ENDOMARCH: How much do you know about Endometriosis?

BY MONIQUE CONIBEAR (MUMUS Community and Wellbeing)

Before this month, I thought I knew what endometriosis was. I had learnt a bit about it at uni, done a bit of my own research and even read some personal stories from women who have experienced it. However, the truth was I didn’t really know that much at all and even now, I can’t completely grasp the impact it would have on someone’s life.

On the 4th of March this year, just 4 days into Endometriosis Awareness Month I got a call from a friend. For years, this friend had been experiencing horrendous abdominal pain. She had gone through both gastroscopies and colonoscopies to try and diagnose it, had a resting heart rate above 100, had been diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), and had even had a loop recorder device implanted to record her heart rate and rhythm 24/7. Unfortunately, despite all this they still couldn’t figure out exactly what was causing her abdominal pain and a lot of the time doctors simply ruled it down to ‘anxiety’ without fully listening to her story.

Then on the 4th of March she had another visit to the emergency department with severe abdominal pain linked to her menstrual cycle which had put her into a massive POTS flare up (increased heart rate and large drop in her blood pressure making her feel faint). The doctors asked for her permission to do a transvaginal ultrasound and of course at first, she was hesitant. By this stage she had gone through numerous investigations, MRIs, colonoscopies, gastroscopies etc. and a lot of them had come up completely clear. To decide to have such an invasive investigation with the risk of it revealing nothing was a difficult decision to make however she went through with it and was lucky she did because they found cysts on the endometrial wall.

“Studies suggest that endometriosis affects 1 in 10 women during the years they have their periods, 10% of the female population”

Endometriosis is a condition where tissue that is similar to the uterine lining grows outside the uterus and causes pain and/or infertility. Due to the nature of this condition, it can only be fully diagnosed by undergoing laparoscopy and having a biopsy taken. Although my friend wasn’t definitively diagnosed with the transvaginal ultrasound, the doctors are now pretty confident she has endometriosis and for once she finally has answers to why she has been experiencing so much pain.  

Studies suggest that endometriosis affects 1 in 10 women during the years they have their periods, 10% of the female population. Diagnosis of the condition is often delayed, with an average of 7 years between onset of symptoms and diagnosis. The reason for this is endometriosis is incredibly unique and individualised to every person. For my friend, the pain didn’t always occur at the same time as the periods and as a result it was exceedingly difficult to diagnose.

One of the ways we can help is to increase awareness of endometriosis. To let women, know that it isn’t normal to experience severe period pain and to give them a space to be heard.

One of the ways we can help is to increase awareness of endometriosis. To let women, know that it isn’t normal to experience severe period pain and to give them a space to be heard.


This ENDOMARCH and beyond, take some time to learn more about Endometriosis and how you can help those around you who may encounter it:

https://www.endometriosisaustralia.org/

https://www.jeanhailes.org.au/health-a-z/endometriosis

https://endometriosis.org/

Deep Breaths

By Anonymous

2020 as it is today is definitely not what I imagined it to be on New Year’s Eve. Even as I made the same New Year’s Resolutions I always did, I knew this year was going to be different. Like everyone else, this was going to be my year! The “New Year New Me” trope definitely resonated with me. I started off pretty well, too! I was going to the gym, I made time for myself, I worked hard, and I also tried to let loose… a little. Then came COVID, and we’re back to the drawing board. All my plans for this year had to be adjusted. A little, or maybe even a lot.

I’m an international student and I haven’t seen my family since January. I had planned to go back home at the end of November, but as expected, my flight got cancelled. I knew it was going to happen and I knew that going home may not have been the most realistic and wise decision in the midst of a pandemic. However, when the cancellation was confirmed, I may not have admitted it at the time, but I was disheartened. I felt emotional, helpless and worried about when I’d be able to see my family next. 

However, I’m a firm believer that it’s all about perspective and what we do with the opportunities we get and the challenges that we face. In hindsight, I’ve grown a lot during this pandemic, I’ve learned a lot about myself and what is truly important. One of the most important things I learned, is that my health, encompassing physical, emotional and mental domains, is of utmost priority, especially during this pandemic. I also learned that I could either focus on all the problems and the negatives, or I could focus on the solutions and be more positive. 

This is definitely easier said than done. 

Some ways I dealt with all my emotions during the pandemic was by reflecting on things I am thankful for. I’m thankful for the friends I have here, I’m thankful for being in a safe country. I’m thankful for having access to food and water, living in a home that is warm and comfortable. I’m thankful that I still have the opportunity to continue my education. I’m thankful that I have more time on my hands to have long video chats with my family. 

Another thing I did was I tried to still achieve the goals I wanted to achieve, but by changing the means with which they’ll be achieved. I’ll be honest, when the gyms shut down, I was really sad. I loved the adrenaline rush from lifting weights, I was excited about strength training, and I found it to be a great mental break from studying. But I realised I could do the same thing outside the gym as well. I could go for regular morning walks/runs, play sports with my housemate at the park near my house, go bike riding, or even watch YouTube videos for at-home workouts. 

The moral of the story is, I learned that a lot of the times, it’s not what opportunities we get that are important or determine our success, but it’s also what we make of those opportunities. This may well be an opportunity for more self-growth, to attend to things we didn’t have time to attend to, and really re-centre our attention to the things that really matter to us!

Find that passion and make the most of the time we got with this Pandemic and let’s come out at survivors! And remember to get your daily water intake and vitamin D 🙂

Silver Linings

By Anonymous

The history of civilisation has taught us that even in the worst of situations, there can be silver linings. Even if small, something good can come from difficult times. Don’t get me wrong, COVID-19 has wreaked absolute havoc and devastation across the globe. I am not trying to downplay or minimise anyone’s suffering or the widespread effects of COVID-19. The health and economic impacts are enormous. With the current number of total cases globally approaching 30 million with nearly 1 million deaths, it is likely things will continue to get worse, before they get better. More lives will be lost, and it will be a long time until we are living in a post-COVID era. While we are in the midst of what will be one of the largest pandemics to go down in history, it can be hard to recognise these silver linings. It is easy to be focus on the negatives of COVID-19 and 2020.

It has been an extremely difficult and trying year for all of us, some more than others. My heart goes out to anyone who has lost a loved one to coronavirus and also to the people who are struggling right now. As a final year student, I have been privileged to be able to attend placement for the majority of the year, even though my rotations have altered from what was originally planned. Even when I left my family home for a month during my ED rotation to live in an Airbnb near the hospital, I still felt lucky to get out of the house and have some sort of routine. I really empathise for all the junior medical students who have missed out on many months of clinical placement and have had to adapt quickly to learning via zoom. I am feeling Zoom fatigue, so I cannot imagine how it must be for students studying full time from home. Below are my reflections on some silver linings to come out the unprecedented year that 2020 has been. 

I am the kind of person who prefers to be busy. I have my daily “to do” list and only feel accomplished if I have ticked everything off by the end of the day. I am sure many other medical students can reasonate with this sentiment, I think it comes with being a perfectionist. In pre-COVID times, my weekends consisted of balancing two casual retail jobs, catching up with friends, study, exercise and spending time with family. Then on the weekdays, I would attend placement during the day and almost every night I would have something on, whether it be a social or uni event or study to do. Those days feel like so long ago now, where I remember rushing around to fit as much as I possibly could into a day. The strict lockdowns and restrictions on what we can and cannot do due to COVID-19 has allowed me to slow down. Previously I would stress out if I wasn’t doing things I deemed to be “productive” or a good use of my time, but now I really enjoy a Sunday morning sleep in, time spent watching Netflix on a Saturday night or just chilling out doing nothing. It is sad to think that it had to take a pandemic to change by mindset, but I am glad that it has changed. I have given myself the okay to chill out and enjoy the simple things. I really hope these chill vibes will stick with me long term. 

Being on placement, I have seen the impact that COVID-19 has had on healthcare workers, from nurses and allied health staff to doctors and administration staff. We are somewhat protected as medical students not being frontline workers. It is well known that there are ingrained cultural issues in medicine that have slowly been improving over the years. Another silver lining to come out of COVID-19, is the ending of presenteeism in medicine, as in – not showing up to work when you are sick. Previously, there was a culture of always showing up no matter what, to push through that sniffle or cough. But now, showing up to work unwell is very much unacceptable and looked down upon. Let’s hope that COVID-19 is the end to presenteeism for good. This will have two-fold benefits, including preventing the spread of an infectious disease to vulnerable patients and other healthcare workers, as well as focusing on the well-being of the healthcare worker, to ensure that they rest when sick and take the time off work they require. 

While Victoria has been hit hard and we have been in one of the toughest lockdowns in the world, things are starting to look more positive with case numbers going down on a daily basis. If you’re reading this, please make sure you take some time to do something good for yourself this week. It may be a nice walk along the beach or a virtual catch up with a friend; enjoy the little things. Look after yourselves during this time and think about your silver linings and learnings from 2020. Focus on these, and hopefully that will help to brighten your day. We can and we will, get through this together. 

If you’re struggling please reach out to a friend or family member, a university service (see more information listed below) or a mental health service such as Beyond Blue (1300 224 636) or Lifeline on (13 11 14).  Sending everyone lots of love, stay safe and stay well.

Dr Philippa Corby (Student Support): e: philippa.corby@monash.edu
Dr Matthew Thong (International Student Welfare): e: matthew.thong@monash.edu
Jodie Vickers (Student Services and Support): e: Jodie.vickers@monash.edu
24 hour counselling support services (free, confidential)
In Australia: 1300 STUDENT (1300 788 336)
Overseas: +61 2 8295 2917
For university health services: https://www.monash.edu/health/mental-health/resources/emergency-after-hours-contacts
Support from those who have experience dealing with medical students and doctors specifically: https://www.drs4drs.com.au/