26 Mar From pain to peace | Bec’s endometriosis journey
Photo: Bec McAuliffe works as the Executive Assistant at Timboon and District Healthcare Service.
Port Campbell’s Rebecca McAuliffe still grimaces when she talks about years of debilitating pain caused by endometriosis – a disease that affects 1 in 10 women.
This month is EndoMarch and Bec agreed to share her story to help raise awareness and break the stigma around women’s periods and talking about period pain.
Bec said celebrity sufferers like Home and Away star Sophie Dillman (Ziggy Astoni) and Emma Watkins (the yellow Wiggle) were helping shine a light on endometriosis.
“My main message is that period pain isn’t normal. Some cramping or minor pain maybe, but not pain right through your menstruation – that’s not normal,” she said.
“We don’t talk about period pain, but we should. Like mental health, if we can talk about these things and know it’s okay to go and get help then that’s a great thing.
“I’m happy to share my story and hopefully women who have symptoms will go to their GP and not give up trying to find answers and getting the help they need to live pain free.”
Bec said she was a ‘normal developer’ and teenager. She began taking the contraceptive pill initially to help with period pain and stayed on it for 15 years.
“Then I got married and went off the pill and had some trouble getting pregnant. Not big trouble…I saw a naturopath, fell pregnant, had a healthy baby, breast fed and everything was pretty normal,” she said.
“When I went back to having a period again is when everything started going haywire. I was having bowel issues which was taking the focus away from the problem.
“The pain increased and I remember writhing around on the floor, it was horrible. I was taking Endone everyday which is pretty serious pain medication.”
“My husband Tony and I were running the hostel at Port Campbell at the time. By this time Claire was about two and we were trying to conceive a sibling for her.”
Bec said after some time and a lot of persistence on her behalf, she finally got a referral to Warrnambool gynaecologist Liz Uren and at the end of 2012 had laparoscopic surgery.
“I’d already had X-rays, ultrasounds, gastroscopes and the only way to get a successful diagnosis of endometriosis was a laparoscope,” she said.
“I remember Liz coming into my room at St John of God in Warrnambool after the surgery and saying I was probably one of the worst cases she had seen. All my internal organs were stuck together with endometrial tissue.
“So, I was off to the Royal Women’s in Melbourne where I underwent an eight-hour surgery. They removed 18cm of bowel and took as much endo tissue as they could.
“I had them under strict instructions to try and save my ovaries so we could have another baby and they did save them.”
Bec said she had an ileostomy bag for three months to help her bowel recover, lost 10kg in 10 days and was nursed back to health by her mum, dad, husband and extended family.
“I was lucky in a way that they took out a great big cluster which meant that after that initial healing I was pretty much pain free – and that was a big difference to be pain free and off the Endone” she said.
“They told us that three months after the surgery was our best chance to conceive a second child but we didn’t fall pregnant.
“We had seven attempts at IVF – the last attempt with a donor egg in South Africa on the advice of a top fertility expert in Melbourne but that was unsuccessful too and ultimately the end of that chapter in our lives.”
“I’m still fortunate in that I’m now well, I can manage my health through diet and a holistic approach, and that most importantly, we’ve got Claire who is 10 years old now and spoilt rotten.”