So tell me, she asked, what do you think about these green smoothies? My husbands really into kale too, she continued….. What do you typically eat? An energy filled me, I had come full circle, as my OB/GYN sat there infront of me wanting to know more.
In light of endometriosis awareness month, this March I am sharing my long battle with this condition to inspire those others with hope. I overcame all the symptoms and the infertility impacts, and so can you.
It all started when I was a teen, with painful periods, bent over for hours on the washroom floor. I would eventually fell asleep from exhaustion and wake up feeling normal once again. One day as I waited in my family doctors office, I picked up a magazine and read about endometriosis. Yep, that’s it I thought to myself. I had endometriosis I told my doctor and he was amiable to the diagnosis I had made. A referral was made and I felt a sense of hope.
My initial OB/GYN meeting went somewhat like this….. We can only confirm by surgery, so you can either do an ultrasound to rule out other things, take the birth control pill or have a laparoscopy. I am not sure how it played out exactly but in the first year I had ultrasounds, took the pill and ended up with a laparoscopy.
I was officially diagnosed with Stage 3 endometriosis. I explained to my worried parents, it’s normal tissue in the wrong place causing pain – nothing to worry about. I was told however, there is no cure. I can take the birth control pill, until I was ready to have children to manage pain. Oh yes, I was also informed that some women with endometriosis find it very difficult to conceive. Some never do.
Since the surgery lasered it off, I figured that I would just go back to living life. For a while it was all good and symptom free. However, by fall of the following year, it all came back. The painful periods, the leg pain, and this time it also gave me nausea. Nausea was so bad, I would find it common to keep the garbage close to me at the library while studying in case I had to puke. I also got migraines. This was getting ugly.
Back in the Operating Room
When I got back into the doctors office, it was pretty straight forward. It had been about a year, so the surgery worked, why not do it again and then follow it up with the pill. I wasn’t too happy, but honestly, I just followed what any 19 year old would do ….listen to the doc. They are the experts and know how to best manage this. I do want to make sure it didn’t grow too much and impact my fertility in the future so I took the advice seriously.
I was rolled into the OR for surgery number 2. This was followed by the birth control pill, which didn’t do the full job. A year later it was time for surgery number 3, followed by a horrible drug called Depo-Provera to simply shut my hormones down and induce menopause.
Looking back, it’s crazy I ever agreed to going into menopause. It was supposed to help reduce the tissue from growing and keeping me symptom free. Then when I was ready, I can get my periods back. Between the mood swings, hot flashes, weight gain and headaches I went crazy for luckily was just one month.
At some point I had surgery number 4. Too many to keep track of at this point.
This all occurs during my undergrad years, which now seem to be much of a blur. I was determined, as with anything I set off to do, to finish my Engineering degree. I graduated, with my peers, and for me that was a dream. Despite all the health challenges, I was strong enough to stick it through, it empowered me in so many ways.
I started my career, got married, and for a year or so I was doing okay. I managed to be at a healthy weight through getting more active and paying attention. I didn’t have too many symptoms while on the pill this time and life was good.
Endometriosis & Infertility
My husband and I decided that we would not be on the pill soon after getting married, given what we both knew of my condition. A year later, no pregnancy, we knew something was up. Since it’s been a year of trying already we can look into fertility options. The first being a surgery to clean up any endo that may be impacting the ovaries and uterus. Following that we can go to a reproductive clinic for further interventions.
The surgery did clear some endo up, but after no further luck we were in the office of a reproductive endocrinologist. She said I was young and didn’t have clarity on what or how she would actually ‘treat’ my infertility. So instead, she simply tested my hormones and monitored my cycles for about 6 months, with a whole whack of negative pregnancy tests.
This initial response that she doesn’t see what’s wrong, and that I am young was the additional push I needed. The push to follow a gut feeling of mine to own my health and get it back on track by myself.
While being monitored by the clinic I made enourmous changes in my diet and lifestyle. I did it all- vegan diet, multiple detoxs, macrobiotic diet, whole foods pantry stock, vitamins for the first time in my life, yoga and qi gong, naturopaths and doctors of traditional Chinese medicine. I also read a ridiculous number of books on all of these topics and became a nutrition geek to say the least.
One year into the changes, I saw and felt the results. There was a stubborn ten pounds that somehow just came off. A bounce in my step I hadn’t had in years. An openness and strength that made me feel like my best self. And most importantly my cramps, headaches and mood swings were gone. Not lessened….gone.
The clinic did capture a few ‘chemical pregnancies’ where you conceive but only for a day or so because there is no good implantation. What this told me was that there is progress. I had a handful of these, each month showing the slightly positive to my husband, who stopped believing them all together.
My Baby Girl
This time it was dark, there was no denying it. The clinic was kind enough to let me get tested off of monitor cycle and the beta was ridiculously low…..I guess that what happens to women who obsessively watch their cycle for pregnancy signs and symptoms. The numbers went up and this time it would be the one. We were blessed with our daughter 9 months later. 9 Years after my first appointment.
I continued to be obsessive with my diet and lifestyle. My body never felt better and I had the energy to raise my daughter the way I wanted to. I also committed that I would do everything I can to prevent her from having similar health challenges by giving her the best start to life.
We were blessed with 2 additional children that were conceived in 1 shot, so now it was a joke of how quick we can get pregnant. So easily I decided to close up shop. Was I the same person, we laughed at how much had changed.
And here is when it came full circle, 13 years after my first appointments and surgery, I was sitting in my OB/GYN office. She was there when I delivered my 3 kids and now got a chance to see me on the inside having lived a holistic life, with wholefoods, yoga, mindfulness and love.
I was now the expert. I knew how to take someone from a track that, she shared didn’t work out so well for most others who were in similar positions, to looking excellent on the inside. I am not sure how I was blessed with that gut feeling or inspiration to go all natural and holistic but I am glad I followed it. I guess it was also the same gut feeling that lead me to self-diagnosis in the first place.
This conversation has inspired me that much more to share my story and share what I eat, how I live and what I do to keep well. It’s not an exact science by any means, but there are many commonalities and principles such as whole food, stress management, movement, holistic home living and mindfulness that I look forward to sharing.
There is hope for Endometriosis
In light of endometriosis awareness month, which is coming to an end, I want to share some final thoughts of inspiration. If this girl with Stage 2/3/4 endometriosis, needing pills and menopause along with 5 surgeries can manage to be symptom free and conceive 3 kids there is hope for everyone to feel better.
Never give up, no matter how many symptoms, doctors or websites tell you to just mask it. Hormones impact our health in so many ways and we cannot afford to band aid them with solutions. The work required is deep, long and intense but its worth every ounce of effort. This is your life and you deserve to life it to the fullest.
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Khush Sra is a Toronto based holistic nutritionist that specializes in mindfulness and nutrition for women. Having healed herself from endometriosis, hypothyroidism, infertility, corporate burnout and having supported her mom through a battle with stage 4 cancer, she has practical real life experiences with how holistic nutrition can improve our health and happiness. Khush has 3 children she has raised on a whole foods, plant based diet and helps women who are looking to improve health, wellbeing through food, holistic living and mindfulness.