Growing up as a young girl, I thought everyone went through the same period pain I did. When one of my friends would casually say, “I have the worst cramps right now, ugh,” I thought she had the same pain as I did. A pain that was excruciating and left me in agony, feeling helpless to the point where I could not tolerate it anymore. Months and months went on, and finally close to two years I got my answers. My name is Ally Bowers, I am 18 years-old and I was 17 years-old when I had my endometriosis surgery.
Like I said, I thought every girl went through the pain I had with their period. My unusual pain started when I was 16 years-old. A normal period for me lasts around 10 days and consists of bleeding so much I had to change my ultra-tampon every two hours (this became extremely annoying). For a couple of months, I got used to the irregular periods and my pediatrician told me it was normal. Then, the cramps became a real problem for me. Every single time I got my period, my cramps were so debilitating that I would become nauseous, not be able to walk or stand, miss days of school, and would physically and mentally drain me. For my whole life I have played soccer; I eat healthy and I run every day. Being a young girl with periods this painful made it very heartbreaking to miss so many things in my everyday life.
July 1, 2019 was the day I was rushed into the hospital and was given emergency surgery to remove my appendix. As usual, I was on my period and had a severe pain on my right side. My mom had taken me to my pediatrician that morning to get looked at. I heard the same sentence: “I did not find anything but you probably have really bad cramps. Take some Advil and rest.” But obviously it was something more. Weeks after my surgery, I was continuing to have pain on both my left and right side.
My pediatrician put me on birth control and told me to see how I felt after a few months being on the pill. Not only did my cramps and periods worsen, but I was always feeling depressed, not in the mood to do anything, and low energy. The amount of times I left school my junior year because of my period is too many to count. The nurse would tell me to “take this Ibuprofen and get back to class.” I was constantly calling my mom from the school bathroom, sobbing my eyes out and not being able to move my body.
In January 2020, my pediatrician decided to change my birth control to see if it would help. My pain scale was always close to a 10. Sometimes I would have to be wheelchaired to her office because I could not walk. I felt helpless and as if my doctor was not understanding and listening to me when I explained my pain. My mom has always been the most supportive person in my life, and even she did not know how to help me.
The next year consisted of many, and I repeat, many, trips to the emergency room. Some lasted a couple of hours, some, three nights in the hospital. I started to have severe pain with my cysts—so much pain that I was not able to move. The Advil, Tylenol, heating pads, Midol, birth control, and my prescription pain medicine (that was prescribed to me specifically for my period pain) were no longer my friends. Not only was my 24/7 physical pain with cysts and my periods brutalizing, but so was my mental health. I have always been a happy and uplifting girl. But over that past year, I became not myself. I was sick and tired of my parents saying “be happy,” when I couldn’t help it. This was also when I began my struggle with anxiety. The pain was tearing me down, and everyone around me. Additionally, only being 17 years-old, I hated going through the pain I had at my age and putting my family down with me.
I got used to everyone laughing and telling me that I “basically live in the hospital,” but it was definitely not funny to me. The number of ultrasounds I received are too many to count with both hands. One time a nurse at the emergency room I was at told me something I have never forgotten, “wow you look like you’ve done this before, you pro,” which did not feel like a warm welcome. When I would show up at school after being gone, everyone was used to it. But the thing that killed me the most was that no one actually understood what I was going through. I had no one to relate to, and no one to talk to about it with. This scared me and was a major factor that made me distressed. And if you’re like me, having similar things in common with a person makes you feel comfortable and makes a relationship feel strong. A lot of the time I felt lonely in my period journey.
After these lengthy and tiresome few months of my repeated hospital visits, my pediatrician recommended me to an OBGYN. My gyn told me that I should continue taking Advil, along with the birth control, and to also add an IUD, to see if the long-lasting periods, cramps, and cysts would stop. But by now you know the drill, they did not. I was then recommended to another doctor, a physician who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology.
My first appointment with him was one that I wished I had two years ago. In the first 10 minutes after telling him what I had been going through and feeling, he had told me I fit the symptoms for endometriosis (which I did not even know was a thing): anxiety, depressed-like feelings, irregular periods, lower back pains, ovarian cysts, heavy periods, bleeding within period cycles, diarrhea, and nausea. My doctor had also told me that he wanted to complete the surgery right away, seeing how much pain I was in at my age. After my appointment, I sat in my car with my mom and broke down. Finally, someone had an answer for my pain and wanted to take it away.
On January 29, 2021, I had my 4-hour endometriosis surgery, which was predicted to last only an hour. My doctor told me that my appendectomy was never needed because it was a cyst that had ruptured on my right side. I ended up having a hole under my intestine and by my colon, which was also affecting my pain. And these are only a few things that were found during my surgery due to my endometriosis.
Today, 6 months later, I feel relieved. My endometriosis journey, so far, has been tough and mighty on my body and me. There is no “ending” if my endometriosis will come back. I am still dealing with some pain today. But I will forever be grateful of how strong, hopeful, and patient I was and have been with myself. Along with seeing the goodness my journey has brought me, I am beyond thankful for my parents who helped me, listened to me, and pushed for me to get better. Although everyone has a different story, I hope mine is inspiring, especially to young girls who are going through what I did. Endometriosis is an agonizing disease physically, and an exhausting drain emotionally. And as a reminder for those young girls, painful periods are not normal. Listen to your body and keep fighting so people can hear what you are experiencing. Even if you feel like it, you are never alone because we are all in this together. We are warriors!
Ally Bowers is 18 years old, and lives in St. Louis, MO. She will be attending the University of Arkansas in the fall of 2021 to study Interior Design. She loves to travel, play soccer and most importantly spend time with her family. Although Ally’s endometriosis started young, she is extremely glad that she had a doctor who could diagnose her early in her life. She hopes that her story can inspire and help young women who are going through the same thing she did.
Editor's note: Would you like to contribute to EndoStories? Click here to learn how to submit your work.
*Patient stories submitted to EndoFound.org are the views of the patient and not necessarily those of the foundation. All testimonials are from real patients, and may not reflect the typical patient’s experience, and are not intended to represent or guarantee that anyone will achieve the same or similar results.