A 33-year-old woman who had periods so painful she felt her “insides were being ripped apart” was shocked when two “grapefruit-sized” cysts were diagnosed on her right ovary.
Farren Bay, from California, has suffered from the pain since she was a young girl, but doctors kept telling her she had constipation or a urinary tract infection (UTI).
It wasn’t until she collapsed on the floor, gasping for breath, at the age of 26 that doctors finally diagnosed her with endometriosis — where tissue that makes up the lining of the womb grows in other areas like the ovaries, causing severe pain.
The hospital technician has now had surgery to remove the cysts and is being given medication to ease the pain. But she said the first round of drugs triggered a temporary menopause and that she still suffers from nausea, which makes her feel “trapped” in an older person’s body.
Doctors say she can still have children, but only via her left ovary and fallopian tube after cysts struck on the other side of her body.
Farren Bay, now 33 and from California, was diagnosed with endometriosis in 2015 after collapsing on the floor gasping for air, the pain was so intense. She had been seeing doctors since her early teens, but was told she either had constipation or a urinary tract infection (UTI).
Scans showed she had two “grapefruit-sized” cysts on her right ovary (picture from the surgery above). These were removed during an operation
The hospital technician (shown post-surgery) was then put on pills to ease the pain but said she experienced hot flashes and memory loss. She was then switched to separate treatment but said she was still in pain from it
Endometriosis is a painful condition in which tissues that normally line the uterus grow outside of it, such as the uterus. B. in the ovaries and fallopian tubes. When this collapses every month, blood cannot drain, leading to the formation of cysts.
It’s believed that about 11 percent of American women — or 6.1 million — have the condition, which has left them struggling with pelvic pain, pain during sex, and indigestion, among other problems.
Endometriosis: what is it, what are the symptoms and how can it be treated?
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition in which tissue that lines the inside of the uterus, the endometrium, occurs in other parts of the body, including the ovaries and fallopian tubes.
It bleeds just like the lining of the uterus, with the blood getting stuck instead of draining away, leading to the formation of cysts.
About six to eleven percent of American women suffer from this condition, which usually occurs in their 30s and 40s.
However, it can take years to diagnose because the symptoms can be mistaken for a bad period.
There is no known cause of endometriosis, although one theory has it that family genetics play a big part.
Other possible causes include problems with the immune system and menstrual complications where the shed tissue flows to other parts of the body.
The main symptoms of endometriosis include chronic pelvic, back, and abdominal pain, which can be worse than normal during a period; painful intercourse, painful bowel movements; bloating and nausea.
Painful periods and difficulty conceiving are other main symptoms. Heavy menstrual bleeding and infertility are considered symptomatic of endometriosis.
Diagnosis of endometriosis
The doctor will perform a pelvic exam and may perform an ultrasound, however laparoscopy is currently the only way to confirm an endometriosis diagnosis.
A laparoscopy is a procedure in which the doctor makes a small incision in the abdomen and inserts a small tube through it to see if there are any patches of endometriosis tissue.
treatment of endometriosis
Endometriosis is not curable. However, hospitals offer treatments that can relieve symptoms.
These include painkillers such as paracetamol, hormone preparations and contraceptives such as the pill, the contraceptive patch and an IUS. Surgery to remove the endometriosis tissue or parts of the affected organ is also possible.
Diagnosis can often take years, however, as warning signs are routinely dismissed as “bad periods” by medical professionals. It’s also difficult to diagnose, as it can only be done through a scan or surgery, in which doctors look into the pelvic area to look for abnormal uterine tissue.
Treatment options include surgery to remove cysts and medication to induce a temporary menopause and relieve pain. Intrauterine devices (IUDs) can also be used to help drain period fluid.
Bay said that although she repeatedly complained to doctors in her early teens, it wasn’t until 2015 that she received a diagnosis.
In her case, they used laparoscopic surgery to detect the condition — which involves making a small incision in the abdomen and inserting a tube to look for uterine tissue growing elsewhere in the body.
She then underwent surgery to remove the cysts and was then placed on the prescription drug Lupron Depot, which is a period-stopping drug to relieve the pain.
But Bay said she had a “horrible experience” with the drug that left her suffering from “insomnia, hot flashes, mood swings, bone pain and memory loss.”
She added, “The drugs put you into a medically induced menopause — it was absolutely horrible.”
Doctors later switched her to a different drug, but Bay said it didn’t work, prompting her to take a temporary break [taking] alltogether’.
She is now on a different medication but says the condition still causes her pain and makes her feel “angry, confused, upset and alone”.
“The pain left me unemployed as a hospital technician for over a year in December 2020,” she said.
“I couldn’t pay my rent, afford my car, daily necessities or even groceries – not to mention the costs of surgeries and medicines, which kept getting more and more indebted.”
Bay says she still suffers from nausea and fatigue every day, as well as pain in her pelvis, hips and knees.
“At age 33, my body can’t do the things I want it to do — it’s discouraging,” she said.
“It’s also affecting my relationships with people in my life because it’s difficult to socialize. Sometimes I suffer from constant nausea and I’m so tired that I hardly want to go out anymore.
“My body feels like it’s trapped inside an older woman.”
Bay returned to work in March 2022 but was only able to work part-time due to the symptoms. She is forced to rely on her parents for financial support.
Describing her symptoms before the diagnosis, she said, “I remember in my early and teenage years, and even as an adult, my bowels felt like they were being ripped apart.”
Doctors repeatedly said I had a urinary tract infection or constipation, she said, but my symptoms persisted even after treatment.
In July 2015, at the age of 26, she called her father to ask for help because the pain was so severe.
“When he found me, I was collapsed on the ground gasping for air,” Bay said.
“The paramedics came and I was taken to the hospital where I found I had two grapefruit-sized cysts on my right ovary.
“They let me in for observation, and my gynecologist at the time told me that if I don’t feel better by morning, surgery would be the best option.
“She removed the cysts [in surgery] and during my follow-up appointment, I found out I was diagnosed with endometriosis.”
In December 2020, Bay (left and right her stomach after surgery) had to take more than a year off due to the pain, which caused her to struggle to pay bills and even get food on the table. She was dependent on financial help from her parents
Bay wants to raise awareness about endometriosis (shown above after surgery). It’s estimated that about 11 percent of American women have this condition, but it’s often misdiagnosed
She has spoken out about her illness to raise awareness of the condition and to help others in a similar place.
She said: “The illness can be lonely – people will make you feel embarrassed or ‘crazy’ for having the feelings you have dealing with it.
“Endometriosis is a whole body disease. You are in pain and your feelings are valid.
“I hope sharing my story will help many other people either get diagnosed or feel less alone because this disease is very isolating.”