I’ve been comparing my body to Candy Crush a lot lately. It’s been a funny old time. See, I haven’t been very well for a while. No, it’s not that ailment although I wouldn’t recommend being fairly seriously ill with anything during a pandemic. It makes everything much harder. No, it turns out that I have a chronic medical condition called endometriosis – a condition almost as baffling as it is to spell and say.
Essentially, it’s a condition that affects those who menstruate. At its simplest, it’s where the tissue that normally grows inside of your uterus incorrectly grows outside of it and causes all kinds of havoc. Instead of your body shedding such tissue naturally each month, it all goes a bit wrong. Your body conserves it and it starts hanging around in areas that it really has no right to be. Kind of like a floating invader except – foolishly – your own body created it. It can go mostly anywhere – abdominal organs are popular but even your diaphragm is a possible victim. Some very rare cases have even found it within one’s brain.
In my case, it was causing both of my ovaries to stick together with two different parts of my colon, and my uterus. Oh, and my appendix came along for the ride too. Over three hours worth of surgery taught me this while a very skilled surgeon conducted a good job of removing the majority of the tissue. If you don’t remove all the tissue, it runs the risk of growing back rapidly. It can and almost certainly will grow back anyhow as this is a chronic complaint, but a good surgeon and a regular supply of contraceptive medication helps significantly in slowing it down.
That’s important because endometriosis can be (and often is) agony. I’ve had times where I’ve been doubled over in pain walking around a Tesco. Another time, I could barely walk upstairs after taking the bin bags out. I’ve suffered from roughly 18 months of crippling digestive issues that would keep me up for hours at night. It turns out your colon really doesn’t like working properly while stuck to an ovary that’s also struggling to function.
When the surgeon told me what he found, I didn’t really think of my suffering. There was no lightbulb moment directly linked to my woes. Instead, all I could think of was Candy Crush Soda Saga. That’s a ludicrous thing to think of when you’ve just been told that your insides were stuck together and that it’ll probably happen again. I have an excuse – it made more sense in my head than my actual body doing such a thing. It was a defence mechanism aided by using my phone too much and still being a bit woozy from the anaesthetic.
“That’s a ludicrous thing to think of when you’ve just been told that your insides were stuck together and that it’ll probably happen again.”
There’s a level type in Candy Crush Soda Saga referred to as Bubble Gum levels. I used to quite like that particular type of level. In them, you have to clear tiles caked in bubble gum rapidly. The gum spreads by one square each time you don’t manage to clear a gum-invested tile. Perform badly and you can quickly go from nearly finishing the level to being completely overrun with sticky gum. That remains how I imagine my body.
I don’t know how long one move in my body lasts for. It’s obviously far longer than a session of Candy Crush Soda Saga but the general principle remains the same. I know there’s still some stickiness on my liver but it’s not clashing with anything yet so it wasn’t removed during my operation. General other stickiness could and probably will develop at some point. There’s no timeline on it. Unlike a Candy Crush Soda Saga level, I don’t have a set number of moves before it’s game over and I head back to hospital. I just have to hope that the hormonal contraceptives I take will continue to hold things off.
“Unlike a Candy Crush Soda Saga level, I don’t have a set number of moves before it’s game over and I head back to hospital.”
I still play Candy Crush Soda Saga and think of that conversation with the surgeon whenever I hit a Bubble Gum level. My recovery is still going rather slowly due to my body being fairly weak from before the surgery. I don’t actually come across the Bubble Gum levels very often as they’re supposedly the least common level type in the game. In contrast, endometriosis is considered to affect around one in ten people who menstruate. It’s a worryingly common thing and yet it’s very much forgotten about.
If you have periods and they’re hideously painful (like I’ve had for 20+ years), you’re typically told that’s what to expect. Sometimes that’s said kindly, but other times it’s said in a way that makes you feel like you should suck it up and that you’re being a wimp for not handling it and for daring to discuss your problems. Bodies aren’t meant to be Dark Souls level of difficulty yet sometimes, medical professionals can make you feel that way. Endometriosis is most commonly diagnosed when trying to conceive as it often affects fertility. Before then, it’s frequently dismissed.
“Bodies aren’t meant to be Dark Souls level of difficulty yet sometimes, medical professionals can make you feel that way. Endometriosis is most commonly diagnosed when trying to conceive as it often affects fertility. Before then, it’s frequently dismissed.”
No one should have to put up with such pain. Looking back, I can’t begin to fathom how many days and weeks I’ve lost since my teens because I was in increasing amounts of pain. When I’d mention it to a GP or other professional, I’d almost always get a ‘oh yeah, these things happen’ style response until things reached a painful head and a new GP finally listened to my concerns. Weirdly, I can remember every detail about before, during and after the appointment with that GP. The moment she said ‘I think you may have a condition called endometriosis’. The moment afterwards where I sat in my car upset yet accepting of my predicament. And, weirdly, the moment just before I went in to the appointment that would change everything – I was playing Candy Crush on my phone in the waiting room. Life can be a strange set of coincidences sometimes.