Dear Beautiful Ladies,
My name is Natalie Archer, and I am a 26-year-old Australian living and thriving in New York City.
I first started having symptoms of endometriosis when I was about 14. I was having period pain so horrible that I couldn’t go to school, and if I did go, my mom would have to pick me up. I would be in the fetal position and have to spend a day or two in bed. Thankfully, my mom realized this wasn’t normal and took me to see a doctor.
Unfortunately, the response from the doctor was basically that period pain is a part of life. They told me I should try birth control, but at 14, mom and I both felt I was still young.
A few years went on, and I started experiencing other symptoms — gut trouble, bloating, and extreme fatigue. I was finding it very difficult to continue with my work at school and the sports I played. I went to see a bunch of doctors, ranging from gynecologists to endocrinologists. No one ever said the word “endometriosis” to me. One doctor even told me I exercised too much, which is why I was so tired. Another doctor put me on a strange diet that caused me to rapidly lose weight. We didn’t get anywhere for the next two years.
By this point, I finished school and my symptoms were getting worse. I wasn’t just getting monthly pain anymore — I was in pain every day.
Finally, a colleague mentioned endometriosis to me, and after looking into it a bit, I thought the symptoms matched mine. I brought it up to my doctor, who referred me to an endometriosis specialist. As soon as I saw the specialist, they told me my symptoms 100 percent matched up, and could even feel endometriosis nodules on a pelvic exam.
We scheduled excision surgery a couple weeks later. This is when I found out I had severe, stage 4 endometriosis. Eight years after I began having extreme pain, I finally received a diagnosis.
But it wasn’t an easy journey getting there.
One of my biggest fears going into surgery was that they wouldn’t find anything. I’ve heard from so many women who’ve experienced something similar. We’ve been told for years that our tests are negative, doctors don’t know what’s wrong, and our pain is psychosomatic. We just get brushed off. When I found out I had endometriosis, I felt a sense of relief. I finally had validation.
From there, I started researching how I could best cope with endometriosis. There are a couple of resources you can go to educate yourself on it, such as Endopaedia and Nancy’s Nook.
Support is also incredibly important. I was lucky that my parents, siblings, and my partner all supported me and never doubted me. But I was so frustrated with the inadequacy of care for women with suspected endometriosis. So I started my own nonprofit organization. My co-founder Jenneh and I created The Endometriosis Coalition. Our goal is to raise awareness among the community, educate healthcare professionals, and raise funds for research.
If you’re experiencing extreme period pain from endometriosis, one of the best things you can do is immerse yourself in the community online. You’ll learn a lot, and you’ll feel like you’re not alone.
Also, arm yourself with information. And when you have that information, go and fight for the care you need. The specific doctor you see is incredibly important. There isn’t enough awareness of endometriosis among primary care doctors. It’s up to you to research and find the doctor who specializes in endometriosis and performs excision surgery.
If you have a doctor who’s not listening to you, keep trying to find someone who will. Pain does not happen for no reason. Whatever you do, don’t give up.
Natalie Archer grew up on the sunny Australian coast, but now lives in New York City with her lovely, supportive boyfriend and adorable bunny, Merky. After studying psychology in Australia, she went on to complete her honors in nutritional neuroscience. She’s one of the founders of The Endometriosis Coalition, a nonprofit aimed at raising awareness, education, and research funding. Follow her journey on Instagram.