I am crouched on the bedroom floor. I am laughing. My cat is sitting on the end of the bed looking bewildered. My husband is also laughing. He is also facilitating an enema into my rear end. This wasn't in the marriage handbook. It is in this moment that I realise how lucky I am.
I recently came home from a night out and lay down in bed. Suddenly, I was overcome with the most intense pain on the right side of my abdomen. I crawled to the toilet and vomited, then crawled back to bed. The pain did not stop.
Had I eaten something funny?
Maybe my appendix had burst.
My husband called the ambulance. The two female ambulance officers came into the apartment and came face-to-face with my cat.
"Oh what a beautiful looking cat. What's his name? Can I pat him?"
Ummm, guys, I feel like I'm dying over here. A little help?
They loomed over the bed and asked me a couple of questions as I clutched my waist. They couldn't figure out what was wrong. They put it down to bad period pain. They ordered my husband to get some strong paracetamol from the supermarket and told me to make an appointment with my GP. They also admired the bed sheets that I was lying on. IKEA, if you must know.
The next day I couldn't walk. The intense pain had gone, replaced by a dull tenderness. In my 32 years I had never experienced "bad period pain" like that before; I knew it was something else. My GP ordered an ultrasound.
I was sitting in a chair; on the floor beside me were kids toys. Above my head was a screen showing the inside of my uterus. This wasn't how I'd imagined my first ultrasound. The nurse performing the internal ultrasound did that "tut" sound and then an "oh dear".
Am I going to die? Is it cancer? What is it??
"I'm just the nurse, the doctor will come and talk to you soon. It's endometriosis. Have you heard of it?"
I had heard of it, but like many people, I didn't know the intricate details of the disease. What was it? Where was the doctor? I had seen on The Project a girl with endometriosis had fought and won to get pain management drug Visanne available in Australia and New Zealand. I also knew Lena Dunham of 'Girls' fame had it.
Over the past couple of months I have become an endometriosis expert. I have learnt that one in 10 women have endometriosis. One of my best friends recently had surgery for it and we became towers of support to each other. I know there are women who experience pain related to the disease much worse than what I do, some not as bad as what I do. I have discovered I might not be able to have children. My endometriosis symptoms could ease if I become pregnant. There is no singular experience of endometriosis.
Researching endometriosis consumed me. I joined a discussion board to read others experiences. I read about the great work Endometriosis Australia is doing to raise awareness of the disease. I also Googled so many articles of extreme cases that I became anxious and stressed about it. My husband told me to stop Googling and to watch Air Crash Investigation. Ahh plane crashes. That's better.
After the initial detection of endometriosis I was referred to a surgeon. He wanted me to have another ultrasound. Awesome. The first hadn't given enough detail on the bowel area. Apparently endometriosis can affect other organs too. Maybe it was also in my bowel. In order to get a clear picture, my bowels had to be clear. Yep, that's where the enema came in.
I picked up the enema from the pharmacy. "Excuse me, Sue, do we have enemas here?" the pharmacy attendant screeched across the customer-filled pharmacy. Yes everyone, it's for me.
After that hilarious episode on the bedroom floor, I had the second ultrasound, which indicated there wasn't endo in the bowel. There was however, some sticking the uterus and the bowel together. Ace. I was classed as having "severe endometriosis". I went home. I had another episode of extreme pain. When I saw him the next day my surgeon said, "That's probably because you had a stick pushing and prodding everything around up there." I like him. My GP warned he might be a bit dry, and that he wouldn't hold my hand through the experience. I liked this as he just gave me the facts. There are no tuts or oh dears.
So far, I've had one round of surgery. I have started listening to my body. I don't know what's going to happen next. But what I do know is that I have someone who will calm me down, and give me perspective. I also have someone that, when asked, will stick an enema up my arse and see the funny side. And for that I am extremely thankful.