“I couldn’t remember a time when I wasn’t in pain,” Kristine Olli, a 24-year-old graduate student at University of Delaware, said. “I have no memories of that. Even as a child, I had abdominal pain.”
Kristine first sought treatment for her pain when she was 12 years old. At the time, her family thought her stomach pain was a gastrointestinal (GI) issue. Kristine remembered going to five or six gastroenterologists, all without receiving a diagnosis.
“I was tested for lactose intolerance. I had endoscopies. I had a colonoscopy. They tested me for all sorts of food allergies,” Kristine said. “I got put on a wide variety of medications and none of it worked at all.”
Kristine also visited a holistic practitioner during this time to try and find answers.
“She determined I had different metals in my body that were causing problems, so then I got put on a very intense treatment of herbs for two or three years,” Kristine said.
Pain Without Answers
Kristine went to see her gynecologist next; at age 16, she started birth control to help relieve her pain, which her gynecologist believed was related to her periods. She stayed on birth control until she was 22 years old. During that time, her gynecologist performed two laparoscopic surgeries and took tissue samples to try and determine why Kristine was in so much pain. Neither procedure yielded answers.
When the pain didn’t subside, her gynecologist changed the dose to a continuous birth control so Kristine would only receive her period three times a year. However, Kristine said the birth control didn’t do anything to relieve her pain, either.
“When I did have my period, I would either be sent to the hospital to be put on a morphine drip, or I would be sedated with [hydrocodone] for the whole week,” she said. “Every four months, I would be sedated for a week.”
It took a move from New York so Kristine could attend the University of Delaware—and a referral from another gynecologist—before Kristine found Reproductive Associates of Delaware (RAD).
When Dr. McGuirk diagnosed Kristine with endometriosis, she said she was skeptical, especially because of her medical history.
“I was skeptical because I had already had two surgeries—they said I was fine,” Kristine said. “And [Dr. McGuirk] said what she did was different—that her surgery was different than your typical laparoscopy.”
Kristine agreed to the surgery, hopeful that Dr. McGuirk would provide her with the answer—and pain relief—she desired.
“I was very hopeful that this was finally going to give me answers,” she said. “I wasn’t nervous at all. I’d had the surgery twice before, so I knew exactly what they were going to do.”
Kristine said the staff at RAD were very helpful during her whole time at RAD, but especially around the time she had her surgery.
“They were really calm—they made me feel calm and comfortable with the situation,” she said.
Adjusting to a New Life
When Kristine woke up from surgery, the pain she knew for years was gone. And although she had an adverse reaction to the anesthesia after surgery, she said her pain almost completely subsided.
“Once I was pain-free, it felt really weird and it took getting used to waking up and acknowledging that this feeling was going to stay throughout the day, and that it wasn’t just going to be for those few moments when I was groggy and didn’t feel it yet,” Kristine said.
“It took a while to actually acknowledge that this was my new life of not being in pain.”
Dr. McGuirk placed Kristine on regular injections of Lupron Depot, a hormone-suppressing drug that will help prevent the endometriosis from growing back. She said that, since surgery, she has had a much more active lifestyle that wasn’t possible before.
“I’m able to exercise and I’m able to have longer days,” Kristine said. “I don’t feel like I need to rest and I need to be in bed, and not having these weeks of being bedridden is basically a whole new lifestyle, knowing I’m not going to have to lie in bed at the mercy of everyone around me to help me. I feel so much more independent than I ever did before.”
Kristine said that she wants other women to know how much she has changed since having surgery at RAD, and encouraged other women with pelvic pain to seek treatment.
“I feel like I’m a whole new person now, and I don’t think that would have happened if I didn’t come here,” she said. “I don’t think other doctors are as familiar with these types of conditions, and that this is definitely the place I needed to be. And I feel like I’d still be in pain if I weren’t here.”