Vegetarianism


I became a vegetarian as a pre-schooler in an act of rebellion. My family were dedicated carnivores, and frozen veggies were used as an aside to the main dish. I hated everything about meat; the smell, texture and the very thought of eating an animal. I guess that some of us are meant to partake in salads decorated with edible flowers instead! The more I was made to eat meat, the further I rebelled. I simply couldn’t bear it. Every cell in my body rejected it. This was back in the days when vegetarian food wasn’t found in supermarkets, and as a teenager I would spend a fortune in health food shops and whole food grocers and also partake in feasts gifted by the Hare Krishna’s. I have been to many parties where the only thing I could eat was a piece of bread with butter, and still long for the day when fundraising sausage sizzles have a vegetarian option (controversial, I know)!

People ask about nutrition, and worry that we vegetarians aren’t getting what we need. I will tell you a story… At seventeen, I was set to have a major operation, where massive blood loss was anticipated. As a result, I had to go to the blood bank every few weeks in order to store blood in advance. I had filled in that I was vegetarian on the form, and they were certain my iron count would be low upon testing. As it turned out, it was extremely high! I make sure I get enough protein too, which has been imperative. I have had months laying in hospital, recovering from spinal surgery. As a result, my muscles atrophied, and I had to work hard in rehab every day in order to walk again and keep myself upright. I also have grade 4 endometriosis, and it has been suggested by more than one specialist that you should limit your intake of meat. Rather than have it every night, have a day or two off. I had already banished it!

The most annoying thing about my chosen diet is that on night’s out, everyone is more interested in my meal, asking for a bite. It also happens when I order a vegetable pizza! They abandon their meat-lover’s and come over to mine! Despite having chronic spinal pain, I am healthy. I have enough energy to rise at dawn and race through the day. I believe that your body tells you what it requires, and I simply obeyed the request.
For further information on how to be a healthy vegetarian, go to Eating Well.

March into Yellow for Endometriosis Month


I visited a friend on the other side of Sydney recently,after receiving a message. She had been suffering excruciating pelvic pains, and tests had revealed that she has extensive endometriosis. I made a massage blend to provide comfort to her abdomen and lower back, and grabbed my folder filled with reams of information- gathered from a decade of research-to give to her. Her story is sadly common amongst endometriosis sufferers. She started her periods early, and from the start, they were excruciating. She was misdiagnosed as having IBS, and the resulting diet and medication did nothing to alleviate her symptoms. To make matters worse, she had extensive adhesions, as a result of a burst appendix at eleven. A laparascopy had been ordered, and though they found a mass of endometriosis, they failed to tackle it. As a busy mum, it had now gotten to the point where her quality of life was massively impacted, and something had to be done. She has endured twenty years of seeing doctors, being prescribed the pill to alleviate the cramps, been misdiagnosed, having nothing show up on ultrasounds, and then diagnosed without treatment. She is facing huge costs in order for a gynacologist who doesnt specifically specialize in endometriosis to have “a go” at operating.

My endometriosis journey began at age eleven, when my periods started. They were excruciating and a gynacologist put me on the pill, which did nothing to help. The disease didn’t show up in ultrasounds, and it was suggested that I had a phobia regarding my periods, and was ‘hysterical!’ For at least two weeks every month, I was in agony, and often had to go to hospital for pain relief. I was desperate for somebody to understand, and tell me what on earth was happening. I felt very alone. Endometriosis was suggested when I was twenty, and I was given a shot of a drug made with progesterone. I was told that it was one of my only options to preserve my fertility. The next year was hell. I bled profusely, my stomach swelled and I had continual pelvic pain and migraines.

Twelve years ago, I sought the opinion of an orthopaedic surgeon about my lower back pain. My spine had been severely damaged at fifteen, and I had quite a few operations on my back to keep me walking. After I explained that the back pain became unbearable the week before my period, and started to ease the week after, it was suggested that I may have endometriosis. I was referred to a gynacologist, and he booked me in for a laparoscopy. During the lap, the disease was found throughout my pelvis, in balls the size of oranges. This doctor burnt off the disease. When I went back to him for the post-op consult, I was doubled over in pain. He told me that I was fixed, and disregarded my concerns about my fertility and ongoing pain. He wrote a script for the pill and sent me on my way. I collapsed a month later, and sought out an endometriosis specialist. When he operated, he found scores of blood-filled cysts and extensive disease underneath the scarring (the aftermath of some of the disease being burnt off). He had to perform a radical excision of the endometriosis, to seperate it from my uterosacral ligaments and ureter, amongst many places.

Straight afterward, I decided to start IVF, as it was the optimal time, whilst I had a clear pelvis. Once again, I faced ignorance regarding endometriosis, and was put on drugs that encouraged it to grow at lightning speed. I had to be carried into emergency and was put in the maternity ward for two weeks, whilst they treated me. I was told that these particular drugs were like pouring fuel onto the disease and striking a match. I changed clinics, and with a different drug protocol, I flourished. Despite only getting one follicle, I fell pregnant and my daughter was born. I was so used to being in a great deal of pain, that I had no idea that I was in the late stages of labor when I finally went to hospital! Apparently, that is quite common with women suffering endometriosis.

When my daughter was a few months old, the disease came back with a vengeance, and I had extensive surgery. When she was three, I had another operation, and nearly lost my life. I was taken back to theatre after I bled out, and had life-saving surgery. As a result of the trauma, I went into early menopause. It has been an arduous, lonely journey, and I would hope that pelvic pain in girls is now taken seriously. Endometriosis should be suspected if a girl complains of severe period pain. Go straight to a gynacologist who specializes in endometriosis. The difference in outcomes can be astounding. My friend is saving to have the surgery to give her back her life. Even with being in a private health fund, the out-of-pocket costs can be in the thousands. I stored my daughter’s cord-blood when she was born, such was my terror that she may be diagnosed with the disease one day. It gives me peace of mind that her cord-blood may one day prove useful in the event of an endometriosis diagnosis. For further information, go to the Endometriosis Association of Australia Facebook Page. March is Endometriosis Awareness month, and it’s colour is yellow. Let’s paint the town this sunny hue, living in hope that our little girls never have to suffer in the manner their mothers and grandmothers did.

Beaches and Visiting the Past


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We met up with some families this week at Bondi Beach. It’s a lovely trip by bus from the city, and you get to meet some real characters. On our last trip, we came across a regal ninety year old woman, dressed to the nines. My daughter still talks about her, and she has provided a point of reference for the possibilities offered in older age. I had put 50+ sunscreen on my daughter, and myself, though I neglected my neck, to my peril. It was cool and overcast when we arrived, a dangerously deceptive combination. It didn’t take long for the sun to burst forth, in all it’s sizzling glory. There was something special about being at Bondi Beach, particularly when you don’t have the hassle of obtaining parking. A bus is the way to go! The kids had great fun, alternating between the beach and pool.

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The next morning, we got up and did it all again, this time going to Balmoral Beach. On the way, we had cupcakes and ice cream at The Classic Cupcake Co. in Double Bay. Oh my goodness! Made from natural ingredients, they were a taste of heaven. I had the Midnight Mint Cupcake.

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As we made our way to the beach, we witnessed a near-collision in Double Bay. An inch more and the cars would have hit. The woman who had nearly caused the accident decided to come into our lane in her ostentatious car. My friend beeped at her to warn her that we were too close behind, and the other driver made some very rude gestures! She was perfectly coiffed, aged in her fifties and old enough to know better. Money can’t buy class! The kids ran to the water, whilst we ordered chips and potato scallops. I smiled as seagulls gathered around. I fancy myself as a Bird Woman, whom understands their secret language. “I will give you a chip or two,” I smiled. “Just let me open the box.” Out of nowhere, a seagull swooped and its claws scraped the side of my face. Another one followed suit, and it pecked my face as it searched for a chip. “Little buggers!” I cried! “P*%$ off!” They were vicious; intent on stealing chips, and there were so many gathered that we were forced to move off the beach. I had never seen anything like it! Normally, birds love me! They followed us to a table, and fortunately, a Pomeranian named Romeo gallantly chased them away. The brave little dog received lots of pats from the kids!

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We caught a train to an inner-city stop, and as we waited for my daughter’s dad to drive us home, I decided to show my little girl where we once lived. It was a semi-detached house in a grand old street, shaded by towering trees. I got a real kick out of pointing out where our Aboriginal neighbour lived, as well as two elderly sisters, now departed from this world. I stopped at the gate to our former abode, picturing myself at 20. I was writing and had started my business here, creating art for shops in Newtown and the city. I had also started my journey of infertility here, having been given a strong injection which was promised to slow the progression of endometriosis (which they hadn’t determined I had). Instead of making me feel better, it caused side-effects so violent that I was bed-ridden for a good year. It was here I feared I would never have my daughter, and it was here I wished with all my heart that I would.

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As I glanced up at canopy of trees, I was appalled that I had ceased to appreciate them properly at the time. They don’t preserve streets and grand architecture as they used to; like they did on this particular street. My daughter was taken with the street art, and the park at the end of the street. As I watched her roll down a hill and perform cartwheels, my throat constricted with emotion. The amount of times I sat on that very hill in that little park… Dreaming of having a child, and of what life might be.

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I sat next to her, and told her of the life I lived long before she arrived. I talked of my hopes and dreams, and also of my fears. I hadn’t been back to the street for many years. I can still hear the mail being dropped through the slot in our door. I can still feel the warmth from the old gas oven in the kitchen I painted turquoise. I can see me. I haven’t changed that much, except that I am weathered. We all get weathered along the way, to varying degrees. Distressed and shabbily chic. I am glad I thought to take her back. I hope that the girl on the hill could feel our visitation through time and space. I hope she could sense that she was going to be okay. I hope she could sense the little girl doing cartwheels nearby. I am glad I got too see the canopy of trees, as if for the first time.

 

 

 

 

People asking about your fertility…


This is a bone of contention for me. I was asked when I was going to have kids continually, for many years. It didn’t help that due to endometriosis, my abdomen swelled and at times I did appear pregnant. At the time I didn’t know that I would require IVF to have any chance of pregnancy, nor that it would be a decade-long odyssey. When people asked about my plans, I felt frozen to the spot. I was already worried about the possibility of infertility, and feeling as though I had to explain myself compounded my fears and pain. It didn’t end when I was undergoing cycles of IVF either. I was regularly asked if it had “worked.” It was akin to being re-traumatized. The pain of it all was overlooked as others made glib jokes. They also commented that I wouldn’t know what business, life nor love were until I had a child.

The queries didn’t end when I had my daughter. Soon after her birth, people started enquiring as to when I was having another. There was advice on not leaving her an only child. There were smirks and comments about how one child turns out. There was criticism and pressure all around me. I almost died trying to get myself prepared via surgery for further IVF. The trauma caused me to plunge into menopause prematurely. Still, the questions kept coming, as did the criticism of having an only child.

I can say with all honesty that as much as I love my child, I applaud that she is becoming an autonomous human being. As each day passes, she is a step further toward independence. I spend 24 hours a day with her, yet we aren’t joined at the hip. I have my interests and she has hers, and we make time for both. At every opportunity, she is off with her friends having fun. It would be co-dependant to expect her to fulfil me, to make me a whole person and to seal a gaping psyche. No child can do that. I had her out of love, with the understanding that she would leave one day. I am the same person I was before, only stronger and braver. I go out more and wont put up with toxic behaviour for her sake as well as my own. I didn’t have her to define me.

I have a friend who is expecting twins. She announced it to me the other day. I had noticed her swollen belly a while back, but didn’t comment. It wasn’t my business. If she was indeed pregnant she would tell me in her own time. She could have had a litany of maladies to explain her tummy, endometriosis included. She already has a few kids, and is tired of the insensitive jokes and commentary at the other end of the spectrum. You can imagine what she is subjected to. It is an extremely sensitive topic for many reasons, and a hugely personal one. If somebody questions you about when you are having kids, offer them no answer if you are uncomfortable. Smile wryly and move away. You already know what it is to nurture, love and toil.

 

Luminosity


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Last night, we went to Luminosity at Australian Technology Park. It had been a rough week  on many levels, and I dragged my aching bones out of bed to get ready. There was no way I was going to miss an event run by Endometriosis Australia. This wretched disease has taken so much from my life. My battle is over after a vicious ten-year fight from the time of diagnosis until I went into premature menopause. My fervent wish is that our girls don’t suffer as we did. My daughter and I walked into a foyer bustling with activity, yellow balloons and friendly faces.  I caught up with a dear friend, Naomi, who had been an inspiration to me  before I started my IVF journey. We embraced, and it was felt on a cellular level. I will never forget visiting her after she had yet another surgery at RPA, a lady of dignity, reclining in a chair and smiling in spite of her pain. It was the first time we had met in person. I met the marvellous Donna, who had also organized the Luminosity event in Melbourne on the 7th March. The volunteers were all awe-inspiring.

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I sampled the most delicious raw food, and we got our fluoro paint on. I made  friends with women who shared their endo journey’s and we swapped numbers at night’s end. My daughter chased boys around, and put me to shame with her hula-hooping.
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We entered the main room engorged with music and neon lights, and I basked in the glow of over a hundred people who have been affected by this disease. They were glowing for real! Some had endured twenty years of agony, had their bowels resected, had been on  a litany of powerful medications, had been burnt, lasered, cut open and had IVF. They were heroines at Luminosity. We watched amazing performances, even an acro-yoga display. With a fused spine, I wasn’t bendy, but I loved the stretches. I loved feeling a part of my body, at one with it. A body which had harboured disease the size of oranges, and had the consistency of elastic bands.My daughter thanked me for the lovely girl’s night she had experienced. I promise you, little one, that if your tummy aches when you are older, I will be watching. I will get you the best help. I pray I don’t have to. To find out more about endometriosis, or to donate either time or money, go to Endometriosis Australia.

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Health food, enough already!


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I worked in two health food shops as a youngster. One was in the heart of Sydney. The fellow who ran it had a toupee, and an eye for the ladies. I grew to loathe oat bran, after lugging five kilo sacks into the shop. I would sit out the back, and bag up 250gm of the wretched stuff. It was the hottest item around at the time, sold to executives in need of fibre and the miraculous lowering of their cholesterol. Little effort required and so much gain!

Oat Bran
Oat Bran

The sack cost around $8 per 5 kilo, and was sold for $10 per 250gm bag. You do the math. People felt devout and in control as they obtained their stash. I went on to work for a naturopath who drove a gold Mercedes at sixteen.

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She owned a health food shop, consulting out the back. I first saw her as a patient, and she diagnosed me as having candida, ordering a plethora of expensive remedies. When I started working for her, I noted that 100% of her patients were diagnosed with candida, and given the same costly script. I questioned her on its prevalence. Big mistake. She blew like a loose lid on a slow cooker!

I had been helped by natural therapists at times, and they certainly aided me in my recovery from the fall. However, I did not in fact have candida. I had raging endometriosis, which, if treated at the time, wouldn’t have become the monster it did. I consulted a women’s health clinic some time after, and they failed to diagnose it too. I was given generic bottles of uterine tonics which did nothing. As the disease progressed, and the pain and infertility issues became intolerable, I became desperate. If you had told me to coat myself in cow dung, I may well have. Endometriosis was then diagnosed. By then, it was the size of oranges, adhering to scar tissue from my various surgeries. There is a time and place for alternatives. My advice is do your homework, seek recommendations, and go to someone who doesn’t want to commandeer the show, nor make elaborate claims. Do you know what happened to the revered oat bran? Neither do I. It was a craze. We would sell out by the end of business. It has been replaced by other remedies.

I weaned myself off the oils and potions. Some had been costing $400 a month. You know what happened? Nothing. I felt no different (only richer).  I eat well, ensuring I get enough fruit and vegetables in my day. I walk and drink water. Simple and realistic. I am doing okay. Once you have worked in the places who make a living out of the health food industry, it is rather akin to seeing behind the wizard’s curtain. A bit disappointing. As I am maturing, I have come to understand that it is imperative to partake of things which make you feel good, not because you feel you should. Health is partaking in a hearty meal with friends, and going for a stroll in the sunlight. I like my quinoa flakes and peppermint tea, but then again, I also adore coffee and dark rum chocolate. Enjoying  your life is paramount. Do what makes you feel good deep into your bones.

#ProjectPositive,September 15th. The Biggest Thing I’ve Overcome.


The biggest thing I have overcome is…

I don’t have a personal favourite. Each time I overcame trauma, it was humbling,  surprising and wondrous!

Child abuse. Being told that you are a slut, being labelled as stupid and being hyper-vigilant. A pleasant occasion, with cordial conversation and laughter makes such a child tense up. You sadly know it is a harbinger, ringing in screaming and fighting. As a result, I grew up extremely aware of my surroundings. I can tell you who is standing in the next paddock after a quick sweep of an area. Sensitive to noise and environments. There were times I wanted to die. Times when I felt I would never recover, nor feel whole. I went back to each place of trauma, wrote about them, took pictures. I was in fact saying that I was here, and I survived. Throughout this period, I learnt  a lot about myself and why I respond the way I do to situations. Don’t like loud knocking at your door, nor talking on the phone? There is a reason for that and its  a perfectly normal response when given your history. Need time alone to process and unwind after a social function? Again, perfectly reasonable. When I started to understand why I am the way I am, with my little “things,” I began to heal.

Being told I was stupid. I lost so much time at school in primary and high school, due to being drugged or being  in hospital. I was told I was stupid and wouldn’t amount to anything in Year Seven. When you are told often enough, you tend to start believing it. They were wrong. A kid who isn’t clever couldn’t have survived the years that followed. I left school at fourteen, when I was put in the clinic, and was extremely nervous when I was signed up to Distance Education by my surgeon when I was fifteen years of age. I was in my rotor bed when the first pack of lessons arrived. To my astonishment, not only did I enjoy it, but I was also good at it. The teachers were encouraging, and I knew I had been lied to about my intelligence and ability to learn. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to find out. Don’t believe them when they label you, please don’t absorb it!

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Eating disorders. I had no control over anything in my life. I couldn’t make sense of schoolwork, as I had lost so much time. Where to find a modicum of control? I would alternate between bulimia and anorexia. I thought if there was little left of me, I could disappear. It was harsh and brutal. Walking for hours with an empty belly. Swallowing vomiting tinctures designed for victims of poisoning. Being happy when getting my stomach pumped as I would lose a kilo or two. It was savage and hard. Learning to love and appreciate this body took years. It was hard to look at food in a normal manner again. This is why I don’t hop on scales now, and make myself eat regularly.

Endometriosis. This one brought me to my knees. After having survived such darkness, I wanted a baby with all my heart. It was the carrot I clung  to. Since age eleven, the pelvic pain had been agonizing. A proper diagnosis got left behind in the pressing need to stay alive. I was only officially diagnosed in my twenties. Hospitalized regularly, I was always placed in the maternity ward, a cruel and unusual way to be treated. The years of drug treatments and surgeries were tough. IVF was beyond hard. I went to ground, shutting off completely. That it eventually worked, was astounding to me. I had wanted more children, and nearly lost my life in the attempt. I grieved for quite some time, before finding peace.

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Surviving it all! I am still amazed by the dawn of each new day. Amazed that I am here to see it. To have survived is extraordinary. I have my medical notes, and at times, the prognosis was grim. Here I am, an intelligent woman in her thirties, who smiles more than she frowns. Who plans for the future, and has left the pain behind. There was no magic secret I uncovered. It had to do with giving myself a break, understanding myself on a deep level, and kindness. With self-love and kindness, the healing begins. You define who you are, not them. xxx

 

 

24 Hours


Yesterday I woke up feeling ill. My specialist has put me on a new medication, and I know I have to give myself time to adjust. It was bitterly cold and the sky was grey. Someone had smeared the sky with charcoal. My stomach was distended as the endometriosis grew, fed by this new drug, which I need. “Look at the big picture, Raphie,” I urged. Always look at the big picture. I felt the urge to scream from the pain, and the desire to clean and discard. I did both. Why the hell do we keep the things we do? Old numbers on scraps of paper, old ways of being. I put an angel who had lost her wings into the pile of donations. I had stored my maternity clothes in a special drawer. I looked at them, and wondered why I had held on so long. My subconscious must surely have been seared every time I went past that drawer, even if I was unaware. As I washed up, I exhaled heavily. A burden had been lifted. I then heard the ‘snap’ of my spine as I was dragged along the ground after my fall. It was as distinct as though it were happening then and there. “Oh my God!” I cried, bursting into tears. I sat with the memory a while. I assured myself that it was natural to have events, sounds, smells and more clamour to the forefront on the anniversary. On White Ribbon Night.

After school pickup, a friend popped in. She hugged me, and said how sorry she was that today was “the day.” It meant the world to have it acknowledged. This lady knows all about “those days.” The pain ramped up, and I was in a holding pattern of agony, fevers and chills. There was to be a meeting of gentle souls around the corner that evening, and I determined that I would go. I didn’t want to be home with my memories. The hostess is a vegan, and she had made this delicious main meal.

Tofu and nuts.
Tofu and nuts.

We laughed and talked about foster kids, homelessness, travelling, art and beauty. We sipped coconut water and made sure room was saved for this.
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I didn’t stay late, and I gave my gorgeous friend a tight hug and thanked her. My mind had been summoned to wondrous places, leaving that dark building on a winter’s night. The pain was softened by the graciousness of a nourishing meal and a room full of good people. I went home and hugged my little girl, smoothing her tendrils of honeyed hair. “May your world be markedly different, my darling.”

Endo to end all Endo’s.


March is Endometriosis Awareness month.P1080589 Endometriosis and infertility were the worst experiences of my life. This from a lady who was thrown off a building as a teen! I started to experience pelvic pain at eleven years of age, and often ended up in hospital. I would vomit and scream from the agony. Pethidine rarely touched the sides in casualty. I saw gynecologist’s who said the pain would settle, and I had ultrasounds, which showed nothing. I was on the pill by fourteen, which did nothing to settle the pain. I wasn’t diagnosed until my mid-twenties. I saw a new spinal surgeon and mentioned that my lower back and sciatic pain ramped up the week a period. He asked my GP to refer me to a gynecologist with the belief I had endometriosis. Indeed I did. It was the size of oranges, clumped together outside my bowel, bladder, and pressing against my sciatic nerve. The first surgeon burnt it off, which caused blood-filled cysts. Within six months, I was in such agony I had to see an endo specialist for further surgery.

I was told I was infertile, and I declared I wanted to try IVF immediately, whilst I had a clean pelvis. The IVF clinic knew little about endometriosis, and the drugs I was on made it flare up, rather like pouring petrol onto a fire. I ended up in a maternity ward for a week on morphine. I had two more cycles with this particular clinic, before changing. The new place honoured my gut instincts as to what drugs I should be on and those I couldn’t tolerate. I fell pregnant! I felt the best I had since I was eleven, even with the extra pressure on my fused spine. Within months of my little girl being born, the endometriosis came back. It was everywhere. I had my daughter’s cord blood stored when she was born, in the hope that she will be spared this cruel disease. They are discovering genetic links and also that it is an auto-immune disorder.

I had more surgery, then went onto drugs to trick my body into thinking it was in menopause. With already weakened bones, I slipped over and broke my back in three places. I had to give up the medication. I spent thousands on alternative therapies. I exercised each day,and had a vegetarian diet but despite all my efforts, it raged. I wanted to give my daughter a sibling, and to feel as well as I had when pregnant with her. In 2010, I went in for more surgery. The doctor severed the main nerve to my pelvis, hoping it would provide pain relief. Once again, it was everywhere. I woke in my room, felt dizzy and fell to the floor. I looked at my stomach and it was beet-red. My blood pressure had dropped rapidly by the time the nurse ran in. I was haemorrhaging. I was pumped full of blood and doctors stayed with me overnight as I wasn’t stable enough to go back to surgery. The next morning, they operated and they found the bleed. It was a slow recovery, and a traumatic one.

When I saw the surgeon, he retrieved a photo he had taken of my fallopian tube, wondrously ovulating. A little egg was present, perfect and waiting to begin its journey. I cried. You see, straight after surgery, I went into premature menopause. I couldn’t have another child. My bones are fragile, and I face twenty years of not being exposed to natural protective hormones. If I take HRT, it could well feed even a pinprick of endometriosis in my pelvis. Endometriosis has made me really unwell at times and brought me to my knees. I am determined that my daughter’s generation shall have better treatment options, be diagnosed promptly, and have better outcomes. Let yellow rule the month of March! P1080587