“This disease and the damage it’s left behind effects me daily. I have two children and work in an office three days a week. I need strong pain relief daily and still really struggle.”

Cathryn Northfield is one of 176 million women worldwide who battle with endometriosis – a condition where the cells that behave like the lining of the womb are found in different parts of the body such as the ovaries, Fallopian tubes, the stomach, the bladder and bowel.

“I have always suffered since I was a teenager with really heavy, painful periods. I was put on the pill at 14 to try and control them a bit more. I visited the docs many times over the years but was fobbed off and made to think it was normal.”

On average, it takes seven and a half years to get a diagnosis. Even then, the cause of endometriosis is unknown and there is no cure. There have even been recent reports of a woman claiming it took her 100 doctor’s appointments to be diagnosed.

“Nobody was joining the dots even though I was saying that I thought I had endometriosis.

“In 2013, the Pain Management Doctor said that nothing had helped my pain so it was possible that it was psychological. I broke down and he said to me what was it that I wanted them to do?”

Following a diagnostic laparoscopy in 2013, Cathryn discovered she had severe stage 4 endometriosis.

“Most days I was struggling to get out of bed and needed family to help with my son.”

Cathryn had excision surgery in May 2014 where the endometriosis was taken away. However, after the birth of her second child in August 2015, her pelvic pain and bad periods returned, both of which were well known symptoms of the condition which she had experienced before.

She later met with a surgeon who said he couldn’t feel any adhesion and felt Cathryn’s pain was being caused by sciatica.

“I really felt back to square one as I knew I didn’t have sciatica. My GP arranged a back MRI to rule it out; it proved my back was fine.”

Finally, Cathryn paid privately to see a gynecologist who removed the adhesions along with her right ovary. This stopped the pain Cathryn felt from the adhesions, but she still experiences chronic pelvic pain.

“I have been under Pain Management again recently, again I have had to beg for them to help me as they feel I should just learn to live with being in pain now. They sent me to a pain psychologist but I have told them I am not willing at 34 to just give up and live with this level of pain.”

“If you know what you’re experiencing isn’t ‘normal’, you need to push for answers.”

To create a support network for others, Cathryn started the Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain support group on Facebook for people in Devon and Cornwall.

“When I was diagnosed with endo I didn’t know who to talk to. I came across the Endometriosis UK website which was linked to an online forum and I found great comfort in chatting with others.

“The thing I found though was that everyone I chatted to seemed to live further up the country or even abroad.”

The group is currently made up of 88 members who share their experiences with endometriosis, operations and guidance on how to deal with the symptoms.

“I wanted to help others, so I set up a support page… so many women who join my page are thrilled that there is finally something local.”

One member of the group, who asked to remain anonymous, spoke of her experiences similar to that of Cathryn’s.

“My periods have been bad since they started at 13. It wasn’t until the age of 25 that I started visiting the doctor’s about them as I was always told I would grow out of it.

“I am now 32 and have only just had a diagnosis of stage 3.”

She had spoken of feeling discriminated by employers and GP’s due to fact periods are still seen as a taboo subject.

“When you have endometriosis, you will try to work through other illnesses, when you really shouldn’t, as you know it’s quite likely you will have to go home sick at least once a month.

“… you’re deemed as weak or making a fuss. I was hoping a diagnosis would change this, but it hasn’t seemed to change the general view.”

Another anonymous sufferer, who studies at Falmouth University, had been experiencing symptoms for five years and was diagnosed just two months ago. She explained how the condition was affecting her academic and personal life.

“It’s incredibly impactful on my life, at 20 all you want to do is go out and socialise, make it to lectures, but when you’re in so much pain you cannot even face getting out of bed, your priorities change massively and you have to turn down a lot of opportunities on a daily basis.”

Endometriosis costs the UK economoy £8.2bn a year in treatment, loss of work and healthcare costs, and yet a lot of women still feel they aren’t getting the answers they need soon enough to start living a pain-free life.

“If you know what you’re experiencing isn’t ‘normal’, you need to push for answers.”

If you want to learn more about the condition, visit Endometriosis UK.