A TEENAGER who has lived with endometriosis for seven years has made a video of her experience in a bid to raise awareness of the debilitating condition.

Since she first started menstruating at 10 years old, Kate Lamb, from Edinburgh, has been in almost constant pain, suffering heavy periods and missing countless days of school.

Unable to sit four out of five Highers this year, the 17-year-old is preparing to undergo surgery next week to remove a large cyst from her right ovary, which has fused with the front wall of her uterus, and any endometriosis found.

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In the video she shares the truth of living with the condition that affects one in 10 women of reproductive age.

Agonising cramps, severe nausea and depression are just some of the symptoms Kate speaks openly about in the vlog which she uploaded to YouTube on Wednesday.

She said: “I want to raise awareness of this, especially in teenage girls like me, because so many people have never heard of it and probably have this too and they don’t know.”

Kate is an intelligent, upbeat and informed young woman taking the condition in her stride.

She opens up about the embarrassment of leaking through clothes in class, years of doctors drawing blanks over her symptoms and periods of anxiety and depression that rendered her housebound.

Speaking to The Herald, Kate tells her story with humour and candour, driven by her desire to help any other teenager going through what she has, or even to prevent it.

"When I first got my period at 10 I had lots of pain and it was really heavy but I thought it was normal. Painkillers wouldn't take the pain away and it progressively got worse", she said.

HeraldScotland: Kate hopes to help other teenagers who are living with the conditionKate hopes to help other teenagers who are living with the condition

 

Kate spent years going to doctors only to be dismissed while trialling contraceptives that occasionally worked for a short time, or even made her condition worse.

She estimates that she has missed at least a week a month of school for the last seven years due to the severity of her symptoms, and was even unable to attend at all for six months due to poor mental health.

In May, Kate was rushed to hospital after acute cramps made her feel "like I was dying".

The pain winds her as her body spasms for up to a minute at a time. 

She said: "The pain in my ligaments in my back and hips and down my thighs and in my stomach is really bad; I describe it as if someone was squeezing everything inside but they have loads of needles in their hands."

Endometriosis occurs when cells that function similarly to those lining the uterus grow elsewhere in the body.

Each month, during ovulation, these cells thicken, break down and bleed, following the natural process of menstruation.

However, unlike a regular period, the blood formed has no escape route. As a result, patches of endometriosis attach themselves to areas external to the womb - manifesting in painful cysts and clots which create adhesions, inflammation, deep scarring and, in some cases, can fuse organs together.

Now, Kate only has around three days a month where she can function fully. Living with endometriosis means she has had to give up a 'normal' teenage life but she credits her mum and her closest friends for getting her through it.

She said: "The one person that keeps me going is my mum and I've got some really good friends I can speak to. 

"I feel like I'm mentally a lot stronger and have matured earlier than other people and getting more support recently has helped my confidence."

Kate's mum Kirsty was diagnosed with endometriosis at 31, after years of being told she was exaggerating her symptoms, and she has always been open with her three daughters about the condition.

Kate said: "When I was younger I was so terrified to have this because I'd seen how many operations my mum had and I'm so terrified of operations. She's had loads of surgeries and a hysterectomy and is still in daily pain."

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Extreme tiredness and "brain fog" are Kate's constant companions and have impacted her ability to attend school as regularly as she would like - but despite being warned that she faced failing her Nat 5 exams last year she passed with flying colours.

She said: "I've got daily fatigue and even if I'm not in pain, I'm still exhausted. No matter how much sleep I get, I'm exhausted."

Kate is being treated at a specialist centre for endometriosis in Edinburgh, where she will have the surgery next week. It's not until she is operated on that she can have her suspected diagnosis confirmed - the only way to be sure is to investigate internally.

Ahead of the surgery, she has "so many things going through my head". She's apprehensive of what doctors will find and concerned that this initial surgery could lead to more if the endometriosis has attached to other organs. But she is stoical about what lies ahead.

She said: "I don't know how to feel about it. I feel like it needs to be done and it's better to do it sooner than later. I'm trying to stay positive."

Kate decided to share her story online after a conversation with a friend reminded her how little information there was out there.

She said: "I spent lots of time searching to see if any people my age had similar experiences and there's hardly any videos. [I did it] just in case someone is looking for someone to relate to.

"I know that some of my friends struggle with their periods, not to the same extent, and I feel like the impact on my life and the ignorance of some doctors on such a common disease, there must be so many other girls that think this is normal when it's not."

 

Watch Kate's video in full here.