A YOUNG woman has been put into medically induced menopause after years of agonising pain.
Emma Maxwell, 24, has lived with "extreme pain" since getting her first period when she was 13.
The former lacrosse coach has endometriosis, a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb starts to grow in other places.
It's experienced by one in ten women in the UK. There is no cure.
She "normalised it" for years after doctors called her "melodramatic".
"It progressed to points where I couldn't eat or drink without being in excruciating pain – even when I wasn't on my period," she explained.
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At 15, she decided to get her pain checked out.
But she claims doctors dismissed her suffering after all her test results came back 'normal'.
"My body started feeling like it was literally falling apart and nobody seemed to have answers to what was going on," she added.
Emma went to a gastroenterologist when she was 19 and was incorrectly diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a common condition affecting the digestive system.
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She was finally diagnosed with endometriosis in 2019 when she was 20, after years of being "gaslit" by many medics.
Emma said: "I was constantly told by different doctors I was being melodramatic and to suck it up.
"I even saw some doctor's notes describing me as 'moody and emotionally unstable.'
"I recently had a female doctor even tell me, after my diagnosis, that what I was feeling was all in my head and to go see a therapist because something 'wasn't right up there.'"
Emma had her first operation in 2019 where she had ablation surgery to destroy some of the tissue in her reproductive area to help relieve the pain.
However, the operation was botched.
Emma said: "The doctor didn't know what he was looking for and ended up just causing a lot more adhesions and pain."
Menopause helped to mask symptoms but wreaked havoc on my body.
In 2023, she had another surgery which removed tissue similar to the lining of my uterus but all over my body.
They found "endo adhesions" in all parts of Emma's body, including the ribs, bowel, colon, ovaries, rectum, vagina, pelvis, stomach, and bladder.
"It's a common misconception that endometriosis just affects cells in the reproductive system when it can actually affect any part of the body," she said.
However, she continued to experience excruciating pain even after the second surgery, meaning she often had to use a walker to help support her while walking.
Later in 2023, she was put into temporary medically induced menopause.
This works by stopping oestrogen production, which would otherwise encourage endometriosis tissue to grow and shed.
She said: "That year was a horrific experience for me, the medically induced menopause helped to mask symptoms but wreaked havoc on my body.
"I have tried everything and I don't know if I can't have kids."
In the UK, the average age for a woman to reach menopause is 51, according to the NHS.
Menopause happens when your ovaries stop producing as much of the hormone oestrogen and no longer release an egg each month.
However, thousands of women each year choose to enter menopause surgically, which can be temporary or permanent.
Typical symptoms are similar to those of natural menopause. This includes anxiety, hot flushes, night sweats, loss of sexual drive, memory loss, joint pains, and muscle aches.
Gonadotropin-releasing hormone analogs (GnRH) offer endometriosis patients some relief.
Day to day, Emma's life is consumed by pain, but it comes in varying degrees of severity.
"I can still enjoy life, but I am hugely restricted by my condition."
"I'm never not be thinking about when the pain will hit.
"At my best, there's always a dull heavy feeling in my abdomen and sharp shooting pains."
Emma used to have a job as a lacrosse coach and barista while she was at college but became unable to continue due to her condition.
She now focuses full-time as an endometriosis advocate where she works with different foundations, health companies, and brands to share her story and raise awareness.
"It's hard to find a job, I take pride in being a hard worker but that was taken from me, I don't want to be unreliable to other people," Emma said.
"People with endometriosis should know they're not alone.
"I would advise anyone going through the same thing to get a third or even tenth opinion on their condition and to community.
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"The endo community can be such a beautiful place.
"Your pain is valid, and deserves to be heard."
What is endometriosis?
ENDOMETRIOSIS is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes.
One in 10 women have it, including Molly-Mae Hague and Baby Spice Emma Bunton, and it can affect people of any age.
The main symptoms include stomach and back pain, pain after sex, pain when going to the toilet during your period and feeling sick.
It can be difficult to diagnose, but tummy and vagina examinations are common, as well as ultrasound and MRI scans.
A laparoscopy, where a surgeon passes a thin tube through a small cut in your tummy, is the only way to be certain you have endometriosis.
There is no cure, but treatments include painkillers, hormone medicines and contraceptives, and surgery.
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