When Holly Reynolds first noticed her menstrual cycle had changed, she just thought it was related to stress from her work, or was having an off week.
“It was normal to have cramps and feel worn out. But then I noticed that the pain was not going away after my period stopped,” Holly Reynolds, a 27-year-old Costco employee, said. “It was always there all the time.”
Holly said that she endured her pain, even as it became worse. But when her periods began coming every 11 days, Holly decided to see a gynecologist.
The gynecologist believed that Holly had uncontrollable bleeding, and recommended that Holly start taking birth control to help relieve her pain. However, Holly’s body reacted to the change in hormones by growing an ovarian cyst. She needed to visit the emergency room to have it removed.
“It was such a low dose that my body grew an ovarian cyst the size of a grapefruit,” Holly said.
Performing Tests and Research
The hospital discharged her with a prescription for pain medication and told her to follow up with her gynecologist. Holly’s gynecologist wanted to wait and see whether the cysts would resolve on their own before performing surgery. When pushing on her abdomen during a physical examination, Holly experienced extreme pain in her bladder. Her gynecologist believed Holly could have interstitial cystitis, and referred her to a urologist.
At the same time, Holly was doing her own research.
“I had looked at a few things online myself to try and figure out what was wrong,” she said. “Everything kept coming back that it was endometriosis. But no one would tell me that. They were just like, ‘Oh, it’s normal to have cramps, it’s normal to be in pain.’ But it wasn’t during my period; it was every day.”
Holly’s interstitial cystitis test came back negative. When Holly asked her urologist if her pelvic pain could be endometriosis, he gave her the number for Reproductive Associates of Delaware (RAD). Holly called and scheduled an appointment with Dr. Barbara McGuirk, hopeful that this doctor’s visit would finally reveal an answer behind her pelvic and bladder pain.
“I had looked at a few things online myself to try and figure out what was wrong. Everything kept coming back that it was endometriosis.”
Holly said she was nervous during her first appointment, worried that this visit to the doctor would result in another dead end for her. The nurses who performed her intake asked her questions about her life, her health, her eating habits and how she was feeling.
“And then I saw her, and she just, she literally understood and knew exactly what pain I was having and that I wasn’t crazy,” Holly said. “She understood that these were true symptoms and I did truly have endometriosis, and that there was a way to fix it—a way I wouldn’t have to be in pain every day.”
Dr. McGuirk listened to Holly’s symptoms and scheduled her for a hysteroscopy and laparoscopy. During surgery, Dr. McGuirk was able to excise the endometriosis and endometrial polyps causing Holly pain.
“It was a long surgery, but at the end of it, I didn’t have any pain,” she said. “When I woke up, that pain that was there—that was gone.”
“And then I saw her, and she just, she literally understood and knew exactly what pain I was having and that I wasn’t crazy.”
A Change in Lifestyle
Holly said, since her surgery, she’s seen a significant improvement in her quality of life. She is no longer reliant on over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen to get through her day.
“I’m not tired. I’m not run-down. I’m able to do things,” she said. “I don’t have to use the, ‘I don’t feel good, I’m going to go home and go to bed tonight’ [excuse] when I get invited out. It’s like—I can go now.”
For other women in her situation, Holly advises not to put off seeking treatment for pelvic pain.
“Don’t put it off. Don’t wait. Seek out help,” she said. “When you live in pain every day, you need to get some help. It’s not something that you should wait around with, because if you wait longer, then you just wind up with worse problems.”
Holly cited one friend with a pelvic pain who she referred to Dr. McGuirk. The friend waited longer than she did to seek help for her pain, and had a more severe stage of endometriosis as a result.
During her time at RAD, Holly said the staff was encouraging and willing to help at any opportunity. She noted that Dr. McGuirk and the patient coordinator staff were able to put her concerns to rest about a drug that suppresses her hormones to keep her endometriosis from resurfacing, and whether that drug would affect her future fertility.
“The staff is friendly and is able to help you with any questions you may have. They’ll help put you at ease,” Holly said.
“Don’t put it off. Don’t wait. Seek out help. When you live in pain every day, you need to get some help.”