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Bindi Irwin says her doctors initially dismissed her symptoms of endometriosis before diagnosis

‘You end up feeling so desperately alone because there’s no answer,’ Irwin recalls

Amber Raiken
New York
Wednesday 23 August 2023 17:49 BST
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Related: Bindi Irwin: ‘I decided to undergo surgery for endometriosis’

Bindi Irwin has revealed that her doctors initially missed her first symptoms of endometriosis before her eventual diagnosis.

The conservationist, 25, spoke candidly about the physical pain she experienced for nearly a decade during a recent interview withPeople. According to the World Health Organization, endometriosis is “a disease in which tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus,” with symptoms including “severe, life-impacting pain during periods, sexual intercourse, bowel movements and/or urination”.

During her interview with People, Irwin - who is the daughter of late wildlife expert Steve Irwin - specified that some of her early symptoms included: fatigue, pain and nausea. She noted that she went on to undergo numerous tests and scans in an effort to figure out what was causing her pain.

“I was tested for everything,” she said. “Every tropical disease, Lyme disease, cancer, you name it. I had every blood test and scan imaginable.”

The zookeeper went on to described how her doctors dismissed her symptoms, as her pain was still continuing, and explained how the experience impacted her.

“It’s so hard because you feel like it’s inescapable,” she said. “You don’t know what’s wrong with you, and then when people tell you ‘It’s all in your head’ or ‘you’re hormonal’ or ‘just have a cup of tea, lay down,’ you end up feeling so desperately alone because there’s no answer.”

She specified that she reached a point in August 2022 when she was encouraged to seek help again, as she experienced sudden and major pain that forced her into a foetal position. From there, she said that she went on to get a laparoscopy, a minimally invasive “surgical procedure that allows a surgeon to access the inside of the abdomen and pelvis,” according to the National Health Services.

Irwin went on to describe the fear she had before undergoing the procedure, since her pain had been previously dismissed by doctors for such a long time.

“I was so scared that they wouldn’t find anything because we had run out of everything else to test for,” she recalled. “After years of doctors and various people telling you there’s nothing, you really start to believe it. You wind up in this strange space of self-doubt, fear and insecurity. That’s hard to overcome.”

According to Irwin, that laparoscopy confirmed that she had endometriosis. She added that during the medical procedure, doctors discovered 37 lesions and a cyst on her ovary, which she had removed during a surgery.

Endometriosis is a “chronic inflammatory reaction that may result in the formation of scar tissue, within the pelvis and other parts of the body”, as noted by the World Health Organization. Some of the types of lesions have been described as “cystic ovarian endometriosis, found in the ovaries” and “superficial endometriosis, found mainly on the pelvic peritoneum”.

Irwin’s comments about her symptoms come months after she first revealed her diagnosis. When she shared a photo of herself in a hospital bed on Instagram in March, she said that she’d been unsure if she wanted to discuss her health publicly, but ultimately felt a responsibility to share her story for other women who needed help.

“For 10 years I’ve struggled with insurmountable fatigue, pain and nausea. Trying to remain a positive person and hide the pain has been a very long road,” she wrote in the caption. “These last 10 years have included many tests, doctors visits, scans, etc. A doctor told me it was simply something you deal with as a woman and I gave up entirely, trying to function through the pain.”

She specified that she’d undergone her surgery, where doctors found the “37 lesions, some very deep and difficult to remove, and a chocolate cyst”. Irwin - who shares two-year-old daughter Grace with husband Chandler Powell - then expressed her gratitude for her loved ones, while noting that she was on her “road to recovery”.

“Please be gentle and pause before asking me (or any woman) when we’ll be having more children,” she wrote, at the time. “After all that my body has gone through, I feel tremendously grateful that we have our gorgeous daughter. She feels like our family’s miracle. I’m aware of millions of women struggling with a similar story. There’s a stigma around this awful disease.”

During her recent interview with People, Irwin opened up about her recovery, and said that throughout every week, she feels like she’s “able to do a little bit more”.

“Now I wake up in the morning, and I don’t have to take anti-nausea medicine or have my heat pack. Being able to go for a walk with my daughter and not feeling like I have to throw up in the bushes is just wild to me,” she explained. “I feel like I have a second chance at life. I feel brand new.”

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