Signs and symptoms of endometriosis by Aussie student whose diagnosis led to infertility and ‘menopause’ at just age 23

Ella Collings vividly recalls her 12-year-old self weeping on the floor of the emergency room, clutching at her stomach in agony.

But she was turned away without even an investigation into her pain – and it was a similar story for her entire teenaged life.

WATCH IN THE VIDEO ABOVE: Ella opens up about her endometriosis journey

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Ella spent multiple times a year in “indescribable” torture, begging hospital staff to help her as they offered the same explanation: It was just “just period pain”.

Finally, after nearly a decade of fighting, the Queenslander found a doctor who listened and who, within a week, had diagnosed her with endometriosis.

The painful disorder results in tissue growing outside of the ovaries and, in rare cases, spreading beyond the female reproductive area.

Ella spent nearly a decade trying to get an answer to her pain. Credit: Supplied

The diagnosis was bittersweet for the now 23-year-old, with the disorder resulting in countless invasive surgeries, infertility – and menopause.

“At 12, I was placed on the (contraceptive) pill,” Ella tells 7Life.

“I would go to the hospital and get turned away – they just kept asking me, ‘Are you sexually active?’ and ‘Could you be pregnant?’.

“I was 12 – of course not. I was in agony and had no idea what was going on.”

The 23-year-old is sharing her story in hopes to support other women living with endometriosis. Credit: Supplied

The only thing she did know was that she was in constant pain.

“Some days it is just a niggly pain but it’s there and constant,” she says.

“But other days it is like your whole body is shutting down.

“You are in so much pain to the point where your whole body feels like it is on fire and the only thing you can do is to curl up into a ball.”

Teen years

As she entered her teenaged years, Ella went from doctor to doctor searching for an answer.

As each one apparently felt it unnecessary to investigate the cause of her pain, the teen grew more frustrated.

So she began researching her symptoms herself – and stumbled across endometriosis.

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But to receive a formal diagnosis she would need to undergo a laparoscopy – investigative surgery on the uterus often resulting in the removal or biopsy of damaged tissue.

Ella sought a surgeon who would perform the operation and provide an insight into her condition.

For months, she was turned away, no closer to an answer.

For years Ella’s pain was dismissed at “period pain”. Credit: Supplied

Then at 20, she received a referral to see a gynecologist.

“She said she could feel endometriosis,” Ella says.

The next week, the young woman underwent a laparoscopy and she received her diagnosis the moment she woke from the anaesthetic.

After nearly a decade of searching, she finally had her answer – stage four endometriosis.

Only the beginning

But Ella’s battle had really only begun.

Just as she started to come to terms with her diagnosis, she was back six weeks later for an emergency laparoscopy.

“It’s like a germ that just keeps spreading,” she says of the condition.

Devastatingly for Ella, surgeons revealed they were unable to remove all the endometriosis – and her condition was more severe than they first thought.

Ella spent her teen years in and out of hospital seeking an answer for her agonising pain. Credit: Supplied

She needed more surgery.

“I was just feeling helpless, I was in so much pain,” Ella says.

The nursing student then sought a second opinion.

She also tried pelvic floor Botox, saw a naturopath and even changed her diet.

Each had moderate success, but eventually the pain returned.

Biological clock

Exploring these new treatment avenues led Ella to realise the potential impact endometriosis could have on her fertility.

“I have always wanted to be a mum and I just had this gut feeling something wasn’t right… I knew my endo wasn’t getting any better,” she says.

“So I started looking into freezing my eggs.”

At 22, Ella began the process of freezing her eggs. Credit: Supplied

A few months later, her fertility specialist revealed Ella had an extremely low egg count.

“It was like a kick in the face,” she says, recalling how she felt at learning she may never be able to carry a baby.

“I was so defeated it took a few days to process the whole thing.”

Quality of life

The specialist told Ella that freezing her eggs shouldn’t be her priority.

“He told me I didn’t have a quality of life,” she says.

“I was in so much pain that I wasn’t living and I wasn’t happy.

“It felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders to finally have someone who listened and understood.”

So, the pair crafted a plan – Ella would undergo her third and fourth laparoscopy to remove affected tissue.

Once she recovered, doctors would collect and freeze her eggs.

Then her ovaries needed a rest.

Ella underwent two rounds of fertility treatment to collect and freeze her eggs. Credit: Supplied

To allow her ovaries a break from the stress of her condition and ongoing surgeries, doctors would implant a slow-release medication that would place the young woman in temporary menopause.

After successful surgery and recovery, she began injecting herself with hormones to help ovulate in order to collect her eggs.

After two rounds of collection, Ellie successfully froze about 36 eggs.

“They say you need four eggs to make one baby,” Ella says.

“So if you want more than one child you need a lot of eggs.”

With her future as a mother literally on ice, Ella went into medically induced menopause.

Future on ice

For the past four months, the young woman has been living with menopause.

“I honestly feel sorry for older women,” she says.

“I get hot flushes and constantly ask if everyone else is hot and they are all in jumpers.”

Ella is now just maintaining her endometriosis pain and hoping her ovaries are getting a well-deserved rest.

She recently participated in a fundraiser walk, raising money for endometriosis research.

Ella shares her journey on TikTok to inspire other women to seek help for their pain. Credit: Supplied

“One in nine women in Australia are diagnosed with endometriosis by the time they reach 40,” she says.

“Unfortunately on top of that it can take almost up to seven years on average to be diagnosed.”

Ella is hoping to come out of menopause in the next few months and is excited for what the future might hold.

Her endometriosis has spread to her bowel but she is determined to battle the disorder with a positive attitude.

She is sharing her painful journey to show other women they are not alone.

Feeling ignored and lost for so long, the young woman is continuing her studies as a nurse to help provide support for women when they feel like their voice isn’t heard.

“Endometriosis is not talked about enough,” she says.

“I want other women who are suffering to know that it is not just a painful period and you are not alone.”

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