Endometriosis: ‘Doctors thought I was crazy’
TEGAN Chamberlain learnt two things when a specialist finally diagnosed the reason for a decade of chronic pain.
The first was she had endometriosis. The second was she was not crazy.
Since the age of 13, Ms Chamberlain thought her excruciating period pain was "all in her head".
"It got so bad that I would be on the ground crying," she said. "Doctors did not believe me how bad it was.
"I had ultrasounds that showed nothing. They just told me to take painkillers or go on the pill time and time again. But nothing helped and I knew it was not normal."
The Pimpama woman is not a hypochondriac. She has endometriosis.
The chronic and relentless disease causes tissue, similar to the lining layer of the uterus, to deposit outside the uterus. After a decade of pain and no answers she finally found a gynaecologist who believed her.
"I was admitted for investigative laparoscopic surgery and I prayed my gynaecologist Dr Tina Fleming would find something." she said.
"For so long doctors thought I was crazy."
Ms Chamberlain said a three-hour diagnostic and therapeutic procedure found the cause of her unbearable pelvic pain.
"The news was scary but a relief. It was nice to know I was not crazy. I was just always brushed off by doctors."
Grace Private gynaecologist Dr Fleming said: "One in 10 women suffer from endometriosis, but there is no cure or no non-invasive diagnostic test. It is frustrating.
Dr Fleming said patients dealt with constant stereotypes - pelvic pain was "normal" for women.
Ms Chamberlain, a primary school teacher, said every month her extreme lower body pain limited her social life extensively. But her symptoms subsided after surgery, the insertion of a IUD, physiotherapy and a FODMAP diet.
Six months later Ms Chamberlain and husband Lachlan Kerry wanted a baby. But to achieve that she had to have her IUD removed.
"The nightmare began and my pain started coming back. It got worse every month I did not fall pregnant. But I was determined to push on."
Ms Chamberlain defied the odds, falling pregnant naturally and eventually giving birth to a boy, Harvey, who was born on September 23, 2019. "It was a miracle. The doctors still cannot believe it or explain it," she said.
"It was an emergency caesarean. Nevertheless, the birth was like going on a date with the love of my life. I fell in love instantly."
Within five months, however, Ms Chamberlain's painful symptoms returned.
"The pain came back but I really want to give Harvey a sibling. Now I have the decision to either plan for a second child or undergo further corrective surgery.
"The condition is relentless and the future is unknown. But with the right doctor, who believes in you, the condition can be managed."
This month is EndoMarch, a worldwide campaign to raise awareness and funds for the condition.
Ms Chamberlain said endometriosis awareness was important.
"I want girls growing up to understand extreme period pain isn't normal. The more we speak about it, someone you know who has symptoms might get help sooner."