A woman who longed to become a mum suffered such “excruciating pain” from an incurable ovarian condition that she begged doctors to remove her womb.
Gemma Scoullar, 36, lived with the agony since her early teens, and was once rushed to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital when she was 15 with suspected appendicitis – which turned out to be an ovarian cyst.
Just a few years later she was diagnosed with endometriosis – an incurable condition where tissue similar to the type found in the womb’s lining grows elsewhere, like the ovaries or the fallopian tube.
The debilitating condition causes severe pain and bleeding, particularly during periods, the Liverpool Echo reports.
Gemma, from Netherley in Liverpool, counts herself “lucky” because she was diagnosed so quickly.
On average it takes seven years from the start of symptoms to diagnosis.
Endometriosis affects one in 10 women, almost as many as breast cancer, but it isn’t known what causes it.
Gemma estimated she’s tried 30 different pills to manage to pain, each of them reducing it for a couple of months before wearing off.
Gemma said: “At 21, I walked into Liverpool Women’s Hospital and asked them to do a hysterectomy because I couldn’t bear the pain anymore.
“I couldn’t live the way I was going. I was losing jobs left, right and centre, because obviously no one wants somebody who can’t work three weeks of the month.”
The gynaecologist refused, instead referring her to a “saint” of a specialist at Arrowe Park Hospital, which Gemma is “very grateful” for.
That doctor revealed Gemma’s endometriosis had connected the walls of her bowel to her stomach.
He told her she may need IVF if she ever wanted kids, if she could have them at all.
Endometriosis can cause problems with pregnancy by blocking fallopian tubes and other areas of the reproductive system.
Despite this, medical professionals suggested on several occasions that Gemma try getting pregnant, as the symptoms of endometriosis sometimes go away during pregnancy when periods stop.
With mixed messages and a potential reality to hard to face, Gemma told people she didn’t want kids anyway.
She said: “I used to lie to people when they’d say, ‘Do you want kids?’, and I’d go, ‘No, no, no, no, I don’t want kids’, when secretly I’d be crying on my own that I couldn’t.
“So when I got pregnant with my son, obviously it was a big thing, and then the whole time I was pregnant, I was in and out of the Women’s because I was in pain.
“I didn’t even get a break from it while I was pregnant, I was still suffering.
“When I had my daughter, I was taken in and given morphine to stop the pain while I was pregnant.”
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With the pain continuing, and the additional fear that her daughter might one day suffer from the same condition, Gemma asked again for a hysterectomy.
Gemma had a full hysterectomy, involving the removal of her womb and ovaries, meaning she’ll never be able to be pregnant again.
This kind of procedure can relieve people of endometriosis symptoms for good if it removes all of the endometriosis tissue, but it’s no guarantee, particularly if such tissue has already spread through other parts of the body.
She still feels “the odd sharp pain”, but it’s nothing compared to the agony she was in before.
Gemma said: “I wish they just put more investment into it, because I always think if it was a problem for both males and females, there’d be more investigation into it, but there isn’t.
“There’s nothing. All they can tell you is it’s there and that it grows there.
“They can’t tell you how it grows there, they can’t tell you why it grows there.”