A woman suffering crippling endometriosis who was given an ultimatum to either lose weight or sacrifice her womb is trying for a baby now she has lost 13 STONE.
Doctors told Laura McCullough, 30, that the only way to cure the agony and ill health she had experienced since her teenage years was to lose weight through bariatric surgery, or undergo a full hysterectomy which would leave her infertile.
After making the agonising decision to go under the knife, the symptoms of Mrs McCullough’s endometriosis eased and she is now having IVF treatment in the hope of falling pregnant.
Mrs McCullough, of Worthing, West Sussex said: “Since a young age I knew I’d always wanted kids.
“On the other hand, the symptoms of my endometriosis were getting steadily worse. My health was failing and I was so miserable because of the pain that I was having suicidal thoughts.
“I told the doctors, ‘you’ve got to do something, I can’t go on like this’.
“The choice was quite clear – either to have a hysterectomy and give up the chance of having children, or go for weight loss surgery, which I was told would make the symptoms easier to deal with.
“I didn’t know what weight loss surgery entailed but I knew I didn’t want to give up the possibility of children.”
Mrs McCullough, a nanny, was diagnosed with endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome when she was 17 years old after years of pain, disrupted periods and weight gain.
She said: “My sister Claire, who is two years younger than me, is exactly the same in nearly every way but we looked so different. We ate the same food when we were children but whereas Claire could eat four burgers in one go and still stay a size six, I just put on more and more weight.
“My periods were sporadic and always agonising. Sometimes they lasted for six months at a time and then would disappear for a year. At one point I had a period which lasted a year and a half. Nothing could stop it.
“I had anaemia and an enormous amount of pain. It was depressing and lonely. I couldn’t get out of bed to do anything. The only thing I could do was go to the loo, and even that was next to impossible.
“None of my other friends were bed-bound when they were on their periods. At 17 I knew I needed to see a doctor about it.”
Due to a combination of the weight-gaining effects of polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriosis, and long periods of inactivity caused by the pain she experienced, Mrs McCullough saw her weight balloon to 26st 7lb by the time she was 25 years old.
She said: “Weight loss wasn’t my priority – there were so many other health problems I was contending with, and I knew that my personality wasn’t defined by my size.
“I was told that the pain and other symptoms would be easier to manage if I lost weight, so I tried dieting and taking prescribed medication to stop the gain but nothing worked.”
By January 2009 Mrs McCullough’s pain was worse than ever and she was severely depressed.
She said: “I’d become suicidal because there didn’t seem to be a way out of the cycle of pain. I begged my doctor to do something.
“She said I could either have weight loss surgery or have my womb removed completely. I hadn’t considered weight loss surgery for a moment. But then I did some research online and read case studies of women whose endometriosis had improved enormously after the surgery.
“I went back the next day and told the doctor that although I was nervous about it, I wanted to go ahead with it.”
Mrs McCullough went under the knife in June that year.
She said: “I was so nervous the night before the surgery that I didn’t sleep a wink. Unfortunately, the procedure didn’t go as planned. I couldn’t keep any food down after I was discharged from hospital so I went back in, and was told my body had rejected the procedure.
“I stayed in hospital for six weeks, during which time I was very unwell, but I pulled through and I slowly got used to it.
“Once I’d recovered, I realised that all the symptoms of my endometriosis had stopped completely. It was as if someone had flipped a switch.
“I was over the moon when I realised I’d made the right decision and I didn’t need to worry about having a hysterectomy any longer.”
Three years after the procedure, Mrs McCullough had dropped down 13 stone, shrinking from a size 28 to a size 12.
She met her partner Chrissy McCullough, 23, an ambulance technician, who she would go on to marry in November 2013.
She said: “It was the perfect winter wedding – just as we’d both dreamed of. I looked in the mirror and couldn’t believe how slim and pretty I looked in my wedding dress. It was a magical day.”
Shortly after the wedding, the couple turned their thoughts to having children via IVF and sperm donation.
Mrs McCullough said: “We couldn’t have funding for IVF on the NHS because there is no such facility to do so for same-sex couples in Worthing. I think the postcode lottery is very unfair, but we were determined enough to have the treatment privately.
“Unfortunately the first round of IVF led to the return of the endometriosis, so we’re waiting on some more consultations and tests before we can try again. But we’re never going to give up – having a family is our dream.
“If it wasn’t for the weight loss surgery, I would have been forced to have the hysterectomy and we wouldn’t even be able to consider it, so I have that to be thankful for.”
Mrs McCullough is now hoping to raise awareness of endometriosis, a condition which affects as many as two million women in the UK. She has found support at the Facebook group EndometrioSisters, which has more than 2,200 members.
She said: “It’s very common but even close friends of mine don’t know exactly what it is. It should be talked about more openly because it affects so many lives.”
To join the EndometrioSisters group, search for ‘EndometrioSisters’ on Facebook.
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