful paramedics who refused to touch me (“We can’t lift her,” they said. I weighed 105 pounds soaking wet), to being abandoned in the ER despite constant vomiting, to the blatant scorn by a nurse who also thought I was faking it, to the doctor who never came to see me and caused me to overdose on morphine, I had possibly the worst day of my life. Since then, I became paranoid about having Advil on me. At any given time, I had about five bottles within reach. I had also learned that I could take up to double the recommended dose if I needed to, and I did, because the pain was still getting worse. I had been to numerous doctors. The first told me that I had dysmenorrhea. When I looked it up, it simply meant “period pain”. I was sure I had figured that out already. Another doctor offered a prescription for codeine. Another recommended birth control pills, despite the fact that I was not sexually active. I begged a doctor to do a pap smear (not really knowing what it was) hoping that an examination could give some answers. She refused, saying, “Why don’t you start having sex then come back?” Seriously?

Part 3

I spent many years on various birth control pills with bad side effects.The pain eased at 1st but then I was back where I started. At the end of 2009, I went to a doctor near to tears-“Something is wrong with me! I need answers!” I was referred to a gynaeco who instantly suggested endo.This was the 1st time I heard it described in detail. There was nothing to tip me off that I had this,besides the pain. My periods were “regular”and I had no symptoms in between.This doctor said it could only be properly diagnosed with a laparoscopic surgery. Unfortunately, in Canada, these are only performed after unsuccessful pregnancy attempts. Quality of life meant nothing. I was offered more birth control and advised to get pregnant, because apparently motherhood is an acceptable medical treatment. Shortly after I moved back to Barbados and immediately went to my mother’s gynecologist, Dr. Sheppard-Scholar who, within weeks, scheduled my surgery at Bayview to be performed by Dr. Bennet in April 2010. She allowed me to see the photos taken during the surgery. I saw for myself the mess that endo had made inside me. There was buildup everywhere on the organs of my lower abdomen.Thankfully, there were no adhesions nor serious damage besides the scarring on some organs and my swollen uterus.She also removed 5 fibroids. This was described as mild to moderate.I can only imagine what people with a severe endo go through. My thoughts and prayers are with them. After I was on Zoladex for 6 months, to “buy me time” for fertility. I was advised to remain on birth control, and recommended options that would prevent me from having a period. Apparently it was bad for my health. Birth control seemed also to be bad as the side effects of the various treatments continued to be unbearable. In 2013, I gave up birth control and simply took naproxen during my period. In 2015 I got married. This summer my husband and I decided we could finally afford to have children. 20 years after my nightmare and 6 years after my diagnosis I was able to conceive without difficulty. I cannot express how thankful I am. A hysterectomy is likely still in my future but so are children borne of my own body.