A woman who was forced to wait 11 years for an endometriosis diagnosis is preparing to take on a challenge to raise awareness of the condition.

Dr Laura Lane, 43, from Guisborough, was diagnosed with endometriosis in 2019 when she was 39.

She has undergone two surgeries, including a full hysterectomy in 2021, resulting in immediate surgical menopause which has brought about its own challenges to overcome.

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Laura said it is likely she has had endometriosis from a very young age – possibly even birth – but she did not realise her heavy period and painful cramps were anything other than normal for a woman.

She said: “My diagnosis took about 11 years. My period had always been heavy, but in my late 20s they got really bad and painful, to the point where if I was walking somewhere I’d have to stop and hold on to a wall to wait for a wave of pain to pass.

“In my 30s I had another wave of hormonal changes. My concerns grew about these impacts, particularly on my ability to work and engage socially, continued medical visits resulted in my symptoms being attributed to IBS or anxiety, with no relief from the pelvic pain. I was often advised that I was just unlucky to experience painful, heavy periods.

“After experiencing a particularly difficult, painful period, I was finally referred for an ultrasound. The next day I learnt that I was being rapidly triaged for further tests, initially to rule out ovarian cancer.

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“After the ultrasound and MRI I was advised that I needed surgery as soon as possible as the scans indicated that the endometriosis was advanced.

“At this point, I was told it would have undoubtedly impacted my fertility and that I should ultimately prepare myself for the likelihood of needing a hysterectomy. This was a lot to take in after being told for so many years that nothing was wrong.”

Following an initial surgery which was unsuccessful in relieving her symptoms, Laura had to have a hysterectomy – but this brought its own challenges as Laura went into immediate surgical menopause aged 42.

She said: “It has taken a while to get on top of these new symptoms and balancing my hormones.

“It has taken time, but I’m getting there now. I’ve always been very active and I think that has helped me, and maybe eased my symptoms of endometriosis when I was younger.

“I asked a doctor what would have caused the endometriosis, and he told me that judging the extent of the endometriosis cells – which were found throughout my pelvis, including in my ovaries, pelvic lining and around my bladder, bowel and abdominal wall – I could even have had it from birth.”

Laura said that worryingly, diagnosis times are getting worse. Currently, women must wait nearly nine years to get a diagnosis, compared to eight years in 2020.

“Awareness is improving, which is great, but more research needs to be done, and better treatments found.”

Laura is now preparing to take on the Endometriosis UK #1in10challenge – ten to represent one in ten and eight to represent the average number of years for diagnosis in the UK – where she will walk and cycle 10km for eight consecutive days this week.

She said: “Walking has always been my therapy and has helped manage my pain levels. I’ve done a few fundraising and awareness-raising activities since my diagnosis including sponsored yoga classes, walks and writing a blog last year.

“I’m passionate about raising awareness about endometriosis and the benefits of spending time outdoors to help manage the physical and emotional symptoms.”

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She is also being supported by Inov-8, a running and hiking equipment company based in the North of England.

She said: “This is great news and should hopefully help with further raising awareness for Endo UK.”

To follow Laura’s challenge or to donate, visit justgiving.com/page/laura-lane-1in10challenge.