A mum who suffered from extreme pain due to endometriosis has told of how she is now a ‘changed woman’ after turning her life around and losing 24kg.
She would often be curled up crying on the floor in excruciating pain before she was diagnosed with endometriosis.
Not wanting to go on hormonal treatments, the mum-of-two turned to a nutritionist and started on a unique diet and exercise regime that transformed her life.
Vanessa lost a staggering 24kg and told FEMAIL while the weight didn’t completely rid her of her debilitating endometriosis symptoms, it was a ‘godsend’ as it helped her cope with her condition.
Not wanting to treat her severe endometriosis with hormonal medications, Vanessa Montgomery changed up her lifestyle and cleaned up her diet resulting in a 24kg wight loss
The Perth mum-of-two used to cry on the floor in pain from the debilitating condition (pictured right with her daughter Abbey, 15, husband Russell and son Gabriel, 17)
Vanessa always had irregular and heavy periods from when she was a teenager but didn’t start experiencing symptoms of endometriosis until she was in her late thirties.
She knew something was wrong when she would be crippled with pain so agonising she couldn’t leave the house.
‘You can’t concentrate when you’re in that much pain. I was often on floor in a fetal position crying because the pain was that excruciating.’
She added: ‘It wasn’t just pain with periods, I had other symptoms and it seemed like I was starting to go into perimenopause.’
Endometriosis: Seven signs and Symptoms
- Abdominal pain
- Heavy periods
- Bleeding from the bladder or bowel
- Feeling bloated
- Anxiety or depression related to the pain
All month long, Vanessa would experience heavy mood swings, night sweats, hot flushes, and constant fatigue.
‘It was all the time. It wasn’t like ‘OK you’re getting your period and it’ll last seven days’, this was all month long,’ she said.
‘I had never experienced that before and ever want to again.’
Vanessa, who works as a casual service station attendant, is thankful she didn’t have a job at the time as she would have had to constantly take days off.
However, the illnesses started to impede on her ability to home school her 15-year-old daughter, Abbey.
The mum was debilitated by her extreme symptoms for six months before she went to a doctor where she was put through a series of tests and ultrasounds.
‘As females we tend to put up with a lot before doing anything,’ she said.
‘It’s frustrating because you feel like you’re crazy. There is no answer really unless you start having the proper testing.’
The technician doing one of Vanessa’s ultrasound was the first to mention endometriosis to her.
‘She was obviously not allowed to say anything about the results but she did ask ‘Have you heard of endometriosis before?’ I said no because, I hadn’t,’ she said.
‘That was enough for me to start Googling but I still didn’t really get it.’
Vanessa is thankful she didn’t have a job at the time as she would have had to constantly take days off but, the illnesses started to impede on her ability to home school Abbey
According to the World Health Organisation, endometriosis is a disease that causes tissue that lines to uterus to form outside of the uterus and can result in the formation of scar tissue within the pelvis and other parts of the body.
Sufferers experience varied symptoms however most get extreme pelvic pain around the time of or during their period.
Vanessa’s GP pushed for more tests to get to the bottom of her health issues as he thought she was too young to be going through menopause and eventually the endometriosis diagnosis was confirmed.
‘It was an absolute relief to the point where I don’t think my GP understood my reaction because I was happy. I was like OK now we can do something,’ she recalled.
She had laparoscopic surgery so doctors could see how severe her endometriosis was to determine the next steps of her treatment and remove scarring tissue lesions caused by the condition.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a common disease where tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows outside it in other parts of the body.
More than 830,000 (more than 11 per cent) of Australian women, girls, and those who are gender diverse suffer from endometriosis at some point in their life with the disease often starting in teenagers.
Symptoms are variable and this may contribute to the 6.5 year delay in diagnosis.
Common symptoms include pelvic pain that puts life on hold around or during a person’s period. It can impact fertility for some but not for all.
Whilst endometriosis most often affects the reproductive organs it is frequently found in the bowel and bladder and has been found in muscle, joints, the lungs and the brain.
In an Australian government report, endometriosis is reported to cost Australian society $9.7 billion annually with two-thirds of these costs attributed to a loss in productivity with the remainder, approximately $2.5 billion being direct healthcare costs.
Source: Endometriosis Australia
The straight-forward procedure was only meant to take 45-minutes but the surgeon spent more than two hours trying to clear out as much of the damage as she could.
‘(My surgeon) wasn’t aware of how severe the endometriosis was until she went in and had a look,’ Vanessa said.
‘She came to me afterwards looking very disappointed and downcast and told me ‘I’m so sorry, it is very severe, it’s everywhere, it’s not going to be quick thing, it’s not going to be easy’.’
Rather than start on hormonal treatment, Vanessa, who was 96kg at the time, started managing her painful symptoms through diet and exercise in August of 2020.
‘Losing weight was not going to get rid of what was already there but it would lessen the symptoms over time,’ she said.
Rather than going on hormonal medication, Vanessa managed her endometriosis symptoms by changing her diet and exercise which saw her start to shed the kilos
‘My relationship with eating was quite emotional and quite unhealthy – food was what I ran to for comfort,’ she said.
She started on the 1:1 Cambridge Diet with the help of consultant and nutritionist Niki who guided her through her journey to better health.
Vanessa said she was ‘so committed’ to making a change she started on full meal replacement shakes for the first couple of months.
She worked one-on-one with Niki to reintroduce food into her diet and began to shed the kilos before starting a regular exercise routine doing boxing and high-intensity workouts with a community group.
‘I had always hated exercising, I felt out all the time because I was always the heaviest or I couldn’t keep up because I was so unfit,’ Vanessa said.
‘(After losing a bit of weight) I had a lot more energy then started really enjoying it and it was also great for my mental health.’
Niki lost 24kg and at her lightest was just 72kg but her weight would fluctuate due to hormonal changes from her endometriosis treatments despite her new diet and exercise.
While endometriosis still had a negative impact on her life Vanessa’s improved health equipped her with a ‘peace of mind’ to help her better deal with the pain and fatigue
Although she was feeling better than ever, Vanessa’s endometriosis was still a huge burden on her life.
‘Even losing weight it didn’t take away from the endometriosis, it still impacted my life I a negative way but in my mind, I was better, I had peace,’ she said.
‘I was in a better head space, I could push through and was persevering.’
In December of 2021, Vanessa underwent a life-changing hysterectomy to remove her uterus completely alleviating her of her pain for good.
She is now encouraging other people who think they may have endometriosis to ‘keep going’ and advocate for themselves to get a diagnosis.
‘It may not be people suffering from cancer or to the point it is terminal but it is so debilitating, it needs to be taken more seriously within the medical world,’ she said.
‘It doesn’t matter how heavy you are, you can do it with the right people cheering you on and with perseverance you can achieve your goal of kicking endo in the butt.’