Cristiana was 9 living in Brazil when she first got her period. It was then she felt her life was over. From the start of her period, she felt like she was sick with the flu. By age 10 or 11, her cramps were so bad that she could not go to school during her period. Her mom knew something was wrong and took Cristiana to the gynecologist. Her gynecologist told her that her cramps were normal and that she would grow out of them.
Cristiana did not grow out of it and at age 14, she had to go to the emergency room because her pain was so excruciating. The doctors there saw a cyst and told her that she had PCOS. They told her parents that she was a hypochondriac and that she was “just nervous.” As psychologists, Cristiana’s parents knew better than to believe these accusations. They knew her pain wasn’t normal. Cristiana’s aunt had endometriosis but told her she was too young to have it.
Coming to the US
Cristiana continued to struggle to get good care when she moved to the US, 15 years ago. She and her first husband had two children but also suffered three devastating miscarriages. After her marriage ended, life as a single mom was really hard. Her kids would bring her heating pads and when she would ask the youngest what he wanted to be when he grew up he would say:
“A doctor, so I can find a cure for my mom.”
Cristiana found love again with a compassionate man who was committed to her and concerned with her health. She continued to suffer debilitating pain. Her cousin, an OB/GYN in Brazil, told her that she almost certainly had endometriosis and needed to seek treatment.
Cristiana was going to gynecologists all over Florida, but no one could help her. She sought out the help of a reproductive gynecologist even though she had no desire to become pregnant. The doctor was surprised and confused to hear in the consultation appointment that she had no intentions of having any more children. Cristiana looked the doctor in the eyes and said:
“Please help me.”
The doctor put her on Depo-Provera, but it did not help the pain. Months later this doctor did a laparoscopy to confirm she had endometriosis. The doctor felt the surgery was quite risky and couldn’t remove the cyst on Cristiana’s left ovary because it was attached to her bowels. The doctor removed some endometriosis implants, but could not remove them all. Cristiana was still in pain months after her surgery.
Effect on being a mother
Things were getting much worse for Cristiana. She could no longer bring her children to school on days when her period was bad. Her husband often traveled for work and she was afraid to drive her children while in so much pain and while taking prescription pain killers.
Her children would tell their teachers the next day that their mom had a boo-boo in her belly and couldn’t take them to school. The teachers alerted the principal and told him that Cristiana’s children were missing school once a month. Cristiana suspected they thought she had a substance abuse issue.
Cristiana couldn’t take the pain anymore and its impact on her life. She could feel her body getting worse and worse. She would not accept this pain as normal.
Cristiana found Dr. Seckin while doing research online. She traveled all the way from Florida to see him and decided to have surgery with him. Dr. Seckin found that she had deep infiltrating endometriosis, adenomyosis, and her rectum adhered to her ovary.
From the moment she woke up from surgery, she felt amazing.
“It felt like a poison came out of me,” she said.
She is so grateful to have her quality of life back and not be stuck in bed anymore. Cristiana is a wedding photographer and she has not been able to work for years. She just recently had her first wedding shoot, months after surgery, and it was a success. She has never felt so healthy in her life.
Being an advicate for endometriosis
Cristiana now wants to be an advocate for endometriosis and bringing awareness about this disease. It took her 20 years of fighting to get a diagnosis and she feels that this is unacceptable. She urges women to stick with their gut and to not believe doctors when they tell them it’s all in their heads. Her faith is also very important to her and keeps her going. She feels:
“God did not make us to lie in bed in pain every month.”
This is her Endo Strong story