What is it really like to live with endometriosis? - Assarna Tomlinson shares her story
It's a condition that affects about 180 million women worldwide, causing painful periods, persistent pain in the pelvic area, infertility, and even death. The condition is endometriosis.
At age 25, Assarna Tomlinson is a part of this statistic. Endometriosis is a painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus grows outside the uterus.
For Assarna, she remembers vividly the day she started feeling symptoms of this life-changing condition. It was December 2008, at age 16, while she was attending a cadet camp. She felt ill but was unsure of what the cause was.
After returning home from the cadet camp, Assarna started experiencing sharp pains in her pelvic area. What happened next scared her family.
She recalls how she started feeling recurring sharp pains one night and fell on her bedroom floor in agony.
"Mi bawl out 'Mommy! Mommy! Come ya. Mi belly a hot mi. Mi belly a hot mi!'," Tomlinson said.
Her mother, who she revealed had menstrual problems, rushed into her room to assist her. The following morning, her mother took her to visit the gynaecologist.
At first, the gynaecologist diagnosed that she had a cyst on her ovaries. But after carefully examining her, his diagnosis changed and it was revealed that she had endometriosis. Following this diagnosis, she was given contraceptives to treat the condition. But that didn't work.
I GOT REALLY FAT
"I got fat. Like really, really fat," Tomlinson said, as a result of taking the prescribed contraceptives.
She then switched to taking Lucrin, a drug to help reduce the pelvic pain and the painful and heavy menstrual periods. But a $22,000 treatment that she needed to take for at least four months was too much of a strain on the pocket of her mother.
Assarna explained how taking the Lucrin gave her mood swings and a general lack of control over her emotions.
"I was just tired. Tired. And I cried and cried and cried," Tomlinson said.
Upon realising this, her mother decided that she would stop purchasing these medications. It was time for Assarna to start living healthier and allow her body to fight the condition. This healthy lifestyle started with her eating more wholegrain products.
Sixteen years later, she continues to stick to that health regime. She explained that she's now more knowledgeable about her condition and how to treat it.
"I realise that it (endometriosis) feeds on sugar and it doesn't like oil, and a healthy lifestyle helps you to really control it," Tomlinson said.
Her healthy lifestyle now involves working out every day and doing yoga at nights.
"I have my early-morning exercise for about 25 minutes. The first thing I do when I get up in the morning is drink two glasses of water. I also read the labels of products to lower my sugar, fat, and oil intake," Tomlinson said, adding that now she only consumes things that are organic.
"I'm coming out of a fully vegan diet. I took a break two months ago. I'm going back there because I find that with doing vegan, I have more energy," Tomlinson noted.
She is currently a part of the BASE Foundation, an organisation founded in 2013 to provide support and information to women who suffer from endometriosis and promote research in the medical field. They also aim to create awareness of this disease among the general public, women and medical practitioners. Their annual endometriosis march was held on March 25 in Montego Bay, St James.