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'I'm getting my life back': Women open up about their journey with endometriosis

Posted at 5:13 AM, Mar 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-08 09:16:53-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Even if you don't know it, there's likely a woman in your life living with endometriosis. It's a disease that causes tissue that usually grows inside a woman's uterus to grow outside of it.

Doctors estimate 1 in 10 women suffer from the disease. It can be isolating, causing infertility issues and pain so severe women often miss out on things they love to do. And it's even more challenging to diagnose, requiring a surgical biopsy of endometrial tissue.

Taylor Ballek shares her journey with endometriosis on social media every March 1. March is endometriosis awareness month. Taylor's journey started in 6th grade.

"Because when I did have my period, I was throwing up, just really sick, couldn't get comfortable had to be laying down. I played sports. And I would need to sit out. It was just horrible pain," said Ballek.

Symptoms can include severe abdominal pain, heavy periods, cramping, pain during sexual intercourse, nausea, and bloating.

"Many patients will suffer with symptoms for 8 to 10 years they think before getting an actual diagnosis," said Dr. Jessica Lalley, a gynecologic surgeon with Spectrum Health.

Ballek said she was exhausted going from doctor to doctor, trying to get answers. "My doctor, Elizabeth Leary at Spectrum Health is the first person who looked me in the eye when I told her my symptoms and said, I believe you," said Ballek.

10 years later, Taylor has some validation, her pain is caused by endometriosis. Today, she's actually feeling pretty good. Ballek said, "I'm feeling much better. I feel like I'm getting my life back."

Dr. Lalley said it's not known why some women have the disease and others don't. It can be hereditary, and if you have extremely painful periods, you have a 50-70% chance of having the disease.

You can even have the disease and not know it until starting to plan a family. If you are suffering right now with pain, Dr. Lalley said to advocate for yourself and your symptoms until someone takes them seriously.

"Your period shouldn't make you miss school, it shouldn't make you miss work. And if you're if your pain is that severe where you really can't do your normal activities, then that's definitely something that should be evaluated," said Dr. Lalley.

With her diagnosis, Ballek is on a new medication plan, and able to start planning for a family with her husband.

"That's something I see for my future. For my husband, and I, like we want kids and I just never thought that that was something I could do on my own," said Ballek.

Although there is no cure for endometriosis, Dr. Lalley said there are many different hormonal and medical therapies that make a big difference for women.