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      #IAmSisterGirl - by Shantana Hazel
           
I was diagnosed with Endometriosis on May 18th, 2001 at the age of twenty-five through a laparoscopic procedure. Before my diagnosis I endured chronic menstrual pains that caused discomfort to every part of my body from the age of eleven. There would be times I couldn’t get out of bed or complete the smallest tasks. My doctor at the time advised me that it was normal to experience these kinds of cramps. I began trying multiple birth control pills/shots in hopes of alleviating my pain month to month. All that did was increase my weight and damage my hair. I tried multiple cycles of Lupron injections which hurt my joints, put me in a medical menopausal state, hair loss, mood swings, and countless other side effects. Five months after my initial diagnosis I was back into the operating room removing a cyst from my ovaries.

In August 2002 and 2003 I had laparoscopies to remove adhesions and endometrial implants during which time all the organs in my belly were stuck to one another and had to be put back in place. November of  2004 I had a procedure to test the functions of my fallopian tubes and was told they were blocked and I may never have another chance at conceiving a child again. I wanted another child so badly, but my body just wasn’t’ cooperating with my plans. 

I was hospitalized in December 2004 twice before having a cyst and endometrial implants removed from my small bowel, intestines, ovaries and fallopian tubes.  In 2005 I had a pelvic vein embolization due to chronic pelvic pain and enlarged veins.  

March 8, 2006 I had my uterus removed due to extensive damaged caused by endometrial implants, adnomyosis, endometriomas (Chocolate cyst), and extensive adhesions.  

February 4, 2009 I had an emergency surgery to remove my right ovary due to a 17 cm endometrioma (chocolate cysts) and endometrial implants which had damaged my right fallopian tube beyond repair. 

In May, June, July & August of 2009 On 6 different occasions I had anywhere from 1180cc-750cc of bloody or brown coffee like fluid drained from my pelvic.  I remember laying there trying to take my mind somewhere else as the doctor stuck huge needles into my lower abdomen and vagina. I felt like the life was being sucked out of me.  

September of 2009 I was back in the hospital removing my Left ovary and fallopian tube due to another endometrioma and endometrial implants stuck like laffy taffy to every organ in my stomach.  I still remained in chronic pain despite all the toxins and damaged organs that were removed.  I was referred to an Oncologist Ob-Gyn at Yale because of the extent of my disease.  Just when I thought I would have some pain relief I was told that my estrogen levels were high for a woman who should be in menopause.  I then found out that I had a left ovarian remnant that had cysts inside of it that was causing me daily pain. I went a year with pain before it got so severe that my body began swelling up which made it difficult to walk sometimes.  

I recall going to Griffin Hospital one Sunday with excruciating pain on my right side which was odd because to my knowledge the ovary and fallopian tube was gone.  I had ultrasounds and cat-scans and the results were mind boggling to the doctors to say the least.  They questioned me about my previous surgery where the ovary was said to been removed.  I remember the doctor saying what they saw looked like an ovary and I should follow up with my doctor.  I left the hospital still and pain and more confused than ever.  At this point I wondered what else could possibly go wrong.

I was scheduled to have surgery on October 25, 2010 to remove the left ovarian remnant. Once the doctor went in he found remnants of ovaries and fallopian tubes on the left and right side.  I also had endometrial implants lodged in my pelvic cavity and back.  That explained all the chronic back aches, lower abdominal pain, sudden shooting and stabbing pains in my sides.  It took me months to feel any relief; my life was consumed with pain meds, no female organs and tremendous sense of emptiness.  Hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, sleeplessness, pure depression was now a part of my daily existence.  

I went a year with pain before it got so severe that my body began swelling up which made it difficult to walk sometimes.

I recall going to Griffin Hospital one Sunday with excruciating pain on my right side which was odd because to my knowledge the ovary and fallopian tube was gone. I had ultrasounds and cat-scans and the results were mind boggling to the doctors to say the least. They questioned me about my previous surgery where the ovary was said to been removed. I remember the doctor saying what they saw looked like an ovary and I should follow up with my doctor. I left the hospital still and pain and more confused than ever. At this point I wondered what else could possibly go wrong.

October 25, 2010, I was scheduled to have surgery to remove the left ovarian remnant. Once the doctor went in he found remnants of ovaries and fallopian tubes on the left and right
side. I also had endometrial implants lodged in my pelvic cavity and back. That explained all the chronic back and, lower abdominal pain, sudden shooting and stabbing pains in my sides. I manage to put on a smile when it was over, but deep down inside I was broken into a million pieces. I often wondered if I would ever be that “FUN” girl I used to be.  It took me months to feel any relief.  My life was consumed with pain meds, no female organs and tremendous sense of emptiness. Hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, sleeplessness, pure depression was now a part of my daily existence.

November 30,  2012 I had another surgery to remove my cervix due to extensive pain on a daily basis.  I was told that I should expect to be in surgery for about an hour or two.  It was five hours later, then another two hours in the recovery room.  My doctor explained that he had to "Clean the spiderwebs" before he could actually proceed to remove anything. My insides had a tug-of-war with themselves is what was explained to me.  Once my doctor was able to put my insides back in there rightful places and remove all the adhesions.  He was able to proceed with removal of my cervix.  I was discharged after a four day stay at Yale's Smillow  Cancer Center.  

This particular surgery left me unable to walk for months and unable to remember my entire hospital visit.  I was discharged to a relatives home for around the clock care.  I was given a nurse, cna, physical therapist, walker, cane, and a portable toilet.  The muscles in my legs were weakened due to the position of my body during the extended time frame of the surgery.  I also have Rheumatoid Arthritis which also was flared up as a result of the surgery as well.  My recovery process was slow but once again I made it through.        
   
On March 17th, 2014, I had another surgery to remove a tumor from my stomach.                                             

There were times throughout the years where people found it hard to believe that I was in constant pain and taking so much pain medication. I lost a lot of jobs and friendships because of the lack of knowledge of Endometriosis and the damage it causes. It was so hard to deal with at times and adding the mood swings that came as side effects from some of my medication made it ten times worse. Not to mention dealing with the day to day depression as a result of having multiple illnesses that has no cure. I had a lot on my plate that many just couldn't understand or related to. Take a minute and walk in my shoes, I guarantee you’ll kick them off after a couple of minutes. I hope by sharing the very worst in me you’ll be able to
see the BEST in me!

This is just the beginning of my next chapter and I couldn’t do it alone. I’ve met some amazing women along the way and it’s so refreshing talking to someone who can truly relate to this thing called ENDOMETRIOSIS. Many people ask me why I never shared my story before and my answer is God placed this in my path now. I’m your Sister-Girl in my truest form.

My life & body has been consumed by endometriosis, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, mild disk bulging, elevated CA-125 markers, tumor in my breast, chronic pelvic pain, low back pain and spinal stenosis. I'm on countless medications to manage my different illnesses, but I have faith that one day there will be a CURE. I have a GREAT support system of family and friends by my side. I’ve had times where I couldn’t walk, give myself a bath, or use the bathroom by myself. My mother, husband and son picked me up and gave me faith that tomorrow would always be better. Although there isn’t a CURE and I still have chronic pain, I will remain hopeful and positive.