Living with Endometriosis (part one)

On Thursday November 2nd, 2017 I went into surgery to have a Laparoscopy to remove multiple cysts, endometriomas (chocolate cysts) and scar tissue which resulted from severe stage 5 Endometriosis. This has been a difficult time in my life. I decided to write about my disease and experience, with the hope that I can provide an informative read for those who might also have the same disease or know someone with it.


WHAT IS ENDOMETRIOSIS

Endometriosis is a disease of the endocrine and immune systems that is under-researched, not well-known, and misunderstood. It is a chronic disease which causes unbearable pain, due to similar tissue to the tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus, growing on the outside of the uterus. The misplaced tissue grows and attaches onto other organs and the pelvic cavity. With each period, all of the tissue outside of the uterus fills with blood, however the blood and tissue in the endometrial growths have no way of draining. Instead, internal bleeding, inflammation and scar tissue develop and cause severe pain, infertility, bowel issues, adhesions and other side-effects, including chronic fatigue, immune disorders and allergies. The only way to determine if endometriosis is present is by a laparoscopy, which normally includes a camera being inserted through a small incision to allow the surgeon to look around the internal cavity.


ROAD TO DIAGNOSIS 

2012: My symptoms started to begin. I kept getting sick or getting infections that I could not fight off and I would need multiple treatments of antibiotics. Several other symptoms blossomed. I went through a point where I would make a doctor’s appointment every month and I would sit there and explain all of my symptoms, begging to be listened to. I was told I had an anxiety disorder that caused me to develop “health anxiety” or “illness anxiety disorder” and that I had painful periods, like any other woman, and that I should take more Advil. My doctor told me that my health anxiety would cause me to believe that the symptoms “in my head” were real and that I actually did not have anything wrong with me.

2013: I started to experience a great deal of pain and other disturbances within my intestines and lower abdomen.

2014

2014: In my first year of university, I had to leave class because I had fainted due to the extreme pain. I went into ER only to have a doctor tell me that I probably had a cyst rupture and that all women have cysts that rupture – that it was a natural process. I was told to take an extra-strength Advil.

2015: I experienced even more extremely painful periods and for the first time I was experiencing pain in-between my periods as well. My periods lasted for 8 to 9 days and were very heavy. I started to experience extreme fatigue even though I was sleeping 8 hours a night. My hormone blood-work was getting unusual flags, which resulted in getting an MRI of my brain to see if I had any tumors that were impacting my pituitary gland. Nothing was found, so I was told that it was a mystery as to why my hormones were so out of whack.

2016: I complained about pelvic pain so often that a urine test was always ordered. There was blood in every urine sample I gave, however since my kidney blood-work was fine, I was told that might be “my normal” to have blood in my urine. I started to realize that I was not able to hold my bladder for longer than 30 minutes and it started to be a huge inconvenience.

I hit my low in the end of 2016. I was so depressed that I would curl up in bed and cry for hours at a time. Horrific thoughts and feelings followed me everywhere. My hair was falling out, my skin was peeling, I had no energy whatsoever, my abdomen would bloat so severely that I had a walk-in doctor think I was 8-months pregnant, I was getting sick all the time, my stomach and intestines constantly hurt and I truly believed that I was going to die. I was told that all of these symptoms were a result from my depression. However, I knew something was wrong with me. I knew that something was causing my anxiety and depression, and not the other way around. I have never felt so lost and scared as I did during those months. I decided to go off the pill, which helped with my depression (and it was not helping at all with my growing cysts anyway). I decided that as a last resort I was going to pay to see a naturopath. I brought a 2-inch thick binder full of all of my previous tests and blood-work and in a very short time my naturopath had put the entire puzzle together. She sent me for a detailed blood allergy test – it came back saying I was highly allergic to dairy, gluten (both of which I knew already) but also nuts, seeds, all grains, legumes, eggs, soy, potatoes and corn. She told me that these were the allergies that she would normally see in someone with an autoimmune disease, (Autoimmune Paleo AIP diet) and she thought that with all my other symptoms that I might have Endometriosis. I quit eating all of those foods cold turkey – I felt a difference the next day. However, I was still not feeling 100%, so she told me to set up an appointment with a gynecologist, and so I did.

2017

2017: I had such immense pain almost all of the time in my abdomen and lower back. I had developed an unusual lump on the left side of my abdomen that had a burning sensation. I went for an ultrasound and I was told that I had a hernia. 5 months later I saw a physician specializing in hernias. She told me that she didn’t think it was a hernia and to try hot compresses because it was probably a strained muscle. I had to be very firm with her and I finally convinced her that she should refer me for an MRI. I was put on the end of a long waiting list and months later I had an MRI. A week later the hernia surgeon called me and said “Well, there is no evidence of a hernia, however I think I know what was causing the hernia sensation. There is a significant cyst in that area, as well as several others in your abdomen. You need to make an appointment with another specialist to get this removed as soon as possible, this is a severe case and I believe it is Endometriosis.” There was that word again. Luckily, my gynecologist appointment I had made nearly a year ago was a few days later. I told my gynecologist all of my symptoms and she said she was confident that I had endometriosis and she gave me a form to sign for the Laparoscopic surgery. I was then put on another waiting list, however once the MRI was sent to her, I had a surgery date set up within two months.

Pre-Operation Form: a week before my surgery, I went to my doctor to get a pre-op form completed. She told me that I would probably need one singular day off of school (for my case, this was very incorrect). There was no preparation for this surgery except I had to start fasting at 12AM.

November 2, 2017: 5 years later, at 22 years of age, I was finally going for surgery to remove the disease that had been negatively impacting my quality of life for so long. The surgery and recovery is the most difficult and painful thing I have ever gone through in my life. This disease needs to be taken more seriously and recognized quicker by physicians. [pre and post-surgery details will be discussed in part two]. 

NOV2017


WHAT CAUSES ENDOMETRIOSIS

There are multiple theories on what causes Endometriosis. The body is a very complex system and difficult to understand. However research has shown that exposure to dioxins, found in synthetic chemicals, is directly related to causing endometriosis to develop. These toxins are commonly found in pesticides, herbicides, all plastics, paint, fire retardants and some industrial oils. These chemicals are widely and continually distributed in the environment – and with the increased use of these chemicals, there has been an increase in the amount and severity of Endometriosis. it is clear, now more than ever, that they have negative impacts on the environment, humans and animals and the use of them must be limited or discontinued completely.

Pesticides, herbicides, plastics, flame retardants and pharmaceuticals all have one thing in common, they are all Endocrine Disruptors. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals, usually synthetic chemicals, that impact the endocrine system at very low levels of exposure. These endocrine disruptors are absorbed into the human body by the intestines, respiratory system and skin. These endocrine disruptors are also distributed to the fetus during pregnancy through the bloodstream and afterward through breast milk (dioxins bioaccumulate in the body). Endocrine disruptors severely impact the developing fetus and young children the most as humans are most sensitive during their developmental stages. The damage caused cannot be undone. Endocrine Disruptors mimic estrogen, have negative impacts on hormone levels, development & sexual characteristics, cause low reproduction rates or infertility, cause an impaired immune system, forms of cancer, and endometriosis


EXPOSURE TO ENDOCRINE DISRUPTORS 

Unfortunately, in the world we live in today, humans are creating their own destruction however, they have the mindset that whatever is man-made must be a miracle. There seems to be no way to escape dioxins, as they are readily created, sold and companies even try to manipulate and lie to consumers about the hidden health concerns their products have. Dioxins are also very persistent. However, there are some ways to decrease dioxin absorption:

Since dioxins bioaccumulate, they are able to concentrate in the food chain. Limiting the amount of meat, fish and dairy products you consume and replacing them with organically grown plant products will limit the amount of dioxins our intestines absorb. If your budget does not include the purchasing of organic produce, there are proper ways of cleaning and removing the outside layers of fruits and vegetables to lower the amount of herbicides and pesticides ingested.

With the high amounts of air pollution that occur today, it is difficult to protect ourselves from air contaminated with dioxins (from pesticides, herbicides, chemical burning & much more). If you know an area has recently been sprayed with any type of chemical it would be best to avoid that area altogether or to use proper safety equipment.

A large part of dioxins are absorbed through water intake. Humans need water to live, and our dependence on plastics has gone too far. Every time plastic is purchased, large portions of it gets deposited in the environment. Plastic sitting in soil or in waterbodies leaches dioxins. Also, every time a man-made fibre is washed (clothes made of polyester and the like), it releases plastic microfibres into our water systems. These plastic microfibres accumulate in our drinking water and the animals and plants that we consume. Then the dioxins are directly absorbed into our bodies. The age of plastic needs to end.

Any type of bleached product exposes us to dioxins. Tampons and pads made from bleached cotton or synthetic fibres contain dioxins. It is recommended that women start to use unbleached alternatives that do not have plastic applicators. When I used to get periods (now I have been artificially induced into menopause) I would purchase Natracare products only.


FUTURE HEALTH 

Treatment options for endometriosis need to be researched and improved. The current excuses for treatment of this disease are causing women more harm than good. I am still in the process of determining a treatment plan that I am comfortable with, as right now my “treatment” is to take the pill every single day until I am 65 (as children are not in the picture). This exposes me to incredible health risks that I am not comfortable with. Women with endometriosis also have a greater risk of developing cancer and autoimmune disorders. It is important to do yearly checkups and to make an appointment with your doctor if you are feeling off.


I am desperately hoping that more posts like this will bring a greater awareness to this disease and the toxic products that cause it. I truly do not want other women to have to suffer through this disease. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again, we are natural beings that evolved from the earth, and we will return back into it. That is a natural environmental cycle that does not include synthetics. Let’s start looking out for one another and the environment. Pollution harms so much more than we know.

 

– Tiara

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Autoimmune Paleo AIP Cookies

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There is only 4 days until Christmas! I cannot believe it – I was hoping that my winter break would last longer however it is already slipping away too quickly. I have been really struggling lately with all of the Christmas baking smells in the air, so I decided I needed to get to work and play around with a cookie recipe. For a year now, due to an in-depth allergy test and my progressing autoimmune disease, I now adhere to a strict Autoimmune Paleo AIP diet, as well as completely avoiding all gluten, dairy, grains, nuts, seeds, soy, legumes and eggs. This has evidently turned baking into a huge experiment(al disaster) most of the time. However, I am impressed with myself because after a day of baking, I finally have a recipe that works and tastes incredible.

For this recipe, I started by melting down the honey and coconut oil in metal/glass measuring cups on low heat on the stovetop. Once they were liquid, I poured them in with the salt and vanilla. Then I mixed in the baking soda and coconut flour. An important step is to let the batter sit for 10 minutes after it has all been mixed to allow the coconut flour to absorb all the wet ingredients. If you are also following a strict Autoimmune Paleo AIP diet, then you won’t want to consume too many of these a day as they do have honey in them, which should only be an occasional treat. Also this recipe includes pure vanilla extract, however the vanilla should be baked off enough that it shouldn’t bother you. If you choose to add chocolate to this recipe, ensure that it is pure cocoa (dairy & sugar-free)! So, let’s get baking!
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Autoimmune Paleo AIP Cookies

Ingredients


  • ¼ cup Coconut Oil
  • ¼ cup Honey
  • ½ teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
  • ¼ teaspoon Salt
  • ¼ teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 6 tablespoons of Coconut Flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill Organic High Fiber Coconut Flour)
  • ¼ cup of raisins OR pure cocoa nubs OR blueberries

Directions


  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F (note: my oven runs hot, so you may need to adjust this for yourself).
  2. Line your baking pan with parchment paper.
  3. Mix together the coconut oil, honey, vanilla extract and salt.
  4. Add the baking soda and coconut flour and mix well until combined.
  5. Stir in the ¼ cup of your choice (raisins, pure cocoa nubs OR blueberries).
  6. Let the dough sit for 10 minutes so the coconut flour can absorb the liquid ingredients.
  7. Take some dough into your hand and roll it into a ball then flatten in your palms.
  8. Place the flattened dough onto the cookie sheet and gently flatten a little more with your fingers – they should be about 1 inch across.
  9. Bake for 8 minutes, or until slightly brown. Let the cookies sit on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes after they are taken out of the oven, then transfer them onto a cooling rack to continue cooling.

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These cookies are so satisfying and delicious – definitely hit the spot after going a year without cookies. I would recommend eating these with a glass of coconut milk or water as, with any coconut flour recipe, they are drier than most cookies. I wish you all a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!

– Tiara

Handle With Care

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Sustainable fashion – is there such a thing? Luckily within the past few years more and more sustainable brands have been popping up. I was quite impressed when I heard about Viahera. These bags are handmade by women in the Philippines who were victims of the typhoon Haiyan. These women are provided with employee benefits and each purchase of a bag helps to send a child to school. These bags are created with completely natural materials, consisting of pandan leaves, upcycled mahogany, organic cotton and repurposed leather – so every part of these bags will naturally biodegrade when their lifespan is over, leaving no toxic or polluting fibres behind. These one-of-a-kind bags are available for purchase here in Saskatoon, along with many other sustainable products at the Viahera storefront. You’ll be sure to find quite a few other great stores in the area as well!
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Sweater: Lord & Taylor / Pants: Vero Moda / Shoes: thrifted vintage / Jacket: thrifted / Jewelry: vintage / Purse: Viahera /
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– purse received from Viahera, all thoughts and opinions are my own –

– Tiara

Cry to Heaven

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It was the first time I had driven after my surgery for endometriosis, and the first time I had gone out alone after the surgery as well. I decided to pop into Better Off Duds for a peek. I was looking through the band t-shirts, I had reached the large section and something told me to flip one more hanger and THERE IT WAS… a vintage Meat Loaf concert t-shirt. In the 7+ years that I have been actively thrifting I have always wanted to find a vintage Meat Loaf shirt. I could not believe I had finally found one. God bless vintage sizes as well because this shirt was marked as a large, but fits like a small. I think Meat Loaf albums are truly creative masterpieces (artistically and musically) and I don’t think I’ll ever stop being excited about this incredible find. Also, check out this vintage suede skirt I found as well… a match made in heaven.
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Shirt: Better Off Duds / Skirt: Better off Duds / Shoes: Thrifted / Purse: Thrifted / Sunglasses: Better Off Duds / Lipstick: Bite Beauty / Jacket: Zara / BraceletMichelle Ross /
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– Tiara

Sustainable Gift Guide

Christmas is right around the corner, which means you are probably in the process of purchasing gifts. Finding the right gift can be stressful, however supporting local businesses and purchasing sustainably-made products has never been easier. Since what you spend your money on is essentially the type of world that you support, let’s start supporting a healthier planet. It sounds difficult, however it is really simple! Some key points are to avoid plastic items, resist fads and fast fashion and invest in products that are high quality and will have a long lifespan. Remember to bring reusable bags and avoid plastic bags while shopping!

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Shopping sustainably can be done easily, even here in Saskatoon. There are multiple stores and local businesses that provide many opportunities to shop smart, buy local and minimize your negative impact on the environment. Buying for a beauty lover? Green Tree Beauty offers sustainably made and natural cosmetics! The Farmer’s Market is a gathering of many local businesses which can help you to invest your money back into the province, rather than into large corporations. Locally owned stores like Hazlewood Vintage, Better Off Duds or 33rd Street Vintage Market, for example, are stores that offer high-quality vintage items for sale. These vintage items are very well made and still have many more years of life left in them – not to mention they are uniquely crafted! Second hand does not mean poorer quality. Most vintage items are made from natural fibres, real wood, glass, or metal, meaning that they will all naturally decompose when thrown away or that they can be safely recycled. Also, by purchasing an item second hand, you are saving a perfectly good item from the landfill, and promoting less wasteful manufacturing of new products.

 

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Another great idea is to purchase your friends or family natural products that will replace every day items that are usually made of plastic. This will not only be healthier for them, but for the planet as well.

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Some Christmas gifts do not need to be expensive at all! You can hand make your gifts! If you have some glass jars or little tin containers lying around (and if you don’t, Value Village is a great place to look) and simple ingredients found from the kitchen, DIY body scrubs, lip scrubs, lotions and other natural products are easy to make and give – Pinterest is full of recipes! Another great idea is to sew or knit something! Below, I have a picture of the reusable cotton makeup remover pads that I sewed! A handmade gift shows that the giver put some thoughtful effort into making the gift for the recipient. A promise of spending time with a friend or making special treats for someone is another way to make the season happy and memorable.

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Another important aspect about Christmas is the gift packaging. Most wrapping paper and gift bags cannot be recycled. This ends up with an unnecessarily large input going into the landfill. This can be easily avoided by switching to these following methods. Have extra pillowcases, sheets, scarves or tablecloths lying around your home? Wrap your gifts using the “furoshiki” practice. You can knot the fabric, or secure it with a broach! Fabric can be continually reused to wrap presents over and over! Another way to wrap gifts is with newspapers, paper bags, or old road maps – just insure that they are recycled afterward!

Need a stocking stuffer idea? I keep my hands looking holiday ready using natural lotions from Dad’s Organic Market and the Seche Vive Topcoat from Nail Polish Canada! I apply this topcoat initially and then 2-3 days after as well and it is the only top coat I’ve found that keeps the polish on for a week (and on my hands, that is saying something… usually I chip my nail polish in 2 days). This top coat also keeps my nails very shiny and strong! This polish offers a gel nail look without the need of a lamp. Nail Polish Canada also offers nail polishes that are toxin free, found here!

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I hope that this article helps you to make this Christmas season more sustainable and inspires you to bring that level of sustainability into all the other aspects of your life. After all, we only have one planet.

– Tiara

Just Peachy

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Even though I have lived in Saskatchewan my whole life, I have still not grown fond of winter time. It is always so cold with the most chilling winds. This makes it more difficult to look fashionable when all I want to do is put on layer after layer, however over the years I have learnt a few tricks. One of them is to accessorize with items that can be seen despite several layers – sunglasses work perfectly! Sunglasses are a must for me during winter when I am driving as the snow is always so bright! These sunglasses are from marsquest and they add a great pop of colour to my usual dark winter ensembles.
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Jacket: Gianfranco Ferre / Sweater: American Eagle / Jeans: Diesel (similar) / Boots: Call it Spring / Scarf: thrifted / Purse: Steve Madden / Sunglasses: Marsquest / Belt: thrifted /
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I really like that these sunglasses are made from titanium and have a stainless steel mount, making recycling them once their product lifespan is over even easier.
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 – glasses received from marsquest, all thoughts and opinions are my own – 

– Tiara

Birthday Glam

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Today is a special day of celebration, as it is my 23rd birthday! This day encourages me to examine how far I have come, what I have learnt in the past year and to pursue goals that I have not yet had time for. This year I have really started to dress more sustainably and lead a more minimal lifestyle – and I am very proud of myself for that. My goals for this upcoming year are to buy less, buy used, buy better and only buy items made from natural materials.
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This year my celebration is a little more glamorous, as I was gifted this beautiful rose gold bracelet from Paris Jewellers. Paris Jewellers is a Canadian luxury jewellery retail brand that is co-owed by two sisters. Nothing quite like the inspiration of these successful women to motivate me to accomplish my goals!
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Jacket: thrifted vintage (wool) / Sweater: thrifted Express Tricot (100% cotton) / Jeans: Calvin Klein (100% cotton) / Purse: designed and handmade by VEIN Design – Vanja Knezic (100% cotton) / Shoes: Aldo / Bracelet: Paris Jewellers /
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A few years ago, I did not own any rose gold jewellery, however in this past year I have grown very fond of rose gold. Rose gold is such a soft and warm colour, which makes it flattering on every skin tone. I like how this bracelet has a dainty adjustable drawstring, perfect for my petite wrists. It also sparkles brilliantly and adds eye-catching detail to any outfit.
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Thank you Paris Jewellers for adding some glam to my birthday celebration! Find this bracelet and many more beautiful pieces at Paris Jewellers, located in Midtown Plaza and Lawson Heights Mall.
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– bracelet received by Paris Jewellers, all thoughts and opinions are my own –

– Tiara