A stand-up comedian who left doctors baffled by her agonising condition for 10 years diagnosed herself after reading a book by Lena Dunham.
Amy Vreeke, 25, from Manchester, had suffered from pain since she was 12. But it wasn’t until she pinpointed the problem herself that the cause was found.
Doctors repeatedly dismissed her concerns, even suggesting she had an STI or irritable bowel syndrome. They even suggested she was allergic to gluten.
It was only when she read the American comedian’s book that she realised she had endometriosis – which strikes one in ten women.
Amy Vreeke, 25, from Manchester, has suffered from pain since she was 12. But it wasn’t until three years ago that the cause of her problems was found
Miss Vreeke, whose misery came to an end three years ago, told The Daily Mirror: ‘I read it and it was exactly how I felt. I literally put the book down and rang the doctors to make an appointment right away.
‘Endometriosis is hard to find stuff out about. There’s not that much information out there that’s credible. So I had no idea.
She added: ‘All I knew was what Lena Dunham had written in a book.’
Lena Dunham’s ordeal
The Girls writer’s battle with endometriosis has been long-documented. She claimed earlier this year that she had been cured.
But the condition soon returned after undergoing her fifth surgery within a year to move her ovaries away from her rectal wall.
Lena had previously revealed that she and her doctors had tried every non-surgical option possible, from yoga to a holistic diet.
Endometriosis affects around 1.5 million women in the UK and 5 million in the US. It is the second most common gynaecological condition. Figures suggest it strikes one in ten women, but estimates predict up to 50 per cent are affected.
When did her symptoms begin?
Miss Vreeke’s painful symptoms began when she was 12, as she suffered from bowel problems, stomach cramps and bad periods.
The problems continued throughout adolescence, and when she began having sex at 16 she started to bleed afterwards – another tell-tale sign.
Many dismissed it as period pains, while other doctors said it was an STI, which left Miss Vreeke feeling ‘ashamed’.
Doctors repeatedly dismissed her concerns, even suggesting she had an STI or irritable bowel syndrome. They even suggested she was allergic to gluten
It was only when she read Lena Dunham’s book that she realised she had endometriosis – which strikes one in ten women, figures suggest
WHAT IS ENDOMETRIOSIS?
Endometriosis occurs when cells in the lining of the uterus appear elsewhere in the body.
These build up, break down and bleed every month as if they were in the womb.
Symptoms include painful and irregular periods; pain during or after sex; infertility; painful bowel movements; and fatigue.
The cause of endometriosis is unknown.
It may be genetic, or related to the immune system or toxins in the environment.
There is no cure.
Treatment focuses on reducing symptoms and improving quality of life via surgery, hormone treatment or pain relief.
Source: Endometriosis UK
She told the newspaper how one GP said her cervix was a ‘harsh environment’, while another suggested her excess weight was crushing her.
Doctors tested her for Crohn’s disease, which they believed was responsible for her stomach pains. She was told to avoid gluten and dairy for a year.
Miss Vreeke underwent surgery in 2014 – but her painful symptoms returned almost immediately after, despite doctors saying she was cured, she claims.
There is no cure, and treatment revolves around reducing symptoms and improving quality of life through surgery, hormone treatment or pain relief.
Using comedy to raise awareness
Miss Vreeke began performing stand-up comedy four years ago, shortly before she was diagnosed.
However, since undergoing the surgery, she has started to crack jokes about her condition in front of audiences.
Her show is called ‘2016: The Year My Vagina Tried To Kill Me’. She claims comedy is a ‘great place’ to talk about health problems.
Miss Vreeke is now trying to break the taboo around gynaecological health, which she claims took her so long to get a diagnosis.
She said: ‘When I think about how reading that book contributed to my recovery, if I could do the same thing for someone else, then that’d be great.’