Teen's painful story helps others cope with disease
In just six years 18-year-old Olivia Biddle has undergone six surgeries, been medically put through menopause twice and endured a painful false labour - all in a bid to ease the suffering of crippling endometriosis.
Her personal story has caught the attention of Endometriosis New Zealand who have named her national educator for New Zealand.
From April, Olivia will tour the country addressing schoolgirls with the menstrual health and endometriosis programme which highlights the symptoms to look out for.
"Giving support to others supports me," she said. "My job is my passion. It has empowered me to be my own motivation to override the pain of my condition. I will always have my bad days but this gives me something to focus my energies on. So many women suffer in silence but there is support."
There is no cure for the disease that affects 100,000 girls and women in New Zealand every year.
Endometriosis occurs when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus is found outside the uterus on the fallopian tubes, bowel or bladder.
In Marlborough, Olivia has been busily raising the profile of the disease and set up a Marlborough Support Network which offers a listening ear and organises social events for sufferers. Tellingly eight of the 10 members are under 25 and debunks the myth that the gynaecological condition solely affects older women.
Olivia was diagnosed at 13-years-old after suffering lengthy and painful periods.
"I was 12-years-old when I had my first period. It lasted eight days and the pain was unimaginable," she said.
It was confirmed she had endometriosis after undergoing laparoscopic surgery at Wairau Hospital.
"I had never heard of endometriosis. I thought it was something that affected older woman and meant you couldn't have kids."
She continued to suffer with the symptoms of stomach and lower back pain, bloating and tiredness. Unable to attend school, she was educated for five years at the Southern Regional Health School via correspondence.
At the age of 13 she had to be put through the menopause to manage her symptoms - a medical intervention she found difficult to discuss.
Olivia has undergone surgery every year since her diagnosis but specialists have been unable to ease her symptoms.
"I have tried contraceptive pills, male hormones and surgery, but to no avail. When I was 16 I had an intra uterine device (female contraceptive) inserted but my body rejected it. Two or three times a week for three months I went into a mini-labour as my body tried to expel the device.
"In 2012 depression hit me big time," she said. "I was living in pain and was sucking it up instead of talking about it. It built up to the extent I had a breakdown."
Olivia has been given hormone replacement therapy and is going through the menopause for the second time. She said it had failed and it was "back to square one".
As part of endometriosis awareness month Olivia is organising a March for Endometriosis campaign launching in the Wither Hills Farm Park on March 13.
All money raised will support advocacy service Endometriosis New Zealand and the Marlborough Support Network. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The Marlborough Express