Women's health concerns: Madeleine Johnco's painful periods

The pain from Madeleine's period was so bad she would faint

By Cloe Willetts
For almost three quarters of her life, mum-of-two Madeleine Johnco has suffered from endometriosis so bad, the pain could make her faint.
But growing up, she had no idea why, with doctors insisting she simply wasn't handling her periods well.
"I got my period when I was nine and by 10, it was really heavy and I'd have to take time off school," recalls early childhood worker Madeleine, now 37. "I was told it was normal and was just prescribed strong pain relief. I felt like I was neurotic and it made me really doubt myself."
At times, the period pain was so agonising it caused her to vomit.
"When I was 15, I changed doctors and they told me I needed to be on antidepressants because I wasn't coping with having normal periods, and that some women just have them heavier," tells Madeleine.
Professionals suggested she go on the contraception pill to try and settle her periods, but she started to suffer from migraines.
"Finally, when I was 19, a doctor decided I may have endometriosis and said they needed to do some investigating," says Madeleine, who was relieved to be taken seriously after a decade of suffering.
Surgery confirmed endometriosis – a painful condition which causes endometrial tissue to grow outside of the uterus. "I was riddled with endometriosis on my cervix, bowel and all over my fallopian tubes."
Told she may never become a mum, as it can cause infertility, Madeleine says her children Bella, 11, and Kristopher, four, are an amazing blessing.
With the son she never thought she'd have.
But four surgeries later, it still impacts her every month. Her last surgery seven years ago was expected to be 90 minutes but instead took five hours. Madeleine says surgeons scraped so much endometriosis from her bowel that they were worried she'd end up with a hole in it.
"My periods are horrific. For the first few days it's hard to function and it zaps all my energy. It can really affect me being intimate with my husband and when I ovulate, it's really painful."
She's now pushing for a hysterectomy and while there's no guarantee of a cure, Madeleine remains hopeful and doesn't hesitate to share advice for others struggling.
"You're not crazy and having horrific period pain and really heavy periods isn't normal," she assures. "Endo is awful because you can't see it, so people don't really understand. But you're not on your own."
For more info about endometriosis, visit nzendo.org.nz
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