Yorkshire teenager opens up about painful battle with endometriosis

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All the anticipation and elation of school prom, curbed by a debilitating disorder.

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Chloe-Elizabeth Elliott had left hospital just six hours before. She arrived not in a limousine, but in a wheelchair.

Chloe-Elizabeth Elliott from Carleton near Pontefract, talks about her battle with endometriosis.

Chloe-Elizabeth Elliott from Carleton near Pontefract, talks about her battle with endometriosis.

The teenager, from Carleton in Pontefract, has endometriosis. At 16, she is considered lucky to have an early diagnosis, but she has already battled silently for eight years.

The disorder is as common in women as diabetes is. Yet it is a private illness, she says, which too few talk about.

Determined to open up difficult conversations, she is taking to YouTube to share her story.

"I collapsed in school, while I was having my exams," she says. "I was taken to hospital, after a fainting episode. The effects are really scary.

Chloe-Elizabeth is a finalist in the Miss South Yorkshire competition, which she entered to raise awareness of the condition. Picture submitted by family.

Chloe-Elizabeth is a finalist in the Miss South Yorkshire competition, which she entered to raise awareness of the condition. Picture submitted by family.

"We knew nothing about endometriosis. I was told it was all in my head. That I was doing it for attention. I felt really alone.

"So many other girls are in the exact same position, just because they think a painful period is normal."

A hidden disorder

Endometriosis, although it affects one in 10 women, is little talked about. It sees cells like those in the lining of the womb found elsewhere in the body.

Chloe-Elizabeth often wears a yellow headband, the colour worn by many to raise awareness of endometriosis. Picture submitted by family.

Chloe-Elizabeth often wears a yellow headband, the colour worn by many to raise awareness of endometriosis. Picture submitted by family.

It is a chronic and debilitating condition that causes painful or heavy periods. It can also lead to infertility, fatigue and bowel and bladder problems.

An estimated 1.5m women in the UK are living with the condition.

When we meet, Chloe-Elizabeth is struggling. She has been up most of the night, unable to sleep because of the unrelenting pain. She winces as she walks, but puts on a brave smile.

She is a bright teenager, a finalist in the Miss South Yorkshire competition and about to start college where she will study beauty therapy.

Chloe-Elizabeth is a finalist in the Miss South Yorkshire competition, which she entered to raise awareness of the condition. Picture submitted by family.

Chloe-Elizabeth is a finalist in the Miss South Yorkshire competition, which she entered to raise awareness of the condition. Picture submitted by family.

She had hoped to go into paediatric nursing, but fears she won't be able to work with children given the medication she is on.

Debilitating pain

Every day is a challenge, she says, every month an epic battle. She started struggling with symptoms at the age of eight, just before her periods started.

For years, she thought it was just extremely uncomfortable periods. As a child, she would often fall over when a wave of pain hit.

Doctors brushed off the family's concerns, her mother Elizabeth says, while she faced fines from school over the amount of times her daughter was off ill.

Last December a hospital consultant, seeing the pain she was in, agreed it wasn't normal. That same day, she was prepped for pre-op. She had surgery two weeks later.

"The main effects are awful," she says. "It's really debilitating. And it isn't just the pain.

"I haven't been out with my friends since December. I ended up going to prom in a wheelchair, I can't walk or stand up for long. I've lost a lot of friends.

"It's had a really big emotional impact. A lot of days I can't get out of bed, so it is quite lonely.

"There are a lot of people who have been told they can't have children - that's usually how people find out, because they are having fertility problems.

"I don't know if I will be able to have children. It's one of the things I will have to deal with."

YouTube star

It was her grandmother's suggestion to document her journey on YouTube, to share her story with others.

Since Chloe-Elizabeth started her online video blog, dozens more teenage girls have approached her for help.

"I get two kinds of reaction - some say it's brilliant, others say 'wow, I think I have this'," she says. "A lot of people ask me for help, to get their parents to understand.

"It's been really eye-opening for me, how many teenagers there are with endometriosis.

"I suffered for all those years, with what I thought was painful periods," she adds. "My pain could have been helped all those years ago.

"There are so many other girls who don't even know what endometriosis it."