More than just cramps: Benton woman tells her story of living with endometriosis
Ashley Humby wants you to know that endometriosis is more than just a bad period
Ashley Humby hates hearing "it's just a bad period."
The 31-year-old woman from Benton, N.L., lives with Stage 4 endometriosis: a severe case of the condition in which cells similar to those in the inner lining of the uterus grow outside the uterus.
More than a bad period
Humby says the chronic illness goes way beyond gynecological issues.
"I haven't had a period in 14 years. I've been in a medical menopause," she said. "That's messing with your hormones, your personality, your mental health, your physical health. It's been no joke. It's been really rough."
She takes a monthly shot of Lupron — a mild chemotherapy drug also used for prostate cancer — to suppress the advancement of the disorder. And she's had countless surgeries, with another one scheduled for later this year.
This one is to correct adhesions she's developed due to endometriosis — or "endo" as it's sometimes called — to detach her bowel from her uterus.
"That's a very risky surgery, and I don't want to have to do that. But when you're talking about your insides sticking together, I don't have much of a choice here."
Years before diagnosis
Humby struggled for years for a diagnosis. As a teen, she complained of serious pain in her bowels, chest, back and kidneys. Emergency room visits would sometimes lead to a shot of morphine, but the pain would come back days later. Humby says she was made to feel like she was there just for the drugs.
It wasn't until she was 18 years old that she learned the name of her disease.
But her story isn't unique; the average time it takes for a diagnosis is nine to 10 years.
Lack of endo experts
Dr. Jamie Kroft, one of about 20 endometriosis specialists in Canada, has a wait list going into next year.
She says there are two main reasons why endometriosis takes so long to diagnose.
One is that women are conditioned to think bad menstrual cramps are normal. Another is that many physicians minimize the symptoms.
"Patients may present to her family doctor with painful periods, and the family doctor says, 'Well, that's just a normal part of being a woman,'" and it's treated with anti-inflammatory drugs or birth control, said Kroft, of Sunnybrook Health Care Centre in Toronto.
But Kroft says there are more people training in the sub-speciality. And with the new Canadian Society for the Advancement of Gynecologic Excellence, Kroft believes it is getting better.
Our health system is letting us women with endometriosis down. It's letting us down, and it's not right.- Ashley Humby
For Humby, the wait has been long enough.
"Our health system is letting us women with endometriosis down. It's letting us down, and it's not right," she aid.
"It's time for this to change."