Georgette Beadling, 32, is a receptionist and make-up artist from Lincolnshire. She suffered from debilitating pain for 16 years before she was finally diagnosed with endometriosis. Her condition was so severe, she had to have a full hysterectomy aged just 29. Here she shares how it feels to know she can never give birth…
"I started my periods when I was 12 and they were heavy from the word go, but I thought that was what women had to go through. I’d have shooting pains and such bad nausea I couldn’t eat. I would get through boxes of super-heavy sanitary protection, leaking through clothes. I was often too embarrassed to go out.
I’d manage it with hot water bottles and ibuprofen but the pain became debilitating. When I was 14, I went to the doctor for the first of many visits. They would suggest anti-inflammatories and different contraception but nothing helped.
I barely went to school for the last two years, from the age of 16 to 18. It affected my exam results and the impact of the pain meant I suffered from depression and drifted away from my friends.
I got together with my now ex-boyfriend at 16 and, although he was supportive, I never really discussed it – I just put up and shut up.
My lowest point was one morning a few years later when I woke to find the bed sheets soaked in blood. Only a week earlier, I’d just finished a period so heavy and painful that I’d been bedridden. I was petrified at the thought of going through it again so soon. It was such a low moment I sobbed my heart out.
'I don’t know what’s going on with my body, but it’s awful,' I cried as I called in sick to work.
I started to think something was really wrong. I was trying to focus on my dream of becoming a make-up artist, but I was bloated and fatigued. I would think, ‘How are people getting up in the morning, getting dressed, and walking the street? I can’t physically manage that.'
I couldn’t even leave the house on my period, let alone go to work. My body would throb and ache and I’d need to rest after even taking a shower. I was working as a receptionist and, thankfully, my employer was understanding and gave me time off.
I split up with my then boyfriend at 25 because he wanted children and although I was ready too, I just knew I would have fertility issues. I sensed having kids wasn’t going to be in my future. I knew he’d be a great father and I had to let him go, which was very sad.
The lightbulb moment
I began to read widely about possible causes of my pain. Reading up on endometriosis was a lightbulb moment. It's a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb starts to grow in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes. I’d never heard of it before and no doctor had ever mentioned it, yet I immediately connected with the symptoms.
I went straight to a new GP and was referred to a gynaecologist who sent me for an ultrasound. But I was angry and frustrated when she said everything was fine and discharged me.
I now know that endometriosis can’t be seen on an ultrasound because the cells are thinner than a piece of A4 paper.
If I wanted to get taken seriously, I’d have to pay for it. By the time I was 28, I’d scraped together the £8,000 I needed for specialist treatment, a struggle when I was often unable to work, but my parents kindly helped.
After an MRI scan, he suggested a laparoscopy [keyhole surgery on the abdomen] to remove any endometriosis cells. I felt enormous relief to finally get treatment. I woke up sore and swollen, with a tube sticking out of my stomach. Every breath was absolute agony, but I finally had answers; they found endometriosis in my pelvic walls, bowels and bladder.
Once recovered, to my horror, I was still bloated and nauseous, which completely threw me. I felt like my body was rotting away inside – I could feel my uterus pressing against my bladder and bowel.
A scan showed shocking images of it – blotchy, bumpy and four times the size it should be – this indicated that in fact I had another condition called adenomyosis [where the tissues that normally line the uterus grows into its muscular wall] often linked to endometriosis.
A big decision
My doctor discussed the option of hormone therapy to simulate a menopause, but it wasn’t something I wanted to do. I’d heard a lot about the side effects women can struggle with for years after coming off it and I thought, ‘I really don’t want that on top of everything else I’ve gone through.'
I didn’t see the point of carrying a uterus that was diseased and four times its natural size and, as tough as it was to have to make such a huge decision, I felt nature had chosen my fate.
Despite being just 28 and having no kids, I decided to have a full hysterectomy to remove my womb, ovaries and cervix. It was the only way to get my life back. How could I be a mother in my current state? If I couldn’t look after myself, how could I look after a baby? I couldn’t carry on as I was, just surviving, not living.
My partner of six years Kaine, who I live with, doesn’t want children and that really helped make the decision easier. My mum knew it meant I wouldn’t be giving birth to any grandchildren but she understood and suggested freezing my eggs. Sadly, I simply couldn’t afford it after paying for my own surgery.
All I wanted was to get my life back and no longer live with the pain, so I made my peace with the fact I would never be a biological mum.
The recovery from my operation in December 2019 was difficult. I suffered with scar tissue in my abdomen that gave me pain, nausea and chronic fatigue and had another laparoscopy to remove it a few months ago.
I’ve been put on HRT because the hysterectomy sent me straight into menopause. I’ve had little wobbles about that but there are positives, like never having to walk down the anxiety-inducing period aisle in the supermarket.
Menopause can take away your sense of womanliness and make you feel like the nature of your body has run its cause, but in this generation, it’s something we can redefine. I can be young, menopausal and still feel sexy, and useful. I shouldn’t be defined by it.
The fact I wouldn’t become a mother hit me more in the weeks after the operation, but I’ll never regret it. I never say never about looking at routes like adoption in the future.
I might get to 40 and think there’s a massive hole in my life and I need that nurturing, mothering role, and it’s comforting to know the option is there.
I’ve found hope for the first time. When you wake up in pain every day, it’s hard to put a smile on your face, but I finally feel positive about the future."
For information and support, go to Endometriosis UK