At age 28, Jaime King was diagnosed with endometriosis, adenomyosis and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This, along with an ectopic pregnancy, lead to her first of several miscarriages.
“That’s when my journey really began,” says Jaime.
PMS. Cramps. Periods. Tampons versus pads. It’s all still very much taboo. But why? How can women, young women and young girls truly know when something isn’t right with their body? As Jaime puts it, “If you’re having very painful, heavy periods that are debilitating, even while you’re ovulating, that’s not normal and you should get it checked out immediately.”
The sooner the diagnosis, the better. Waiting, or ignoring the symptoms, can cause serious and sometimes irreparable damage.
Finding the right doctor
According to Dr. Randy Harris, MD, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, endometriosis and PCOS can mimic other symptoms or aggravate symptoms of other diseases and can lead to misdiagnosis for years.
For instance, teens might complain of gastrointestinal problems and might be diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). But upon further investigation, their symptoms get worse before and/or during their periods. With this added history and further medical workups, it may end up being endometriosis on the bowel or appendix, mimicking IBS. So these teens are treated for IBS when they should be treated by a gynecologist instead.
Disorders vs. infertility
The question on everyone’s mind is: Can this lead to infertility or trouble conceiving? Dr. Harris stipulates the answer heavily depends on what age the patient seeks consultation regarding the signs and symptoms of these diseases and what other factors come into play.
Dr. Harris also emphasizes that fertility is a secondary issue to these gynecological issues, and that not all women with endometriosis are, or become, infertile. And in Jaime’s particular situation, she was hit with the trifecta: endometriosis, PCOS and adenomyosis.
The doctor’s advice to women with these types of issues: “Think about fertility, but don’t be afraid you’re never going to be pregnant.” The best treatment is being proactive: listening to your body, getting good medical treatment, ensuring your complete history is taken and sometimes, only if necessary, surgery.
But you shouldn’t give up hope. Having a strong will is what helped Jaime fulfill her dream of starting a family. And one of the hardest parts of her struggle was the deluge of emotions. Because most women with fertility issues suffer in silence, it turns out that it’s actually quite common to go through a number of emotions.
Feeling broken, sad, confused, angry, betrayed, alone and frustrated…acknowledging and accepting this roller coaster is an important part of the journey. As is sharing it. “The minute you start denying what you’re feeling then you’re denying your experience,” explains Jaime. Find someone who will listen, someone who is outside the situation and who will be a strong and supportive sounding board.
For Jaime, it’s important to share her story so that others will know they aren’t going through this by themselves. Posting stories and photos on social media with the hashtag #YouAreNotAlone was how she was able to make her struggles public.
How to stay positive
Jaime’s advice is simple: Remember what makes you grounded and happy. Write down the simple things. Having this list will help you refocus your attention instead of counting down the days to treatments and results. You’ll be waiting and hoping. The days will go by slowly. The hormones will flow. It’s all very scary, but that’s okay. But finding these things that keep you grounded and happy during this process, no matter how small, will truly make a difference — a positive difference.
Karine Bengualid, [email protected]