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Tonia's story: 'I’ve been treated like I don’t exist and like I don’t know my own body'

Tonia says despite crippling pain from health issues, she found little support


Tonia has lived with pain since a young age, after starting her period at age 11. She was subsequently diagnosed with endometriosis, fibroids and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Now 34, she is also experiencing the perimenopause.

Sharing her story as part of the Gender Pain Index report, published by Nurofen and supported by Wellbeing of Women, Tonia says she has found little support and understanding.

Generally, I would say I have a high pain threshold - mostly from constantly being dismissed and having to ride the storm - but it has been a mixed bag of management.

Sometimes I feel like they just want to get rid of me, and other times it is as if my pain doesn’t exist. Having had 10 operations, I’m not a stranger to pain both prior to, and following, treatment.

A history of painful health conditions

I started my periods at 11 and instantly they were extremely heavy. I was seen by my local gynae from age 14, after many visits to my doctor, due to the length of my bleeding and the pain I was in, which meant I was missing school.

I had my first Mirena coil at 15, at which point I had a laparoscopy and was diagnosed with endometriosis. What followed was years of adhesions, endometriosis and several other ‘removal’ operations.

On top of this I’ve been on almost every birth control on the market – all of which I had some issue with. I’ve since had two children, a prolapse, insertion of a pelvic sling, abdominoplasty and most recently, after years of hormone/pain issues/treatment/HRT, a full hysterectomy, including ovaries, and subsequent management of menopause and ongoing HRT.

Post this operation, I found out that I also had fibroids and polycystic ovaries, something that I’ve been told I didn’t have since I was 15.

A lack of support and understanding

Throughout each of these issues, there was such little support, despite some of the symptoms being totally crippling.

I’ve been treated like I don’t exist and like I don’t know my own body throughout almost every stage of my gynae history - with all my consultants having been men (some were fantastic but others totally dismissive).

Tonia's story isn't unique. According to the Gender Pain Index report, many women feel that they are often not taken seriously, ignored, or deemed ‘emotional’ when it comes to their pain,

Find out more about the report and the steps we are taking through our research, education and advocacy work to address the Gender Health Gap.