Update: The Washington Post recently covered this story in their Health & Science news. You can read the online version here.
Period pain. Ovulation pain. Searing back and leg pain.
Ever since 2014, mom-of-two Elina Kharnak just knew something wasn’t right within her body.
Noticing the pains were cyclical and all occurring around her periods, the Brooklyn, NY-native, and finance executive smartly began researching endometriosis and visited three OB-GYN’s who pooh-poohed her suspicions about having the disease.
The back pain worsened, and a visit to a urologist revealed she had lost all function in her left kidney.
Convinced endo was the culprit, Kharnak, 49, met with Dr. Tamer Seckin in February.
“I just remember sitting there with him and Dr. [Karli] Goldstein, and they really heard me,” recalls Kharnak. Seckin told Kharnak he believed she not only had endometriosis and that it likely attacked her kidney, but adenomyosis.
Surgery day came in April, and Kharnak was in for a 10-hour long procedure.
Seckin’s predictions were spot-on. Kharnak was diagnosed with Stage IV Endometriosis, the most extensive expression of the disease, and adenomyosis, a condition in which the lining of the uterus bursts through the muscle wall of the uterus. “I had nodules on my bladder and on my bowel.”
Her kidney had swelled to four times its normal size and was beyond saving. Endometriosis, “throttled my kidney. It attacked my ureter, and it killed my kidney. When I had my surgery, not only did we have to do excision, but I had a [total] hysterectomy. I lost my uterus, my [fallopian] tubes, my ovaries, my cervix and my left kidney. That had to go too.”
Post-op, Seckin told Kharnak that if there such thing as a Stage V Endometriosis classification, she’d easily fit the bill due to her organ loss.
Despite the severity of the disease progression, the procedure was a success, and Kharnak says she’s still in awe of Seckin’s mastery at excising the disease, no matter the extent of organ involvement.
“I went in knowing that, because of the kidney and everything else that had to come out, that this could turn into a real open-up surgery, but he’s a genius. He’s such a genius. I have six laparoscopic incisions. I did not have to have abdominal surgery. He did it all laparoscopically and vaginally. He’s a miracle worker.”
After taking a 12-week short-term disability leave, Kharnak says she’s back at work and adjusting to life with one kidney.
“I have to see a nephrologist every six months. I check my blood pressure every other day,” said Kharnak, who is more prone to hypertension and UTI’s now.
Still, Kharnak says she feels like a new woman and plans to treat herself now that she’s on the other side of her nightmare.
“I’m planning a trip” she shares, adding that Seckin recently cleared her for vacation. “Sometime in August.”
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