Once you are on the other side of laparoscopic surgery (or perhaps even before then), two things quickly become apparent: 1) endo usually grows back 2) there is no conclusive, scientifically proven way to stop it. Most doctors recommend immediately going on (or continuing) hormonal birth control to attempt to suppress the endo from growing back too rapidly. From what I can gather after a tonne of research and talking to a lot of women, with endo there are no guarantees, with or without birth control. Personally, I have not had positive experiences on birth control (from endless bleeding to constant vomiting to depression). So after a lot of research and a lot of soul searching, I made the decision not to take it. No judgement for anyone that chooses that path, it just isn’t right for me – at least not right now. However, I knew if I wasn’t going down that path, I had to take other big actions, so I have committed myself to a natural alternative protocol.
Whether you decide to take hormonal birth control or not, I believe the following five elements can be super helpful foundations for any healing journey: nourishment, mindfulness, movement, bodywork and joy.
Disclaimer: This is my decision for now, and it could change in the future. I am not a medical professional in any capacity. I have come up with my healing plan in consultation with many different practitioners who know my unique circumstances. I share this healing plan only for inspiration, empowerment and motivation to do your own research, know you have management options and you have a right to make choices that feel good for you.
Having struggled with disordered eating for most of my life, I will never, ever put myself through another “diet” again. However, I know both intuitively and intellectually that what we eat plays a key role in either feeding our disease and inflammation or feeding our wellness and healing. Therefore, since my excision surgery six weeks ago I have been studiously sticking to an anti-inflammatory eating regime (okay, I’ll admit it, I had a bacon and egg wrap!) This means, no dairy, no gluten, no sugar, no eggs and no red meat. Since I’m willing to try just about anything right now, I’m also adding in some celery juice first thing in the morning. For the first time ever, eating super clean feels so good not just in my body but also my mind and spirit, because I am not doing it to lose weight but to gain health. I am also taking a truck load of different herbs and supplements, and a strongly recommend you get your blood work done and see a Chinese herbalist or naturopath to find the right ones for you. (P.s. I cannot bring myself to eradicate coffee. I knowwww I should but it’s my one vice, my daily treat that brings me so much joy, and I’m just not willing to give it up right now.)
About two weeks after my surgery, as it was dawning on me that I was still in constant pain and might be for a long time, I thought about how science has shown athletes who visualise themselves winning their races are more likely to win. It makes sense then that if the mind can help the body win races, the mind can help the body to heal. My mind has been sending pain signals to certain parts of my body for many months. It needed help to rewire itself, to even remember what it feels like to be in a body that feels pain free, energised, vibrant and sparkly! Meditation, and in particular, guided visualisation for healing, is going to be a daily ritual for me on my healing journey. Not only this, but breathing deeply throughout the day, slowing down and reminding myself to be present in the moment are all part of my strategy to down-regulate my inflammation and calm my nervous system, allowing the perfect conditions for healing.
I love exercise. I love feeling fit and strong. It feels good to push my body, challenge myself and realise my own strength. But along with my disordered eating in the past, I also developed an unhealthy relationship to moving my body. It became all about looking a certain way rather than feeling a certain way. I pushed it too far – bootcamp at 6am every day, three gym classes in a row. After a few years of that my body completely shut down with adrenal fatigue and glandular fever. As my health took a nose dive I began looking into syncing my exercise with my monthly cycle and really honouring my bodies need for rest or gentle movement. For this new phase of my healing journey I will be focusing on walking, yoga and easing back into using some weights. No more crazy cardio.
I have been so incredibly blessed to find a whole team of amazing practitioners to support me on my healing journey. First my GPs have all been so validating, taken me seriously and been so knowledgeable about endo – which I know is not everyone’s experience. I also had an amazing, highly-trained surgeon who was an excision specialist (super important) and who made me feel safe and that I could completely trust her. Acupuncture has been by far the most effective method to reduce my pain – so far it is still the only thing (including full on pain medication) to bring my pain down to a level zero. Granted, it was only briefly, but enough to remind my body and mind what we are working towards. I also have an absolutely beautiful women’s bodywork practitioner who specialises in pelvic and womb care, and I leave each session feeling deeply nourished and like my entire nervous system is totally relaxed. I have recently added a brilliant pelvic physio into the mix, who has been so helpful in guiding me with stretches, exercises and massage techniques to reduce pain and increase mobility.
When I was in the pre-surgery ward getting ready for my operation, I was laughing with the nurses and other patients about how fashionable our compression socks were. It was a strange and welcome relief to realise even in that situation, when all of us patients were probably feeling some fear and anxiety (I had an epic EFT session to clear most of mine but that’s a story for another time), there was also lots of laughter and joy. This chronic illness has already taught me so much (I’ll write a post about the lessons another time). One of the biggest lessons is that joy is never really far away, even in the dark, scary, painful times. And that joy can be a great healer. Starting this blog was one big step towards feeling more joy and inspiration, because ever since I can remember writing has always been such a joyful way to express myself that often gets lost being busy with “real life”. So another key piece of the healing plan is to surround myself with things, people, experiences that spark joy, Marie Kondo-style.