Rachel Champ is a 27-year old sales agent from Longwood, County Meath, Ireland, who's currently completing a master's degree in criminology and criminal justice. She's also been dealing with debilitating periods and chronic pain since she was 10 years old.
"I still vividly remember getting my first period and curling into a ball on my bed in the fetal position and crying because of the pain. This became a new routine for me every month," Rachel told BuzzFeed. From there, Rachel spent the next 17 years being prescribed countless contraceptives and painkillers, though nothing truly alleviated her pain. And, since every doctor she visited simply wrote her off as "unlucky" for having "bad periods," she never questioned it.
"It wasn’t until I had my first pap smear test when I was 25 and spoke to the female doctor who performed it. She told me that it wasn't normal to be in so much pain every month that I couldn’t walk, missed work/college/events, and had to take so many painkillers just to function." That doctor referred Rachel to a gynecologist for the first time, and through even more tests and procedures — including an ultrasound, laparoscopy, and insertion of the Mirena coil — it was confirmed that she had multiple small cysts on both ovaries, and one cyst on her left ovary that appeared to be an endometrioma*. At this point, Rachel's pain had gone beyond her periods and was now both daily and chronic.
Despite receiving at least a partial diagnosis for what may be going on, Rachel continued to suffer month after month from debilitating pain with little to no options. She asked a male gynecologist she'd been assigned to by her healthcare system — who had been previously unhelpful and did not diagnose her cysts or endometrioma — about potentially pursuing a hysterectomy, since they'd exhausted so many of the non-invasive options. She told BuzzFeed, "After 17 years, and potentially another 20-plus years of this pain depending on when I go into menopause, I wanted to know at what point can I make the decision to have a hysterectomy to improve my quality of life, and put an end to the period pain I have experienced for nearly two-thirds of my life."
Note: While a hysterectomy is not a cure for endometriosis on its own, many people who live with endometriosis also suffer from adenomyosis, a disease where endometrial tissue grows into the uterine wall, through which a hysterectomy is the only cure.