A woman who has lived with chronic pain for more than 20 years has revealed why she’s taken the difficult decision to have a hysterectomy to ease the symptoms of endometriosis.
Lisa Potter-Dixon, 39, who lives in London, explained the impact of endometriosis has had on her life in a discussion with daytime presenter Lorraine.
The make-up artist said she has gotten ‘used to the pain’ and won’t let it stop her from living her life as she praised the support of her husband Theo, while revealing her dogs have taken the place of children.
Lisa Potter-Dixon, 39, (pictured) who lives in London, revealed she is having a hysterectomy in the hopes of beating the chronic pain caused by endometriosis
Lisa told presenter Lorraine that she has experienced pain every day for the past 20 years and some days are more excruciating than others
Lorraine admitted that she ‘doesn’t know’ how Lisa has managed to cope with endometriosis for so many years.
Lisa said: ‘After having it so long, for me it’s now mind over matter. I’ve found things that have helped me, but I do think people underestimate the chronic pain.
‘I would say that every single day for the past 20 years I’m at a five out of 10 in pain. I think when you have any chronic illness you get used to the pain.
‘There’s definitely certain days of the month, you’re in excruciating pain. But my whole attitude is to it is that I just won’t let it stop me.
‘The simplest and least scientific way to describe it is that when you have your period you obviously bleed externally but you also bleed internally, when you have endometriosis.
‘That sticks to your ovaries, fallopian tube, bowel and it can spread to other parts of the body too. That causes excruciating pain because it causes scarring, cysts, it can block your tubes.
‘So everything around your stomach is tight like this and that’s the best way to describe it really.
Lisa said she spent eight years trying to have a baby before finding out she couldn’t because of endometriosis
‘They say about 50 per cent of people who have fertility problems it’s because of endometriosis and that is a huge amount. It’s one out of 10 that’s what we know now.
‘That’s about 176 million people globally that we know of because the diagnosis can take, well for me 10 years.
‘Eight years of trying for a baby and then finding out that we couldn’t because of it. It is devastating.
‘I’m very lucky to have Theo, my husband, whose an incredibly supportive partner. I think my biggest piece of advice to women is to remember you are enough. That is sometimes hard to remember.’
Endometriosis: What is it, what are the symptoms and how can it be treated?
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition where tissue that covers the inside of the uterus, the endometrium, appears in other parts of the body and causes chronic inflammation, scarring and pelvic pain.
The endometriosis tissue outside the uterus will bleed just as it would as the lining of the uterus. According to womenshealth.gov ‘this can cause swelling and pain because the tissue grows and bleeds in an area where it cannot easily get out of your body’.
According to the NHS, it can appear in many different places ‘including the ovaries, Fallopian tubes’. Endometriosis tissue can also appear inside the stomach, in or around the bowel and the bladder.
The condition usually affects girls and women of childbearing age and is less likely to affect women who have had menopause. Endometriosis is more common in women in their 30s and 40s.
The condition affects 6-10 percent of the general female population in the US, according to a scientific paper published in the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics.
Endometriosis UK says that one in ten — around 3million — women of reproductive age in the UK have the condition.
There is no known cause of endometriosis, although one theory posits that family genetics plays a large part.
Other potential causes explored are immune system issues and complications from menstrual period flow, whereby the tissue shed during the period ends up flowing through the Fallopian tube to other parts of the body such as the pelvis.
Endometrium cells can also spread through the body through the bloodstream or the lymphatic system.
Main endometriosis symptoms include chronic pelvic, lower back and abdominal pain that may be worse than normal during a period; experiencing pain during sexual intercourse, painful bowel movements; bloating and nausea.
Painful periods and difficulty getting pregnant are other key symptoms. Experimenting with heavy periods and infertility are noted as being symptomatic of endometriosis.
The NHS recommends seeing a GP when symptoms manifest, in particular if they are ‘having a big impact on your life’.
The doctor will conduct a pelvic exam and may perform an ultrasound, however, a laparoscopy is currently the only way to confirm an endometriosis diagnosis.
A laparoscopy is a procedure that involves the doctor making a small incision in the skin and passing a small tube through it to see if there are any patches of endometriosis tissue.
There is no cure for endometriosis. However, the NHS offers treatments that can palliate the symptoms.
These include painkillers such as paracetamol, hormone medicines and contraceptives like the pill, the contraceptive patch and an IUS. Surgery to cut out the endometriosis tissue or parts of the organ affected are also options.
However, the NHS says that sometimes doctors may not start treatment immediately in order to see if the symptoms improve on their own.
Lisa explained that she’s having a hysterectomy in the hopes that it will take away most of the pain she experiences.
She continued: ‘It’s not a cure that’s the thing with endo, there’s no cure. I suppose you can in some way compare it to a mastectomy with breast cancer, where we do that because it hopefully prevents the cancer coming back.
‘It’s the same with a hysterectomy with endometriosis. You can have it and we hope it means it won’t come back but it doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed. It’s the best option.’
Lisa revealed it took Theo and her a long time to decide on the procedure, which will leave them unable to have children.
Lisa told Lorraine (pictured left) that she and husband Theo have a ‘great life’ with two dogs that are her babies
Lisa said: ‘We tried everything, not just Western medicine which is obviously incredible but also Chinese medicine, acupuncture, everything.
‘I would always say to people to try everything.
‘But I do think we’ve got a great life, we’ve got great friends, we love our lives. I think children are obviously such a gift but I’ve got two dogs. They are my babies.’
Lisa said women’s health isn’t spoken about enough and there are thousands of women who experience painful periods that leave them unable to work but are unaware of the condition.
Lisa urged other women who struggle with painful periods to visit their GP, claiming ‘just getting the diagnosis is such a relief’
‘Go to your GP, be persistent, ask to see a gynecologist. Don’t just think I have to have this pain,’ Lisa added.
‘You do not need to be going through this excruciating pain as much as you are. There is no cure but there are things that help.
‘Just getting the diagnosis is such a relief.’
Viewers took to Twitter revealing how they’ve coped with the lifelong condition.
One person wrote: ‘I’ve just had a hysterectomy at the age of 34 and they discovered I had endometriosis once they operated. I’m now looking forward to being pain free.’
Another said: ‘Research, training and empathy needed. Age 21 was told by a male doctor in his 50s that I’d just have to put up with it until I had babies and then could have a hysterectomy. Helpful.’
A third added: ‘I had a hysterectomy at 26 due to endometriosis. I am now 58. I personally never regretted it.’
Many viewers took to Twitter revealing they’ve had operations to try and reduce the symptoms of endometriosis