A LISBURN woman who suffers from endometriosis has told her story in a new medical publication.
Julie Harvey, 29, speaks about her experience of living with the disease in 'Partners in Care, which was launched this week by the British Medical Association. It is based on interviews with patients and doctors across the UK and Julie is featured with her Consultant Dr David Hunter who outlines his aspiration to run a dedicated endometriosis clinic, but is hampered from doing so due to lack of resources. The best he can offer now is to reserve dedicated appointment slots for endometriosis sufferers on a monthly basis to discuss individual cases and new developments.
Julie, is trying to raise awareness of the painful condition so that more can be done for those women who suffer from it.
The young woman was diagnosed with the disease three years ago. As a teenager she always suffered from painful periods but was told it was just part of growing up and was prescribed painkillers and later put on the pill.
Women with the disease have similar cells to those that normally line the womb growing elsewhere in their body. These cells grow during the menstrual cycle and bleed during a period. The condition can be extremely painful and affect fertility but some women have no symptoms and do not even know they have it.
When Julie was diagnosed, her pelvic pain had become so severe that she was forced to give up her job as a secondary school teacher in Southampton and return to her family in Lisburn.
Since her diagnosis she has had surgery twice to remove endometriosis and adhesions and has also had three separate courses of hormonal treatment but unfortunately still suffers a great deal of pain and has not been able to return to work. She is currently on a cocktail of opiate patches, anti-inflammatories and anti-depressants to control her pain. Julie is now trying to do all she can to share her experiences in a bid to help other women. She said: "Northern Ireland is a very conservative place and women don't really talk about these things so it can make you feel very alone."
For this reason she started attending a monthly endometriosis group in Belfast and says the support she gets from the people there is fantastic as is the input of Dr Hunter a consultant gynaecologist and a regular speaker at the support group. She says she is grateful to him for telling her the truth and not offering her 'miracle cures'. "It may sound odd but I'm grateful to him for his practicality and straight-talking. I would rather someone give me information to help me cope with this disease rather than assuring me that everything will be ok and then I'm still left with the pain."
Julie said: "It would be great if we could have one clinic staffed by a gynaecologist and bowel surgeon with direct access to a radiologist and then women would be seen, scanned and given a treatment plan in one day. At the moment, women have to come to hospital on numerous occasions and this is very frustrating."
For information about the Belfast support group which meets on the last Thursday of every month at the City Hospital, call Julie on 07970061959. Check out http://www.endometriosisuk.org/ or call the official Endometriosis UK helpline: 0808 808 2227 for more information.