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DESPERATION

I chose the menopause at 24 to try and stop endometriosis that felt like acid burning my insides

AT the age of just 24, Chanelle Urquhart is menopausal.

It was her decision, a desperate measure to try and stop the agony of her endometriosis.

 Chantelle Urquhart has suffered symptoms of endometriosis since she was 12 and started her period
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Chantelle Urquhart has suffered symptoms of endometriosis since she was 12 and started her periodCredit: Caters News Agency
 The 24-year-old describes her pain as feeling like acid is burning your insides or a knife being waved around in you
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The 24-year-old describes her pain as feeling like acid is burning your insides or a knife being waved around in youCredit: Caters News Agency

She took the drastic action to have what's known as an 'induced' menopause after finally being diagnosed last year - after doctors dismissed her symptoms for almost a decade.

The condition, which affects one in ten women, causes the lining of the womb to grow outside of the uterus, across other organs - and is extremely painful.

Chantelle's treatment involves being injected with drugs that temporarily switch off the ovaries, and stop the production of the female sex hormone, oestrogen.

This results in a "temporary but reversible" menopause, according to experts at UCLH in London.

Chantelle, from Hull, said the treatment has been worth it, but said she hasn't ruled out a full hysterectomy in future.

"The pains in my stomach were constant and it felt like there was a tiny person inside my stomach who was swinging a knife around," the bartender said.

"Endometriosis began to take over my life.

"I had to defer my second year at university because of my mental health and the pain.

"Depression and anxiety had come hand-in-hand with my endometriosis.

"The pain is unbelievable and you're constantly worrying about what is going to happen next."

 After operations to remove some of the womb tissue that grew outside the uterus around her bowel and ovaries, Chantelle opted to have a treatment called induced menopause
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After operations to remove some of the womb tissue that grew outside the uterus around her bowel and ovaries, Chantelle opted to have a treatment called induced menopauseCredit: Caters News Agency
 It involves taking drugs to stop the ovaries working, temporarily, and doctors say it is reversible. Chantelle takes a cocktail of painkillers to also ease her symptoms
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It involves taking drugs to stop the ovaries working, temporarily, and doctors say it is reversible. Chantelle takes a cocktail of painkillers to also ease her symptomsCredit: Caters News Agency

Chantelle started suffering symptoms when she was 12 years old, after starting her period.

But, for years she was dismissed by doctors who she said made her feel like she was exaggerating - telling her it was 'heavy periods' or an STI.

"I have spent most of my life going back and forth to the doctors," she said.

The pain felt like what I imagine it feels like having acid poured on your organs

Chantelle Urquhart

"They made me feel like I was going insane, telling me it was 'period pains' and a few have said it was an STI.

"The results would always come back negative an I always knew there was something wrong, but I did start to think they were right and I was just being a hypochondriac."

It was only when Chantelle reached her 20s that doctors began to take her seriously.

Since then she's been on a daily cocktail of drugs including tramadol, to try and ease her lower abdomen, leg and back pain.

 Chantelle said the induced menopause has stopped her periods, but she still suffers the pain
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Chantelle said the induced menopause has stopped her periods, but she still suffers the painCredit: Caters News Agency

She's had two operations to remove the endometriosis that had grown around other organs.

But she said, due to the delays in diagnosing her condition, "the endometriosis had spread to my bowel, ovaries and all over my pelvic wall".

Chantelle added: "I also had blood-filled cysts in my ovaries that would burst up to once a month.

"The pain felt like what I imagine it feels like having acid poured on your organs.

"Thankfully the endometriosis has since been removed via surgery."

So far, Chantelle has had the 'induced menopause' treatment twice, but it has failed to stop her pain.

 Chantelle said she will consider a hysterectomy if her pain does not get better in future
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Chantelle said she will consider a hysterectomy if her pain does not get better in futureCredit: Caters News Agency

The first time, the side effects were so bad, doctors switched her on to a nasal spray to deliver the drugs.

"It felt a bit weird going through the menopause at such a young age, because it's usually older women affected, "Chantelle said.

"But it stopped my period, which is a huge relief.

"The first time, I had a monthly injection but it affected my mood, more than ever.

"This year in April, I was given a nasal spray that induces the menopause, which is much better because I can look after my mental health and stop using it each month if I feel the same as last time.

What is 'induced' menopause?

INDUCED menopause is where medics use drugs to stop the ovaries functioning.

This stops the production of the female sex hormone, oestrogen.

There are lots of different treatments used to treat endometriosis, from ops to remove the excess tissue to drugs to shrink or slow it's progression.

Hormone treatment works to temporarily 'switch off' the ovaries and stops oestrogen being produced.

This causes a temporary but reversible menopause, experts at University College London Hospital say.

Their website explains: "This tends to cause a shrinkage of endometriosis, as the condition is oestrogen dependent.

"Lack of periods and shrinkage of endometriosis with these drugs tend to give an improvement of the symptoms.

"However, the condition tends to come back after the treatment is discontinued."

The treatment is often used prior to surgery, to shrink the endometriosis, and typically are given over a three to six month period.

For more information see UCLH's website here.

"I do get hot flushes and extreme memory loss but at least my iron levels are back up and I'm not bed bound.

"The induced menopause doesn't stop my daily pain, but it stops my horrendous periods and stops the endometriosis from growing."

If her pain continues, Chantelle said she would consider a hysterectomy in the future.

She said she was compelled to share her story to help raise awareness of the debilitating condition, and empower other women suffering the same symptoms to push their doctors for a diagnosis.

She added: "So many women with these symptoms are getting fobbed off by their doctors and treated like they're making it up."

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